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Vignette Goes The XML Route

By RICHARD KARPINSKI

Vignette, best known for its template-driven publishing system and big-media customers, is moving into the extranet market with a new version of its StoryServer platform and a strategy to use XML to enable what it calls "site-to-site" commerce.

The company's new direction is heavily influenced by the emerging Extensible Markup Language (XML) and a proposed specification from Vignette and partners dubbed ICE, or Information and Content Exchange (see related story).

StoryServer 3.2, which will be available as a developer release next week, includes system-wide support for XML, using the meta-language technology to improve content management within the product and eventually enable StoryServer sites to seamlessly exchange content and commerce transactions with other XML-enabled sites, said Brad Husick, Vignette's vice president of business development.

StoryServer 3.2 includes XML content serving; tag-level scripting; and content delivery from a variety of databases, including Oracle8, Sybase Adaptive Server 11.5, Informix and Microsoft. It runs on Sun Solaris and Windows NT. Pricing begins at $20,000 and is available as a free upgrade for existing users.

Beginning this spring, Vignette expects the first sites to start taking advantage of the new integrated XML support and the ongoing work with ICE to create what it calls site-to-site commerce, including cross-site sales promotion, sales and integration; business-to-business subscription and syndication; and automated data exchange between sites and their suppliers, Husick said.

"This is where the Web business is moving," said Husick. "It's all about how can we retain customers and justify our existence online. Companies need to build more valuable relationships with their customers and other business partners. Why isn't this happening today? We've heard it over and over again. It's just too difficult to accomplish even the basics in a scalable, efficient and accurate fashion. And there are no standards for interchange of content between sites," he said.

Longer term, Vignette is prepping the next version of StoryServer, code-named Jackal, which will support customer relationship management tools to enable multilevel personalization, subscriber management and real-time business reporting, Husick said.