REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 20, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. and members of the Value Chain Initiative (VCI) consortium report significant progress in their business-to-business electronic-commerce efforts. The VCI today will conduct a proof-of-concept (POC) demonstration, which will replicate an end-to-end supply-chain solution and feature 12 independent software vendors (ISVs) integrating 20 different applications. The VCI is a consortium of 130 leading ISVs dedicated to providing an information framework that allows companies to integrate applications, link with entire value chains of trading partners regardless of size, and share dynamic information in real time.
“This demonstration is a very exciting milestone for the VCI because it allows us to graphically demonstrate the bottom-line economic value of VCI-enabled applications,” said Mark Walker, worldwide marketing manager for transportation, EDI and distribution at Microsoft. “For the first time, customers and ISVs will see disparate applications working together with a real-time data stream flowing between them. The VCI framework offers the largest choice of best-fit ISV solutions and integrated commerce tools, platforms and services.”
The POC will replicate a complex supply-chain and distribution-channel scenario representing the computer hardware industry. ISVs showcasing applications will include Distribution Architects International Inc., ECWerks Inc., FASCOR Inc., i2 Technologies Inc., Intek Integration Technologies Inc., InterTrans Logistics Solutions Ltd., M-STAR Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., OPTUM Software Inc., Smart Technologies Inc., Sterling Commerce Inc. and TanData Corp.
Two scenarios will be explored during the POC demonstration. The first will be a straightforward demonstration of the flow of data throughout the supply chain, showing how extending and connecting applications beyond an enterprise can improve communication among large and small trading partners. The second will be a problematic scenario, in which real-world dilemmas that occur every day will be implemented and then solved efficiently. This will demonstrate how timely information allows more effective real-time decision-making, enabling customers to change the way they do business with their trading partners by increasing volumes and reducing costs.
“Milestones such as the proof of concept reinforce the argument that the VCI framework will be the supply-chain solution of the future,” said Ronnie G. Ward, vice president and general manager of the enterprise solutions division at Compaq Computer Corp. “Compaq is pleased to be among those that will be utilizing VCI-enabled tools and applications to link trading partners worldwide.”
Leading System Integrators Sign On for Pilot Projects and Evaluation Labs
VCI membership has increased 30 percent in the past three months, bringing the number of consortium members to more than 130. In addition, industry-leading system integrators, equipment vendors and other professional service organizations are supporting the initiative and offering resources for upcoming VCI pilot projects and university evaluation labs. KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, Kurt Salmon Associates and Excell Data Corp. plan to provide consultation, implementation services and expertise for upcoming projects.
VCI Embraces Industry Standards
The VCI consortium is embracing the best business practices supported by various standards bodies and will integrate these practices into the hundreds of VCI software applications being developed worldwide. The VCI consortium recently embraced the open buying on the Internet (OBI) standard and is establishing direct contact with other prominent standards organizations. In addition, the consortium will enable line-of-business applications to be more easily integrated with traditional electronic data interchange (EDI) transports.
“The VCI consortium is collaborating with members and representatives of the entire industry,” said Brad Sharp, president of Sterling Commerce, a VCI steering committee member. “By working with industry-leading ISVs, customers, standards bodies, systems integrators and universities, the VCI is covering all its bases, which will ultimately lead to a better, more complete solution.”
The VCI’s Comprehensive Platform
The commerce-enabling technology at the core of the VCI is the comprehensive set of transaction services now available within the Windows® Distributed interNet Applications architecture (Windows DNA). The Component Object Model (COM)-based combination of the Windows NT® Server operating system, Microsoft Site Server Enterprise Edition, Microsoft Transaction Server, Microsoft Message Queue Server and Microsoft SQL Server
enables applications to perform secure transactions between companies over the Internet or private networks.
In addition, Microsoft introduced this week technology known as Commerce Interchange Pipeline (CIP), to be part of a future release of Site Server Enterprise Edition. Commerce Interchange Pipeline provides developers with a simple system for enabling application-to-application interchange based on the Component Object Model. Developers will have access to functions that encrypt, digitally sign and audit transactions for transmission over the Internet in multiple formats. CIP also provides interfaces to allow for mapping to traditional EDI formats and transport over x.25 VAN networks.
“The various Microsoft transaction services, combined with the price/performance advantage of the Windows NT platform, are expected to bring electronic commerce and supply-chain innovation to tens of thousands of companies that previously couldn’t afford it,” said Jonathan Weinstein, lead product manager, Site Server commerce marketing at Microsoft. “No other industry alliance has the tools necessary to create this type of end-to-end, business-to-business e-commerce solution.”
Part of a Broader, End-to-End Solution
The VCI is part of a broader initiative by Microsoft to define an end-to-end framework for product-related industries, from raw materials suppliers to consumer products companies. Another component of the product industries framework includes the Microsoft ActiveStore Initiative for store-level retail applications. Combined, these two initiatives include nearly 500 ISVs working toward a common architecture.
Companies that want to join the VCI can visit Microsoft’s transportation and distribution Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/industry/trans/ .
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