IBM launches WebSphere for global data synch

Von Ephraim Schwartz

Leveraging its acquisition of Trego, an ISV with a product information management system, IBM Corp. unveiled additional middleware components to work with the Trego technology to ensure product data synchronization between retailers and suppliers.

The IBM Global Data Synchronization (GDS) for WebSphere Product Center announced last week will handle the actual publication of product data, putting it into proper formats to be read by data pools.

At the moment there are a number of large data pools that do not all share formats with one another, according to Kara Romanow, research director at AMR Research Inc.

Some of the major data pools are the WWRE (Worldwide Retail Exchange), Transora, and UCCNet.

GDS for WebSphere Product Center also manages the subscription to the data pools and the messages between trading partners, a critical component before, during, and after the exchange of secure data.

Romanow said that Big Blue"s competitive differentiator can be found in that their GDS solution does not require technical expertise to use.

"Everybody else manages these transactions with a technical person and they have to know XML. IBM"s tool looks like Outlook and can be used by an end-user," Romanow said.

Dan Druker, director of product information management at IBM, said the problem of managing and sending product data cannot be solved through IT.

"This can be used by buyers and sales persons," Druker said.

Earlier this year, IBM announced WebSphere Product Center, which took the technology from Trego and created a data repository to manage thousands of SKUs with hundreds of attributes for both manufacturers and retailers.

While the worldwide effort to synchronize product data is far from complete it will over time greatly reduce shipping errors, inventory levels, and the possibility of empty shelves at the retailer by insuring that what is ordered is what is sent and received.

"When a trading partner says I want item number XYZ, both sides will agree that it is the same color, the same size, the same number of items per pallet, the pallet size, and how many pallets fit in a container," said Romanow.

Nevertheless, industry adoption is not uniform, nor is there worldwide support for the Global Registry managed by EAN.UCC, a joint North American and European organization, that insures standards for interoperability between data pools.

Most items have anywhere from 12 to 600 attributes that need to be synchronized.

According to Druker, the effort got under way three years ago when WalMart Stores Inc. issued a mandate to its 20,000 suppliers on their standards for digitally sending WalMart product information.

The IBM GDS product will also include business reporting and analytics.

"It can look across 30,000 manufacturers and see who is consistently sending me bad data. Or it can see which partner is being slow or which are responsive in approval of selling products," said Druker.

IBM Global Data Synchronization for WebSphere Product Center also includes the IBM DB2 database and the application server integrated into the data pool of the customer"s choice.