WebSphere goes multicultural

The latest rendition of IBM’s WebSphere Commerce Suite v 5.1 embraces Java and mobile commerce (m-commerce), all the while acknowledging the expansion into the multicultural world of e-business.

Since it was written entirely in Java – previous versions were scripted in C++ – Commerce Server 5.1 is easier to integrate, according to IBM. Moreover, Big Blue’s multinational considerations with this version extend well beyond foreign language and currency support by offering geographic features, such as region-specific sales tax and shipping rules, customized product catalogues, localized payment methods and pricing. Commerce Suite 5.1 boasts a Web-based storefront in up to 10 languages – with additional dialects available as per demand – and wireless standard support such as that for imode, Japan’s popular interface standard from NTT DoCoMo.

Ed Kilroy, IBM’s general manager of e-business solutions in Somers, N.Y., said in a teleconference call the new enhancements to Commerce Suite 5.1 are intended to spur e-commerce worldwide and to take advantage of m-commerce opportunities, particularly in Europe and Asia

“Most of our customers said they wanted to go to other countries. Canada is a good example of that,” he said. “You’re moving from an English audience to a French audience; from province to province, where sales tax differs… The same applies to different countries, for example if you have a customer base that is German, you can customize the set of rules, tax policies and special offers that are specific to that customer.”

M-commerce additives include notification messages for auctions, automatic content selection and customized shopping features built in to suit specific wireless devices.

“If you want to compare traditional commerce systems (to Commerce Suite 5.1) our competitors will tell you a different system is required for each individual market you want to be a part of and that’s very costly,” Kilroy said. “The management of Commerce Suite is less complex, you’re running off of one system. It’s less costly and from an employee’s perspective, they’ll view it positively because it has been programmed 100 per cent in Java and that moves them to the cutting edge of technology.”

Research-firm IDC estimated about 60 per cent of B2B companies have taken steps to globalize their Web sites. The firm also predicted that globalization efforts can earn an enterprise an average of 15 per cent more foreign revenue than those entities that have not globalized their sites.

IDC Canada research director Kevin Restivo in Toronto gave Commerce Suite 5.1 a ringing endorsement.

“Bringing down the language barriers and making the Suite accessible to m-commerce initiatives will be great for the worldwide deployment of this product,” he said. “There are more B2C features than B2B features in this version, and as Microsoft continues to become a major competitor with C# in this space, it’s important for IBM to stake its claim and tie up the existing business channels.”

Commerce Suite 5.1 is based on open industry standards and provides an easy-to-use interface, an out-of-the-box business intelligence function, and IBM contends that sites built with its e-business solution can integrate with both internal and external systems.

“From a service perspective, we have the largest contingent of about 2,400 business partners around the world and we have over 1,000 IBM services people trained on the product,” Kilroy continued. “We’re running [Commerce Suite 5.1] on NT, AIX, Solaris, OS/400, System/390 and Linux, which will be released later this year.”

Priced is US$9,000 per processor for the Start Edition and US$45,000 per processor for the Pro Edition.

Mazda North America has been conducting a beta pilot of Commerce Suite 5.1 for selling parts to Mazda race car drivers. Mazda’s Web development consultant Ross Katz said a full B2B rollout of the suite to cater to the company’s consumer network is in the works.

“We needed a Java-based solution that has all the bells and whistles to contend in an exceptionally competitive market,” Katz said. “We can make changes on our own and do customization.”