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E-Business Stands to Revolutionize Internet

Thursday, February 4, 1999

By Cyrus Afzali

IBM Corp’s chief Internet technologist says while many people have gotten accustomed to using the Internet, the evolution of the network and how people use it has only just begun.

Speaking Thursday at Internet World Canada ’99, John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology for IBM, said Internet users stand to see more evolution and improvements — much of which will be spearheaded by the potential of electronic commerce.

“E-business isn’t only about click here and buy. It’s click here for the supply chain, order flow or to help a new employee join an organization. We see the evolution happening across Main Street, the mainstream and business to business,” he said.

Although the upstart e-commerce players tend to get the most attention, Patrick said established, mainstream businesses are coming to understand the Internet’s potential.

“Major companies are shifting resources to become e-businesses. Ultimately, I think there will be many successes among mainstream companies,” he said.

One of the shortfalls of e-commerce today, Patrick said, is many businesses aren’t using it to its full potential. He said organizations must be ready for the shift in power the Internet wil transfer to the consumer. Instead of a business deciding its hours, soon consumer demands will drive businesses to implement new ways for their customers to connect to them around the clock.

Since e-commerce is almost certain to rapidly expand, Patrick said the question then becomes can the Internet handle all the traffic. Patrick is confident it will thanks to a combination of emerging, high-bandwidth technologies combined with better use of resources through implementations of caching technology and other innovations.

He said computer companies will keep up with the demand for high-speed access by including chips in their systems capable of handling ADSL and other high-speed alternatives. To handle the rise in high-speed connections, Patrick said the Internet’s backbones will also keep rapidly expanding. He likened today’s typical modem connection to a 1-inch garden hose that will expand to 3 feet with DSL. Likewise, today’s backbones can be considered pipes 6 feet in diameter on their way to 100 feet thanks to advances in fiber optic technology.

He also predicted standards will be developed to prioritize the way packets are handled to ensure that mission critical information is handled quicker than ordinary e-mail messages.

Patrick said portals, which today are typically aimed at consumers, will greatly evolve. While today’s portals won’t go away, they will be supplemented with many delivering very specific information to people, depending on their needs. Companies targeting the same type of customer will begin collaborating to set up their own destinations, he said.

New and emerging technologies, such as XML, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and digital IDs will make it possible for Internet users to find information faster and will eliminate the need for consumers to have a variety of user names and passwords to access the sites they commonly visit. He also predicted public key encryption will join biometric identification to strengthen security on the Internet.