Off-loading e-business

Off-loading e-business

The release of IBM's WebSphere Commerce Suite Service Provider Edition (SPE) last month opens new possibilities for AS/400 shops running e-commerce sites by allowing site managers to off-load the e-commerce details on outside experts.

Multitiered e-commerce site architectures are common, says Carol Parks, president of Aureus Solutions, Inc., an e-commerce hosting company in Monrovia, Md. For example, the application service provider (ASP) handles commerce components, such as running the shopping cart for purchases and transmitting credit-card charges, while the site owner controls the store's online portal and catalog database, Parks says. There are few limits to the types of systems that can interface with WebSphere SPE; even legacy systems can be integrated into the architecture.

However, interoperability between the SPE version of Commerce Suite and an in-house version is more problematic. Parks recommends a clear separation between the various functions of a site. It would be difficult to coordinate a multitiered infrastructure if both partners handled checkout and payments, for example.

Although the SPE version of WebSphere does not run on AS/400s, interoperability between the machines is smooth, Parks says, when using IBM's MQSeries messaging middleware to handle the intermachine translation.

If a company already uses IBM hosting services, this new version should not be a major departure. It centers around the former Net.Commerce Hosting Server, renamed WebSphere Commerce Suite, Service Provider Edition 3.2, and WebSphere Payment Manager. IBM already has a half-dozen partners signed up to deliver WebSphere hosting services, as well as established relationships with vendors of payment and shipping services that integrate their software with Commerce Suite SPE.

Johnson is a freelance writer in Seattle.

This was first published in April 2000

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