Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 Actra's E-Commerce Suite






PC Week

April 21, 1997


Actra Raises Curtain On E-Commerce Suite

By Michael Moeller


Actra Business Systems Inc. is set to lift the curtain on its strategy for providing consumer and business-to-business electronic commerce applications.

First formed last year by Netscape Communications Corp. and General Electric Information Systems, Actra will release into beta testing in the spring and summer a set of electronic commerce software for corporate transactions and online retail marketplaces.

The line of server applications includes OrderXpert Seller, OrderXpert Buyer, ECXpert for electronic data interchange translation, MerchantXpert and PublishingXpert, company officials said. While each server has specific functions and can stand alone, Actra officials said each can be coupled in a suite to share resources and capabilities.

Meanwhile, Actra has taken over development of two Netscape servers: Merchant and Publishing System. With the Xpert and Netscape servers, Actra seeks to supply businesses with graphical systems and functions for selling goods to customers, as well as data-intensive solutions for dealing with suppliers, said Jack Corsello, senior product manager of the Merchant software, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

As a result, Actra is building much of its technology around CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) and IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol), which will enable the servers to share resources, features and capabilities.

"CORBA and IIOP are the glue that will tie the servers together," said Corsello. The integration of business-to-business and consumer services will be a step toward an automated electronic commerce system, said one user. "We are providing an electronic storefront, but we would love to share common technologies so that we can provide back-end supplier relationships over the Internet as well," said a user of the Merchant server who requested anonymity. "The moves that [Actra is] making are the right ones for us."

While the Xpert line of servers will be aimed at the business-to-business market, Actra is revamping Merchant and Publishing to connect businesses to end users and be able to handle hundreds of thousands of hits per day. New versions of the servers are due later this year.

Actra plans to ship by the end of the third quarter a new version of Publishing System with a set of tools for managing documents, publishing and pushing content to users.

The new version of Merchant will have better tools to let corporations create storefronts and tightly integrate with back-end services. Merchant server APIs are being defined that will enable corporations to easily connect the server to order-entry systems, inventory management and customer service applications.


Actra is at (408) 542-3200 or




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