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IBM, Mercantec Launch Service-Based E-Commerce For ISPs

IBM and Mercantec launched a new program at ISPCon Friday making it easier for Internet service providers to scale e-storefronts to its subscriber base.

The usage-based e-commerce program lets ISPs pay for what it uses, compared to the industry standard of buying a pre-determined amount of service from another e-storefront provider.

Per Larsen, IBM WebServers vice president of marketing, said its past time for the usage--based service to be offered to ISPs.

"The market has been calling for a usage-based pricing option, not only for individual applications, but for the complete range of e-business enablement," Larsen said.

"Not only will service providers get top of the line performance, but they will also benefit from a flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing option that allows them to offer competitive cost structures. Simply put, the end result is higher customer satisfaction and increased profits for the service provider."

The rack-mounted servers come pre-configured with Mercantec's popular e-commerce software suite, which helps bricks-to-clicks business owners install the e-storefront software, e-commerce launch manual and credit card handling. A pre-configured Palm Pilot also lets a person remotely manage the server.

Al Rosen, IBM program director of service provider solutions, said he's confident ISPs won't balk at the $10,000 initial fee for the program because of the level of commitment Mercantec and IBM are making. And because ISPs only pay for the services used, Rosen figures they stand to make a lot of money on the markup.

"This shared risk model is the first in the industry," Rosen said. "Overall, it ends up being more inexpensive than if an ISP went with another program, where you have to buy all the services that come with e-storefront solution.

"This program developed by ourselves and Mercantec is usage-based, so the incentive is for us to provide good services, because we only collect money on the services the customer uses."

Rosen went on to describe the startup kit that helps new e-commerce businesses. In addition to the easy-to-use installation software, he said, it comes with marketing and advertising guides, as well as links to monthly "webinars" to keep up on the latest trends in the industry.

ISPs have the option to get trained in the level 1, 2 and 3 support services that IBM and Mercantec provide for e-storefront customers. That way, Rosen said, ISPs don't need to worry about losing customers.

"This program is about ISPs keeping and maintaining its customers who want an e-commerce solution," Rosen said. "I understand how hard it is in today's market to get and retain customers, and the last thing we want our ISP customers worrying about is us taking their subscribers."

While details remain sketchy on the order-to-installation time, since the program is still in its infancy, officials promised an easy turnaround time once the ISP gets the e-storefront server. ISP beta-testers were said to have had the servers up and running and getting e-storefronts operational in a matter of hours.

Andy Parker, Mercantec chief executive officer, said his company is looking forward to expanding its business operations to take advantage of the growing e-commerce industry.

"Mercantec is excited to be a part of the industry's first of its kind usage-based pricing program," Parker said. "By pre-loading IBM Unix servers with our storefront applications, IBM and Mercantec are teaming to offer service providers an immediate commerce solution for their end customers. We look forward to continuing our work with IBM to better serve ISPs around the world."