Sterling Commerce, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with executive and operating offices in Dublin (greater Columbus), Ohio, and Irving, Texas, was spun-off from its parent company, Sterling Software, in March of 1996 Stephen R. Perkins, president of the Communications Software Group and executive vice president of Sterling Commerce, provides a little background into the genesis of the company. "The electronic commerce portion of Sterling Software, which later became Sterling Commerce, began through a series of acquisitions, including Informatics General in 1985 and Systems Center, in 1993. I was part of the Systems Center acquisition, which is now the Communications Software Group represented by the CONNECT product family, having been their vice president in charge of development," explains Perkins. In 1993, Sterling Software formed the Electronic Commerce Group, which was designed to focus solely on developing and delivering business-to-business electronic commerce solutions worldwide. By 1994, the group realized revenues of $156 million and by March 1996, an initial public offering of Sterling Commerce stock was made. The company had officially spun off from Sterling Software in September, 1996, and in February, 1997, made a follow-on offering raising an additional $400 million dollars for future acquisitions.

"Our strategy was built on providing a very broad solution set that included infrastructure and application enabling software and support services for business-to-business electronic commerce applications, as well as value-added services to assist companies in building, managing and servicing electronic business communities worldwide--the complete spectrum," Perkins states. "We were determined to provide all of the necessary ingredients required for business-to-business electronic commerce so that we can truly offer a total solution to our customers and thus be able to grow with them over time."

Sterling Commerce provides over 90 business-to-business electronic commerce products and services which are represented through the CONNECT, GENTRAN, VECTOR and COMMERCE product families.

According to Perkins, electronic commerce is a composite of technologies, processes and business strategies that foster the automated exchange of business information within and between companies. He adds, "While electronic commerce began as a bottom-line technology to help companies streamline operations and reduce costs, today it is clearly a way to win business, secure competitive advantage and open new markets on a global scale."

Perkins explains that the CONNECT family of data communications and security software provides a variety of choices to automate and secure data exchange between disparate business systems throughout the enterprise. It is the infrastructure necessary for electronic commerce, data warehousing, enterprise remote computing, electronic software distribution and other applications requiring robust, secure and automated data exchange across diverse hardware, software and network systems. CONNECT is used as the chosen standard in numerous industries including financial services, telecommunications, government, insurance, health care, manufacturing and retail.

"Our approach," Perkins emphasizes, "is to be the best of breed horizontally. This means that we're going to stick to the knitting to the degree that we can do the best job at enabling the automated, reliable and secure exchange of data in multiple platform, protocol and application environments. This enterprise-wide information management plays a critical role in a company's IT infrastructure. In fact, we have defined a concept called Enterprise Data Exchange (EDX), which refers to the 'enterprise-strength' requirements for exchanging data between distributed business processes which can assist companies in developing their IT infrastructure strategy. CONNECT products can be used for solving many of these business requirements. For instance," says Perkins, "companies can choose data exchange solutions such as our flagship product, CONNECT:Direct for robust point-to-point or application-to-application data exchange, CONNECT:Remote for mobile computing, CONNECT:Mailbox for automated store-and-forward data collection and distribution and CONNECT:Conceal for encrypting information stored or in transit between business processes. We also provide automated data exchange specific to various regions around the world, including CONNECT:Express, a data exchange product specific to the French banking industry and manufacturing institutions throughout Europe."

Perkins asserts that the strategy adopted by Sterling Commerce has enabled the company to become a leading provider of electronic commerce software products and services with over 37,000 customers and over 1,700 employees worldwide. He adds, "Our strategy has allowed us to be very resilient both from a technology point of view and in terms of services by broadening the definition of electronic commerce based on enterprise needs."

Perkins is proud of the value-add that Sterling Commerce provides to their customers. "When customers buy our products, they soon realize that they are also able to use them for other areas of their business--getting more value than they expected. We don't have to separate ourselves from EC [electronic commerce] in order to do this. Our customers can leverage a common solution so that they don't have to keep buying unique solutions for each of their applications," Perkins states. "We provide an enterprise-wide solution that integrates seamlessly with existing applications and supports the addition of new applications, databases, hardware and software."

Perkins is quick to point out how a data warehousing implementation can benefit from Sterling Commerce technology. He states, "DM Review readers are acutely aware of the need to gather widely distributed data into the warehouse for filtering, cleansing and standardizing in order to enable strategic decision making. A successful data warehouse implementation empowers decision-makers to utilize the data within their business so they can be more responsive to customers, better understand market trends and take advantage of new opportunities. Organizations cannot afford to overlook reliable data movement as a critical component of their data warehouse implementation. Without it, the entire data warehouse is at risk and the value of the investment is compromised. Sterling Commerce's CONNECT:Direct is the product of choice for data movement for many of the most sophisticated data warehousing implementations around the world," Perkins adds. CONNECT:Direct is a high-performance communications software solution for automated, reliable and secure data movement within and between heterogeneous environments.

"By providing the data movement component for data warehousing, we have enabled our customers to leverage a common solution. Some of our customers started using our products and later encompassed data warehousing while others started using Sterling Commerce products for their data movement segment of the data warehouse implementation and then chose to leverage Sterling Commerce products by implementing them with other applications," Perkins explains.

Additionally, Perkins adds that Sterling Commerce has formed, and continues to form, strategic partnerships with major data warehousing vendors such as Prism, Constellar and Information Builders. He says, "That means we don't have to be the experts in data warehousing. But there is that one slice where we want to participate to add value for our customers."

An admitted workaholic, Perkins obviously enjoys being a part of Sterling Commerce. "One of the things that I really enjoy is talking to our customers. I like," he says, to "listen and understand the customer's problem and then apply my creativity to our planning sessions to find the solution that will provide the customer with the most value. And, I take a lot of pride in the culture that we have here. Everybody works very hard, and there is a very competitive climate among our employees. But there is also true respect for the individuals."

Perkins stresses that at Sterling Commerce putting the customers first is most important. He relates, "Due to the autonomous organizational structure within Sterling Commerce, sometimes our customers are called on by three different sales representatives from Sterling Commerce. We have just implemented a pilot program and we have assigned a 'single point of contact' for the customer. This is new ground for Sterling Commerce and requires increased communication between the organizational groups when managing the customer account. So far, augmenting our business model to meet the customers' needs is proving to be beneficial--for both our customers and Sterling Commerce."

According to Perkins, Warner Blow, Sterling Commerce president and CEO, is the inspiration for a great deal of what is accomplished by the company. "Warner always analyzes problems from various angles which stimulates us to not only think about the situation, but to take it on and find a solution," says Perkins. "I think that's a pretty unique quality he has that keeps us motivated."

Sterling Commerce truly connects the enterprise, thereby allowing valuable data to be used to the fullest extent possible for day-to-day operations, providing a competitive advantage and a positive impact on the bottom line. Perkins and the Sterling Commerce team diligently pursue the company's overall plan to broaden its product solutions and geographic reach through product development, strategic acquisitions, partnerships and services.

Perkins sums it up by saying, "Success comes from embracing change." And the Sterling Commerce team is determined to stay at least one step ahead of their customers' needs, changing or enhancing their products as necessary.


CONNECT:Direct
CONNECT:Direct provides high-performance, high-volume, highly automated data communications across 30 different operating environments. Whether populating the data warehouse or moving data between other business applications, CONNECT:Direct supports secure, mission-critical, peer-to-peer transfers through standard protocols, including TCP/IP, SNA, LU6.2, Async and X.25. It provides automation capabilities such as checkpoint/restart, extended data compression, links to top scheduling and security packages and a unique scripting language to customize management of data exchange between business processes.

CONNECT:Direct provides the following features that go beyond the simple exchange of data from one system to another:

Application Integration

CONNECT:Direct integrates seamlessly with your existing and evolving operations, including the support of data warehousing-specific applications, through its flexible application and user interfaces.

Automation

You can be sure the information you are retrieving from the data warehouse is up to date with CONNECT:Direct's scheduling features and 24x7 unattended operations. CONNECT:Direct also simplifies system administration through powerful automation and scripting facilities.

Reliability

CONNECT:Direct provides a highly reliable data movement foundation for your data warehouse. Reliability is achieved through advanced error handling, notification and recovery capabilities, so the user or application knows immediately if a data transfer is interrupted. And, because CONNECT:Direct manages the data movement process on both the sending and receiving systems, the integrity of the data is preserved.

Efficiency and Performance

Direct file-to-file data transfers mean no staging, spooling or manual intervention is required. Data compression allows you to maximize network resources--a significant benefit in the data warehousing environment due to the large volumes of data being moved.

Security and Auditability

A broad choice of security options enables you to control access to your data, network and resources by individual users or classifications of users. Additionally, all CONNECT:Direct activity is logged and reported for auditing, job accounting and performance analysis.

Multiplatform Support

CONNECT:Direct maximizes the performance of each platform from mainframes to midrange to LANs to UNIX systems. Operating environments include: MVS, VSE, VM, OpenVMS, Tandem, Stratus, OS/400, UNIX (AIX, HP-UX, SunOS, SOLARIS, DEC-Ultrix, DG/UX, Silicon Graphics-IRIX, SCO, Stratus-FTX, Pyramid-DC/OSx, Sequent-PTX, Siemens-SINIX, NCR), Windows NT, Windows 95, NetWare, OS/2 Warp, Java and MS-DOS.

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