IBM has broadened its e-commerce offerings with a new range of digital marketing and customer analytics that can be provided through on premises software or via a cloud service that customers appear increasingly open to adopting.
IBM's ExperienceOne suite of 10 applications is aimed at giving enterprises a way to manage either business-to-business or business-to-consumer interactions via the Web, including across mobile platforms. As such, it's IBM's largest expansion into digital commerce in the few years since it established its Industry Cloud Solutions group. In addition to the ExperienceOne suite, IBM said it's investing roughly $100 million in building what it calls Interactive Experience Labs in the heart of New York and nine other major cities globally where creative design and production staff will work with customers to create digital content for their businesses, uploading and managing it to cloud services from those lab environments. IBM expects to add 1,000 employees for this.
The New York-based IBM Interactive Experience Lab is expected to be opened in August on Astor Place, collocated with IBM Watson headquarters. Paul Pappas, managing partner with the IBM Interactive Experience team, said the focus is on showing IBM's digital commerce expertise, including how it provides customer analytics and data as a service. But it's also a production environment where design teams and system integrators will work on specific customer assignments.
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IBM's push into e-commerce has been fueled through a series of acquisitions that include the Sterling Commerce business-to-business network, Tealeaf, Coremetrics, Unica, Demandtec, Xtify and just this week, the buyout of cloud-based marketing company Silverpop. Earlier this year, IBM purchased Aspera, whose software is used for high-speed secure transmissions of large amounts of digital content using its FASP protocol. The Aspera secure-content transmission capability is being integrated into IBM e-commerce products and services, including its long-established WebSphere, used as a business commerce platform to handle the electronic ordering and fulfillment process.
There wasn't much more than WebSphere three years ago when Craig Hayman took over as general manager of IBM's Industry Cloud Solutions, and oversaw the Sterling Commerce acquisition.
"It's not just about how you sell something," says Hayman. "You have to market to people, [including] the support people." Mobile is now an important component in this, he adds.
The idea behind IBM's Industry Cloud Solutions is that much of the functionality provided today in on premises software can be made available as a cloud service, or both together.
IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit
At the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit held in Tampa this week, and attended by over 4,000 IBM enterprise customers, several e-commerce managers shared experiences they had in setting up new online marketing operations.
Newell Rubbermaid, based in Atlanta, wanted to quickly introduce an online marketplace to countries around the world to directly sell some of products, said Vinh Tran, senior manager of e-business, PMO and operations.
Newell Rubbermaid wanted to use WebSphere for this expansion of product information and sales, but the IT and e-business teams debated whether to use it as on premises server-based software or a cloud service that IBM was making available. Tran said the decision was made to try the cloud-based service both because it seemed more versatile and cost-effective. IBM's cloud-based WebSphere Commerce as a service is based on a monthly charge.
The consumer and commercial products maker, which got implementation help from IBM partner Rosetta, has found the cloud-based WebSphere to be a "rich and scalable platform," said Tran. "You're not limited." The implementation, which has been put to use in 32 languages, is hosted at IBM's data center in Raleigh, N.C.
IBM says it has about 40 data centers around the world where this type of cloud-based e-commerce service can be put into action. Tran said one advantage of going with the cloud model is that it is likely much faster to turn on a similar benefit of going with cloud email, etc.
IBM's acquisition of Aspera, which provides software for encrypted transfer of large digital files (and also encrypts those files at rest), brought a foundational piece of technology that IBM is expected to integrate into its e-commerce offerings.
Speaking at the conference, Sony Pictures' Glen Marzan described using Aspera software to transmit both whole films and daily footage from films being made. "Aspera has changed everything," said Sony Pictures' vice president of ITPS digital content technology, noting what used to take 26 hours via software based on FTP can now be done in 3 hours. It's been critical in transmitting movies to places such as China over the Internet, he noted.
IBM has integrated Aspera into its SoftLayer cloud platform, and plans call for the Sterling File gateway to have Aspera technology embedded as well. For the future, it means Aspera will be a valuable option available for secure and fast delivery of a wide range of content, from customer analytics to videos, that are part of the digital e-commerce process. "Video is pervading everything we do," said John Mesberg, vice president of B2B and Commerce Solutions at IBM, noting Aspera brings a way to move it around securely.
Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: [email protected]