Vendors Unite To Drive E-Business Development



A slew of major IT vendors said Wednesday that they are joining forces in an effort to promote greater interoperability between their products and to help users determine the best methods for building E-business architectures capable of reaching across supply chains.

The vendors, which include industry heavyweights Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Compaq, and EMC, will manage the initiative under a new umbrella group called the Business Internet Consortium. It will operate as a nonprofit E-business think tank.

Executives from participating companies say the group will focus on issues that fall between the cracks of standards bodies and user groups. "A lot of the existing work focuses on specific technologies and not on how things interoperate with each other or what our customers will require to use all of our products in concert," says Marie Wieck, VP for software strategy at IBM. "We're looking to develop an organization that can speak with one voice," she adds.

Participating vendors will each dedicate two staff members to the effort as well as an undisclosed financial contribution, according to member company officials. Within the Business Internet Consortium, a number of working groups will focus on specific technology implementations, including the use of the Extensible Markup Language for E-business, improving the exchange of data over wireless devices, and integrating legacy systems into Web-based operations. Findings will be published on the Web and in white papers.

Observers say the group could provide a much-needed service, particularly to small businesses that lack large consulting budgets, if it can function as neutral, independent body. "Their challenge will be to not get into pitched battles over whose products are best," Summit Strategies analyst Dwight Davis says.

Twenty-six companies will participate in the Business Internet Consortium at launch. Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer, SAP, and Unisys are also among the group. Not joining them--at least for now--are Sun Microsystems and Oracle, though organizers say the door is open to future members. A Sun spokesman says the company may participate but has not made a decision. Oracle officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

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