All You Need for B2B is GIS 4.0, Sterling Says
April 26, 2005 Alex Woodie
Face it, every company participates in business to business (B2B) transactions on some level. Whether that means a simple FTP transmission, participation in an EDI network, or publishing of product data through the advanced UCCnet repository, B2B transactions are the lifeblood of business. While there are many forms that B2B transactions can take, Sterling Commerce says it has everything covered in Gentran Integration Suite (GIS) 4.0, which it started shipping earlier this month for the iSeries and other platforms.
Sterling’s GIS is an Enterprise Java-based software product that companies can use to set up, execute, and then monitor the exchange of documents and other computerized communications required in a supply chain. That’s a drastic simplification of GIS’ capabilities, but in the end, that’s pretty much what it does.
Sterling’s goal with GIS 4.0 is to deliver on its Multi-Enterprise Services Architecture (MESA) promise it made last November. In a nutshell, MESA means providing a single platform and toolset that can cover just about any conceivable form of B2B communication, including support for multiple protocols, operating systems, business applications, platforms, and adapters, and to do it within a service oriented architecture (SOA) framework to make it easier to collaborate with external parties.
MESA also means owning the entire supply chain stack, and not just the communications and integration part of it, but the business logic, too. This strategy is evident in Sterling’s recent $170-million acquisition of Boston-based Yantra, a developer of supply chain applications for the retail, wholesale distribution, logistics, and manufacturing verticals. Sterling–which has an installed base of about 30,000 companies, including at least 3,000 OS/400 shops who still use its Gentran EDI translators–doesn’t see why it should share the market with the likes of Oracle and Manhattan Associates, and it has substantial resources, as a subsidiary of SBC Communications, to back it up.
Sterling says it has achieved its MESA goals with GIS 4.0. With version 4.0, the GIS gains a new dashboard and portal framework that lets users view data, processes, documents, and status, and provides business activity monitoring (BAM) and the capability to watch business processes unfold and take action as needed. There’s also a new community management interface that Sterling says simplifies the initial set up of a trading partner community, and provides ongoing change management and system tracking capabilities. There’s also a new graphical processing modeling tool for setting up workflows.
GIS 4.0 also includes a new data compliance engine for helping consumer goods companies synchronize their EAN-UCC product data with the appropriate registry (such as UCCnet), a capability Sterling obtained in its acquisition of TR2. It includes new out-of-the-box EDI translation capabilities, and an interface to Cognos reporting tools. There are also new schedulers and scheduling options for automating the execution of workflows and data transfers, as well as a new federated data structure that makes it easier to implement GIS 4.0 across two or more nodes, while other improvements have been made to the suite’s clustering, security, and document tracking facilities.
Sam Starr, chief executive officer of Sterling Commerce, says GIS 4.0 provides all the integration, security, business process management, and business intelligence capabilities a company needs. “A new B2B paradigm has emerged in which companies need to attain deep visibility into supply chains and customer operations without the cost and complexity associated with managing multiple integration technologies, even if they arrive in the same box.”
Starr’s prophesy of the emergence of a new paradigm may ring truer than you would’ve first thought. Analyst group Gartner is watching the evolution of this young market for “B2B gateway” products, and ranks Sterling very high in its Magical Quadrant rating system, ahead of 12 other B2B gateway vendors in terms of the completeness of its vision (only webMethods and Seeburger ranked higher in this metric) and all alone at the top in terms of its ability to execute.
But are you in the market for a do-it-all integration product? According to Gartner, by 2008, six out of 10 companies in the market for a B2B gateway will buy a stand-alone gateway, such as GIS 4.0.
GIS 4.0 is now available across its entire scope of supported platforms, including OS/400, z/OS, Unix, Windows, and Linux. Pricing starts at about $150,000. For more information, visit www.sterlingcommerce.com.