Software is the soul of technology revolution: IBM

“Consider this,” John Swainson told the near-capacity crowd. “Just in the time you and I are together today over two million people might click on Charles Schwab’s equity trading site — a site built using IBM middleware and powered by IBM processors…and nearly 8,000 software files will have been downloaded from the IBM home page (in that time).”

All modesty aside, the keynote speech delivered by Swainson, IBM’s middleware division general manager of application and integration, during a March conference in Miami was in celebration of the company’s launch of the WebSphere Commerce Suite. WebSphere is a series of products which offer an open standards-based Java server runtime environment. WebSphere includes Web site development tools, e-commerce software and management solutions.

“E-business couldn’t have existed four years ago,” Swainson continued. “At IBM, we characterize software as the soul of (the technological) revolution.”

And it is the soul that suffers from neglect in most humans. Hence, IBM’s aggressive advertising campaign of late to educate the masses on its proactive e-commerce software solutions — there’s more to Canadian Tire than just tires, ergo there’s more to IBM than just international business machines.

“Most of you know this technology already exists in cars, houses, refrigerators, everything that touches your life,” he said to the audience. “These are innovations that will…change business and bring about a transformation of the relationship with businesses and their suppliers. That possibility is afforded to us by the rapid growth of the Internet. Look at Toyota, for example, they’re making it possible to buy a car on-line without ever having to step foot inside a dealership.”

Swainson wasted little time in citing example after example of the 110-year-old company’s current innovations via two huge video screens and several witty commercials. “The Web is about creating opportunities and new business laws and practices,” he said. “[Your company doesn’t] have to be big to take advantage of the Web…be open to new possibilities especially those we can’t see immediately. This involves going beyond and…seizing the potential you can see.”

Which means, Swainson advised, using one of the three editions of WebSphere.

The software suite includes WebSphere Commerce Suite, Service Provider Edition (SPE) Version 3.2 — formerly Net Commerce Hosting Server — and WebSphere Payment Manager (PM). These offerings allow service providers the opportunity to set up and operate a full-range of hosted e-commerce sites, services and communities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which in turn makes it feasible for SMEs to enjoy the benefits and revenues realized by e-businesses.

The hosting market is anticipated to grow rapidly, with e-commerce as one of the primary drivers, Swainson said. Citing a recent report by Forrester Research, he said the hosting market will reach US$11.3 billion by 2003.

Swainson expatiated the necessity for a new world order to conducting business in the face of access to greater, seamless information devices — devices that will not only provide more convenience for the individual user but that will also literally flood the e-market with information.

“The potential is also there to have problems facing that flood,” he warned. “It would be like drinking from Niagara Falls with a thimble…there is a need for you to understand the relationship with your customers. It’s not about single transactions any more…it’s important to support multiple platforms that’ll leave you free to [develop] the quality of service for your customers and grow your company as fast as you want.”

WebSphere Commerce Suite provides features and functions for content management, relationship marketing, order management, and payment management for all types of Internet businesses including B2B, B2C, and e-market places. Sites constructed with WebSphere can integrate with both internal and external systems and grow with an e-business’s needs, he said.

“Move IT to the centre of your corporate strategy,” Swainson said. “[IBM is] not in the business of providing content, we want to be your infrastructure provider and provide scalable, secure platforms.”

Swainson never lost sight of the fact his speech was pitched to an auditorium of IBM customers — who have customers themselves to impress.

“Phase two of e-business is the customer’s on-line experience,” he remarked. “There is an incredible potential to reduce time and cost by recognizing the processes in the supply chain and create new business processes, to capitalize on the e-markets being created and use technology to unlock and extend those processes.”