Wednesday, September 22, 2004

ATG integrating e-commerce technology for WebSphere and Eclipse

ATG integrating e-commerce technology for WebSphere and Eclipse
Art Technology Group's Adam Belmont has spent the past year working to make it easier for Java developers to build customer-facing Web applications on IBM's WebSphere Studio platform.

In July 2003, IBM and ATG announced an agreement to integrate WebSphere with ATG's technology for managing a customer's relationship with an e-commerce Web site. Since then, Belmont has been working to make that happen.

Most of this work involves integrating ATG's Adaptive Scenario Engine with WebSphere. "We have a set of plug-ins for WebSphere Studio and Eclipse that help developers to create ATG products on those platforms," says Belmont, who is ATG's director, software development.

The advantage of using the plug-ins and other ATG technology is that it saves time in developing the e-commerce apps, he says.

"Say you were building without the ATG platform," Belmont explains. "The developer would have to come up with a database schema, write Java code that had potentially hard-coded SQL statements in it, [and] write all the logic to figure out who this user is - what do we know about them, what advertisements should I show them or what content should be displayed. There's a whole lot of work there that needs to be done by hand."

The ATG developers have already done this work, so that Java coders don't have to spend much time on it.

"If they're using ATG out of the box, we have a data access layer that will separate the user from talking directly to SQL," Belmont says. "So they're not going to be writing SQL in their Java code. They can just use a Java API for a Java-to-database persistence layer. They're not going to have to write a lot of code to design the scenarios. There's a GUI tool that's used to lay out the structure of a scenario. Our application will send back events declaring what has happened to a user."

The scenario engine is technology ATG developed to manage a customer's experience on an e-commerce Web site and beyond. It can, for example, be programmed to offer certain customers a discount coupon for a product when they log onto the site. It can also send a targeted e-mail months later to entice the customer back to the site and to look at new products similar to past purchases.

"That could be done without writing any code at all," Belmont says of the online coupon scenario. "You design your JSP page, but you really wouldn't have to write a whole lot of Java code to accomplish that. It could be done very quickly." The creation of the coupon offer can be done with the GUI tool ATG provides.

While e-commerce is the most popular example of using the scenario technology and ATG boasts customers, including Neiman Marcus, FootLocker and J. Crew, Belmont says the technology will also work for internal enterprise Web portals providing employees with information on things like store inventories.

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