Push for Exchange Partnerships Fades

Maturing e-marketplace puts i2-Ariba-IBM alliance in limbo, points to fewer multicompany pacts

As the offerings of i2 Technologies Inc., Ariba Inc. and other providers of e-marketplace software mature, companies wishing to set up e-marketplaces are finding that they dont have to get involved with as many multicompany partnerships to get an exchange up and running.

As a result of i2s purchase of RightWorks Corp. this month and Aribas purchase of Agile Software Corp. earlier this quarter, the three-way alliance among Dallas-based i2, Ariba and IBM has essentially dissolved.

The reason: i2 and Ariba, of Mountain View, Calif., can offer a much greater breadth of features in their respective platforms, which are increasingly targeted at providing both sell-side and buy-side trading capabilities.

The i2-RightWorks deal also effectively ends a relationship between RightWorks and business-to-business software provider Manugistics Group Inc., i2 officials said.

i2 plans to add RightWorks transaction capabilities to its SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) software suite. The integration will add collaborative e-procurement capabilities in negotiations, buying and order management to SRMs design and manufacturing collaboration, sourcing and contract management functions. That integration is expected in the next 60 to 90 days, company officials said.

In addition, i2 will integrate RightWorks Open Commerce platform with its Trade Matrix network—a move that will expand the networks supplier enablement capabilities as well as extend i2s content management capabilities and reference applications, officials said.

The rocky relationships among some e-business infrastructure providers have not deterred all online exchange companies from seeking multivendor solutions. Rubbernetwork.com LLC, a rubber products e-marketplace based in Atlanta, is implementing i2s Trade Matrix e-market engine with the help of IBM. Acting CIO Richard Alexander said his exchange will continue to turn to a variety of vendors, even if that means depending on transient partners.

"Our immediate plan is to continue with a best-of-breed approach," Alexander said.

Last year, there was a hysteria for companies to align—whether those alignments were fruitful or not—said Brian Beske, chief technology officer for FirstSource Corp., a supply chain optimization company in El Segundo, Calif. Those days are over, particularly with the economy in flux.

"I think some of it comes down to what we call the Barney relationships— I love you, you love me—but were not really doing anything of substance," said Beske of last years hype-driven alliances. "I think business relationships of substance are important, and thats really true of partnerships now."

The software vendors involved in the alliances see their dissolution as a sign that the market is maturing.

Bill Paulk, vice president of e-markets for IBM, said the Armonk, N.Y., company could never have come as far as it has in the e-market space without the alliance with i2 and Ariba. But now that its made serious inroads into business-to-business, IBM is happy to shed the image of a three-way alliance, Paulk said.

Even so, Paulk said the alliance is still at work on some deals—namely, the March 7 announcement of Cordiem LLC, an exchange formed by a consortium of 12 airlines and aerospace companies.

For the most part, Paulk said, IBM will pursue separate relationships with i2 and Ariba but will also reach out to other B2B partners, like SAP AG.