Ariba enlivens the exchange
With online exchanges no longer able to attract companies merely by offering buying and selling capabilities, Ariba next week will announce alliances that extend the collaborative supply-chain functionality of its marketplace platform.
Ariba will kick off its revamped image as a supplier of end-to-end e-marketplace solutions Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall in New York in conjunction with partners Syncra Systems, Zeborg, and recently acquired Agile Software.
The alliance of these three companies also effectively ends a software integration pact among Ariba, i2, and IBM, according to analysts.
Agile competes directly with Dallas-based i2, analysts said. "As soon as Ariba purchased Agile, they came into direct conflict with i2 and [their alliance] was toast," said Ken Vollmer, research director at Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Mass.
Partnering with other infrastructure companies is part of the exchange game and not new to Ariba. Late last year, the company partnered with San Mateo, Calif.-based Blue Martini, a company that integrates multicommunications channels in a marketplace.
Still, Mountain View, Calif.-based Ariba is facing pressure to offer more than a simple e-marketplace, analysts said. Stiff competition comes from the virtual merger between SAP and Commerce One, which will deliver a broader set of collaborative functionality than Ariba's current offerings, said Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif.
"Marketplaces that do not have this type of collaborative functionality do not have a rosy future," Vollmer added.
But the alliance with Agile, Syncra, and Zeborg may give Ariba many of the missing pieces it needs, analysts said.
Agile Software has design and engineering support modules, which allow supply-chain partners to collaborate on changing product content as well as on source and procurement products.
Zeborg, based in New York, is an infrastructure supplier to marketplaces for indirect procurement. Zeborg modules offer contract monitoring, sourcing, and pricing, which all compliment Ariba's current offerings, Vollmer said.
But it is the partnership with Waltham, Mass.-based Syncra Systems that goes to the very heart of Ariba's makeover as a supplier of end-to-end marketplace solutions rather than point solutions for procurement.
Syncra's functionality, collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment for procurement of direct goods goes well beyond what Ariba currently has and is a requirement for any serious player in the direct procurement market.
"Direct goods is the real prize. That is where the real savings take place," Greenbaum said.
Syncra and Ariba cuurrently have a huge customer base in common. The two companies' products now will be tightly integrated, according to Syncra President Chris Sellers.
"In one sense [the collaboration] goes beyond an alliance to the optimization of one another's architecture and deployment options," Sellers said.
Sellers said Syncra's role is to build out more of Ariba's supply-chain capabilities in the direct materials market, which is currently "more than indirect," he said.
But it is one thing to announce the integration of additional modules into a platform; and quite another to carry it off, warns Ron Shelby, former CTO of General Motors and current CEO of XML Solutions, a software provider for business collaboration.
"If [Syncra and Ariba] designed their software with many open APIs, then it is not a hard thing to do," said Selby, who worked with exchange infrastructure suppliers at the formation of Covisint, the giant automotive exchange. "If they wrote it in C++ and [with] no APIs, it is a bear," Shelby said.