BEA takes an SOA approach to e-commerce

BEA Systems Inc.’s latest version of its e-commerce tool takes a services-oriented architecture (SOA) approach to tackle challenges brought on by current e-commerce trends, said a company executive.

The San Jose, Calif.-based middleware vendor announced this week the release of its AquaLogic Commerce Services version 6.0.

The growth and importance of online retailers, the need to “re-platform” businesses running on legacy technology, and the effort to unify a business’ physical, online and call centre components all present hurdles to online businesses, said Dan Tortorici, senior director of product marketing with BEA.

The solution to those trends is the effort around SOA that addresses ease of flexibility, adaptability and multi-channel integration, said Tortorici. “It provides the right foundation for the next 10 years of online commerce.”

Among version 6.0’s most notable features are the addition of more than 30 new Web services, such as extensive APIs. Also, the tool offers improved integration with other BEA platforms like WebLogic Portal 10.2 and Web Logic Server 10, as well as with BEA Workshop to simplify building unified commerce applications that include the WebLogic and AquaLogic product lines.

The support for, and integration with, other BEA platforms, said Tortorici, are among the things that make this “the next generation of infrastructure for online retail.”

Version 6.0 also allows the online retailer to manage multiple stores on a single installation of the product, making “the whole move to more specific marketing around brand or customer segment, or even geography a lot easier to do,” he said.

In fact, this feature was key to online retailers, he said, given their demand for more simplified capabilities to multiple store management. They were also demanding a client-based commerce manager tool based on Eclipse RCP to tackle the challenge of managing multiple components that a rich user experience requires.

The new version also responds to varying deployment needs in that it “includes everything you need in a box” while also providing the flexibility to integrate into existing systems in the event a retailer wants to quickly incorporate a new business model, said Tortorici.

Although BEA’s intended target with this tool is its core customer base of large enterprises, he said it does cover the “new business models that appear like mid-market requirements” as well, making it perhaps more a tool for the “mid- to upper-” sized organization.

Tortorici couldn’t comment on how BEA’s e-commerce tool will be integrated into Oracle Corp.’s portfolio in the long term. BEA was bought by the Redwood City, Calif.-based database technology vendor earlier this year.

Oracle’s E-Business Suite Release 12 includes the iStore that provides “a lot of this capability and was recently updated,” noted Ray Wang, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

Clark Johannson, president of Calgary-based e-commerce technology provider ClickSpace Interactive Inc. and shopping search engine Shop To It, shared thoughts on the trends affecting online retailers.

“There’s so much innovation that some companies are just saying ‘Maybe I should just start again,’” said Johannson, referring to the move towards re-platforming. He agreed that online businesses are taking this necessary move in light of limiting older technology, for instance the inability to support Ajax, which is necessary to improve conversion, and Web services tools that check currency and shipping rates.

As for the multi-channel integration trend, he thinks retailers are committing a “huge mistake” if they continue to perceive an online presence as “just another location”. The successful businesses, he said, are those that integrate online and offline experiences. In fact, he added, some businesses are even beginning to recognize the importance of the “Web to store” shopper who researches online and walks in to the physical store ready to make a purchase.

And, Johannson hopes the marketing vice-presidents of the world start thinking of the Web as an additional marketing channel. “If I don’t have an e-commerce store online I’m losing all that traffic because people are researching and I don’t even have my flag out.”

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