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By Michael Moeller , PC WEEK
Oracle Corp., Actra Business Systems and Lotus Development Corp. are raising the bar on electronic commerce solutions with new servers.
Each is shipping or preparing to ship systems for business-to-business and business-to-consumer applications that join Microsoft Corp.'s newly released $5,000 Site Server Enterprise in offering high performance and functionality at relatively low prices.   The cost of the new E-commerce servers is sure to put pressure on smaller companies. Open Market Inc., BroadVision Inc. and Connect Inc. have already hit the market with considerably more expensive applications, said Michael Goulde, an analyst at Patricia Seybold's Office Computing Group, in Boston. What remains to be seen is whether the new, cheaper applications are as reliable.
"Ultimately, the question is, who is providing the functionality and stability and performance that customers require?" Goulde said. "It's easier to provide functionality than performance."
This week, Oracle will ship its ICS (Internet Commerce Server), formerly code-named Apollo, which combines a number of Oracle database and Web applications with third-party payment offerings.
Priced at $19,995, Oracle's ICS is a cartridge that fits into the Oracle Web Applications Server 3.0 Advanced Edition. With the package, users will receive an Oracle7 database, the ConText search server, VeriFone's Virtual Point of Sale software and CyberCash Inc.'s micropayment software.
Some of the core features of ICS include automatic generation of catalogs out of the database and batch loading of information into back-end financial applications.
The new server also comes with Store Manager, a Java-based management application that includes customizable HTML templates and authoring tools for building and managing an online storefront. Store Manager also provides a staging system for testing the storefront before launching it.
In addition, the server software includes shopping cart capabilities, as well as the ability to check on the shipping status of goods purchased at a site.
TanData Corp. and TaxWare International Inc. are providing APIs to their respective products. TanData's Progistics.Merchant automates the shipping and handling of goods; TaxWare's Internet Tax System enables a site to build in automated tax calculations. Both applications are available separately.
Actra, a joint venture of Netscape Communications Corp. and General Electric Information Services, this week will ship ECXpert, the foundation of a suite of servers that the company is planning to release this year as part of its CrossCommerce initiative.
Later this year, Actra will roll out OrderXpert Seller, OrderXpert Buyer, MerchantXpert and PublishingXpert.   ECXpert will provide a comprehensive suite of applications for corporations looking to sell to consumers and business partners.
ECXpert, which starts at $25,000, provides companies with the ability to interface and work with EDI (electronic data interchange) systems over the Internet.
"I like their approach because Internet commerce is not only about selling to consumers or business but for selling to both groups," said the IS manager at a retailer based in the Northwest. "I want to work with my vendors on one side and the consumers on the other. To be able to do that with an integrated system would be great."
ECXpert provides EDI mapping translation to back-end systems, document tracking and trading partnership management. Management of ECXpert is handled by a Java-based application that enables users to establish cross-company relationships, integrated workflow and access control. Lotus is shipping the $1,295 Domino.Merchant, an application for the Domino server, and has plans for further integration with parent IBM's E-commerce offerings.
Domino.Merchant offers product catalogs, shopping cart capabilities, order processing, tax calculations and various payment features.
This summer, Lotus will upgrade the application for IBM's Net.Commerce on inventory management, relational DBMS access, and Secure Electronic Transactions using Visa or MasterCard. The application also will be able to support Secure Sockets Layer 3.0 encryption, which will be included in Domino 4.6 this summer, officials said.
Oracle is at (415) 506-7000 or; Actra is at (888)706-2600 or; Lotus is at (800) 343-5414 or
 Additional reporting by Jim Kerstetter and Scot Petersen


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