The automotive industry is investing in a new venture, the Automotive Network Exchange (ANX). ANX is a managed virtual private network (VPN) that runs over the Internet and links manufacturers and suppliers worldwide. This will electronically link those suppliers who still communicate to manufacturers by traditional means (phone,fax, e-mail). The network will electronically route product shipment schedules, CAD files for product designs, POs, payments and other business information.
The Great Plains e.Order demo that you just did is a great example of B2B over the web. It is done in a client-server environment with a Great Plains C/S+ back end (sometimes called back office) and a front end developed in Microsoft tools. Front end is simply the term used to describe what you, the user, see. It is the GUI, the web browser screen you view and/or interact with. Back end is the term used to describe what is happening with the data that the user doesn’t see. Typically, that data may be in an application program or a relational database such as Oracle, DB2, SQL server, Sybase SQL server.
Just in case you never got a good understanding of why client/server (C/S) is such a big deal, here is an example. A customer calls to change their number. Without C/S the accounts receivable clerk would have to access the entire A/R master file from the file server just to change one record. Since this is probably thousands/millions of records and takes up lots of bandwith on the network, it makes the system crawl!!!! With C/S, the server selects out just the one record and then sends only the one record to the A/R clerk to be changed. By distributing processing in this way the system is SIGNIFICANTLY faster!!!
At some point you are going to wonder how the back end and the front end communicate. They often can’t since many companies still have back ends that were not created to interface with (display) over the web. The answer is Middleware. Middleware is simply the “glue” or layer of software that allows the front ends (often in Java, HTML, XML, CGI scripts, ASP pages) to interact with the back end. Just like you need a translator when someone who is speaking Spanish is talking to someone who is speaking French, you often need middleware for your front end to communicate with your back end.
There are several ways to acquire a web presence and obviously the amount of money you want to spend and the in-house talent you have for developing/maintaining the site are crucial in making the decision whether to