High-tech heavies form e-biz think tank

Some 30 big-name high-tech vendors, integrators, and customers will announce Wednesday the formation of the Business Internet Consortium, a non-profit corporation intended to serve as a e-business "think tank".

Some 30 big-name high-tech vendors, integrators, and customers will announce Wednesday the formation of the Business Internet Consortium, a non-profit corporation intended to serve as a "think tank" for generating best practices around e-business.

Group members, who asked not to be named, said the consortium is driven largely by Intel Corp., which has been trying to set software standards since its announcement several months ago of a Third Generation Internet Business initiative that has had little traction so far.

IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Computer Associates International Inc., SAP, and several other vendors have committed to the consortium along with Microsoft Corp., whose "Business Internet" terminology has been adopted by the group.

The idea is to create a standard set of recommendations and knowledge that can tie together the confusing array of of e-business technologies and standards in place today.

"Customers have expressed a need for vision on how to connect the dots," said Larry Acord, director of strategic business alliances for CA. "They need a neutral body to share recommendations for standards and technologies that are not vendor-centric."

Added Mike Rank, who represents HP's E-speak technology: "This unifies customer education on many individual technical initiatives."

Motivated by customers
Founding members will serve as an advisory board, which at some point will submit to elections, and plan to establish "architectural directions, interoperable building blocks and common procedures" for future "e-Business Internet development."

The group claims to be motivated by customers -- who will also form an advisory board -- and will address the use of technologies such as XML, the integration of customers' existing systems with "new e-Business solutions and architectures," latency, security, and the use of new devices including mobile phones.

Work groups will be formed, and recommendations and white papers will be published.

Intel acknowledged playing a prominent role. "Third generation Internet is what got us going on this, although that's not where it ended up," said VP Will Swope. "If you assume that you're going to end up with business processes-to-business processes -- and not business processes-to-human beings -- how are those business processes going to work together?

"If you take it to a standards body it will never happen, but if you can get the key players to agree, 'This is how we exchange information' and do real work, then the developers have to figure out how to make the processes run.

Swope said the group continues to recruit members, including Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp., whose participation Intel welcomes. Oracle did not return calls seeking comment, and Sun said that while it is watching the group, it sees no reason to join.

"The deliverables look soft and fluffy," said Anne Thomas Manes, Sun's director of market innovation. "Are they doing design patterns? Documentation? Architectural specifications? And where are BEA, Commerce One, and Ariba? These are the guys who understand how to make systems work together, and if they're not part of it, we don't see that it's useful to join."

Customers that have joined include Charles Schwab, Capital One, Ford, ImageX.com, and Reuters. Customers will propose problems to the group, which expects to start off focusing on supply chain integration, financial applications, internal corporate networks, and the "e-enabling of processes," according to Computer Associates' Accord.

The full roster -- which includes Agency.com, Zefer, SAP, EMC, and Fujitsu -- is online.

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