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IBM releases new WebSphere Commerce server

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Somers, N.Y.--IBM Corp. today announced a new version of its flagship WebSphere Commerce server that provides more control of online procurement and adds several other updates to the popular e-commerce platform.

IBM announced two versions of the server: WebSphere Commerce Professional Edition 5.4, for b-to-c sites, and WebSphere Commerce Business Edition 5.4, for b-to-b sites.

The Business Edition provides enhanced member management, giving sellers a way to set up relationships with buyers at the organizational and individual-employee level. For instance, a new "contract-level" management system lets sellers and buyers agree on pricing terms, custom catalogs, ship dates and other features. Beneath that is a member management system, giving buyer and seller organizations a way to set the authorizations and policies for individual employees.

"For instance, you can [specify] that a purchasing manager has 'x' cap on spending," said Bart Lautenbach, director of WebSphere Commerce marketing. Because this feature streamlines the approval processes, it can actually drive more commerce at a Web site, he said.

Other new components in WebSphere Commerce are: real-time inventory checks against the WebSphere Commerce catalog; advanced order management; and collaborative workspaces for b-to-b e-commerce, which allow businesses to exchange information quickly and easily by creating a virtual teaming environment.

WebSphere Commerce is built on open standards, including Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and extensible markup language (XML), and leverages IBM's WebSphere Application Server and DB2 Universal Database.

Current customers of WebSphere Commerce include Staples, which is using the platform for its StaplesLink.com e-procurement hub. The office supply company hopes to drive 70% of Staples Contract Division's total sales this year to the online site, which currently serves about 10,000 midsize and large companies.

WebSphere Commerce Business Edition 5.4 will be generally available on March 29, 2002, at a starting price of $125,000 per processor.HYPERLINK "http://www.ibm.com"

--Ellis Booker

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