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
Actra is at (408) 542-3200 or