Nordstom Pulls Together E-Commerce with Iona Platform

 
 
By eweek  |  Posted 2001-11-12
 
 
 

If youre Nordstroms department store, and youve implemented the sale of cosmetics on the Web, what do you need to do besides wait for the profits to roll in?

Paul Onnen, chief technology officer of Nordstrom.com, the online version of Nordstroms Inc., says it isnt that simple. The Web site is built on a Microsoft platform. The enterprise resource planning systems that capture the transaction, check inventory, place the shipping order are Nordstrom.com systems running on HP Unix servers. And to complicate matters further, the stock replenishment system runs on an IBM mainframe at Nordstrom Inc.s Seattle headquarters, said Onnen

To knit the pieces together, Nordstrom.com uses a Java application integration system based on Iona Technologies Orbix E2A eBusiness Platform. The system converts data in one system to XML format, then uses connection services built as Enterprise JavaBeans implementing new Web standards to make the hand-off to another system.

The older way of making such exchanges is implementing message-oriented middleware, and Nordstrom considered using IBMs MQ Series. But MQ Series represents a point to point answer—one application makes a precisely defined data exchange with another. By opting for the Orbix eBusiness Platform, Nordstrom.com can capture the customer order and then hand off information from it to any number of systems, simply by relaying the conversion to XML data and adding another Java connector.

"If we change systems again, we wont need to change the application interface. Its much quicker than building a dedicated interface," which often amounts to 40 percent of an application development effort, Onnen noted. Instead, the existing interface can be connected to a new platform with a ready-made or in-house built Java connector.

Nordstrom followed the same path when it decided to issue and redeem gift cards—gift certificates—at its online site. To do so, Seattle-based Nordstrom.com needed to connect to yet another system, the Nordstroms Federal Savings Bank in Denver. The gift card system is about to be launched, Onnen said.

Although Orbix E2A can implement several different types of connections, including the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), Onnen said there was "no CORBA involved" in his effort to get systems to work together. "Its all Enterprise Java Beans and Java. CORBA isnt really that useful. Well take the Java tack," he said.

Much of Orbix E2A eBusiness Platform is an assembly of Iona products, including the iPortal Application Server. Integration components have been given support for such Web standards as Universal Description and Discovery Interface, which can be used to build a directory of services readable off the Web. So Ionas XMLBus, Mainframe Integrator and other products now constitute the Web Services Integration Platform, working alongside the application server.

If forty percent of the cost of the typical development project is the interface and integration to a target system, the bill can come to "$500,000, or that sort of number, representing many programmer man hours. The traditional end-to-end approaches are not getting us there," said Barry Morris, Iona CEO.

"A lot of people are bolting on technology as a way to get to Web services," added John Rhymer, vice president of marketing. The Iona eBusiness Platform is attempting to give developers the means to build in the description and connection to a service in their applications.

The Orbix E2A Application Server Platform and Web Services Integration Platform will be available Dec. 15 at a price of $495 for a developers license and $2,500 per CPU for a server deployment license.

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