Intel calls for e-business standard

E-commerce can't afford to be a world of islands, says Intel's Paul Otellini. Technology is needed to build bridges
Written by John G.Spooner, Contributor on

Intel asked its developers Wednesday: Can't e-businesses all just get along?

At his Intel Developer Forum keynote speech, Intel executive Paul Otellini asked developers to help create interoperable data standards for what Intel calls third-generation e-commerce.

As defined by Intel, the first generation of e-business was simply establishing a dotcom address. Second-generation e-business saw a move to e-commerce. The second generation, however, is vendor-centric, meaning it offers only information about the vendor's own products. "Third generation will really turn that around," said Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group, in an interview Tuesday with ZDNet News. "Third generation focuses on all the other aspects of the business."

The third generation will see a fundamental shift where businesses and consumers have access to a continuous flow of data from multiple sources simultaneously, Otellini said. That means real-time data feeds, such as stock information and inventories, will be available via the Internet.

For Intel, which made $13bn (£7.9bn) of its revenue online last year, moving to third-generation e-business means connecting all of its internal systems with its suppliers and its customers -- all at the same time. That means the company wants to integrate its own supply data with that from other businesses so that customers can access all data it takes to build a PC.

We're not quite there yet, Otellini said. "The epicentre is going to move," he said. "It will shift very rapidly to a three-tier back-end computing model." That includes client machines ranging from desktop PCs to cell phones. At the same time, it means a new intermediate layer of servers based on Intel Xeon server chips, which will work between those client machines and larger servers managing databases or inventory-tracking software to deliver data to a client.

With this in mind, Intel demonstrated a Unisys 32-way Xeon server running Windows NT and SCO UnixWare on different four-way Xeon pods at the same time.

Intel sees its forthcoming Itanium chip being used in high-end servers. It demonstrated a prototype four-way Itanium server running 64-bit Windows 2000. For example, Itanium's 64-bit memory could make it possible to load large databases into memory, leading to especially fast access to data.

There are 30 designs in process now for Itanium systems, Otellini said, and eight vendors demonstrated prototype Itanium-based systems at the Intel Developer Forum. There are also 40 64-bit applications in development for Itanium, he said. "As we move into the third generation we need a new tool, a new lingua franca for the Net," Otellini said. XML (Extensible Markup Language), a new language for the Web, will be that lingua franca, he said.

While XML is being used in a number of applications, the data created by those applications needs to be shared across platforms and between customers. Otellini called for a new framework for interaction of data types so that companies might share the data internally and also with their customers.

"As each stack emerges, the last thing we need is for that stack to be an island in and of itself," he said. "We need to have the interoperability built in from the start."

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