. .



1_popup_home.gif (1391 bytes) cover.gif (6176 bytes)

Cover Story

The Architecture of E-Business

Nov 08 -14, 1999

Electronic business - the process of conducting business online using the technologies of the Internet - creates a powerful environment in which businesses, customers and suppliers are never more than a few mouse clicks away. In this dynamic environment, businesses can reach new customers, create new sales channels and win loyalty through innovative customer service. Key suppliers can be integrated into a company's internal business processes, leading to streamlined processes, cost savings, improved decision-making and faster times to market.

For all the power of this environment, however, there are also challenges. Retail companies offering commerce Web sites must contend with the fact that their competitors' sites are also just a click or two away. This puts a premium on ensuring that Web content is stimulating and engaging and that customers can find the information they need quickly and effectively. In the business-to-business arena, companies must create clear and effective ways of integrating their business processes with those of various vendors and suppliers to maintain a competitive advantage.

Rich content is key

Rich content plays an important role in supporting business differentiation within a competitive environment. Rich content combines interactivity with multimedia technologies such as full-motion video, streaming audio, and 2-D and 3-D animation. Using these technologies enhances and heightens the e-business experience via sensory, interactive, personalized and real-time content and processes.

Rich media content can replace or enhance static information that is merely read, offering instead the ability to see and hear information. From streaming videos showing customers how to easily perform a formerly complex procedure to interactive 3-D product catalogs that help streamline business procurement processes, PCs based on high-performance systems such as the Pentium III processor provide an ideal platform for rich content e-business applications. By deploying rich content e-business applications and Pentium III processor-based client PCs, companies can enjoy the full benefits of the electronic business revolution.

Client platforms

PCs based on the Pentium III processor and mobile computers based on the Pentium II processor offer exceptional multimedia performance, which makes these systems ideal for both creating e-business content and experiencing the rich, interactive content that helps make e-business so compelling and powerful.

Pentium III processor-based systems combine high integer performance for running productivity software with high multimedia performance for a vivid experience of rich color graphics, animation, audio and video. They provide fast compression and decompression of Web data, including Java, XML and HTML applications, plus high floating-point performance and an advanced graphics architecture to speed the rendering and viewing of 3-D graphics. Pentium III processor-based systems also speed the performance of widely used browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator, which feature advanced multimedia and push technologies.

By virtue of the high volumes of Pentium III processor-based platforms, customers can count on a wide range of available applications and tools for electronic business and other areas.

Servers

Servers based on industry building blocks deliver powerful, scalable performance at a fraction of the price of most proprietary systems. According to International Data Corporation, about half of the Internet and intranet servers used in the United States are based on Intel microprocessor and server systems technologies. These standard high-volume (SHV) servers combine low cost and high performance, allowing companies of any size to strategically distribute computing power where it is needed, anywhere across their networks. Companies can easily add more servers as their business grows, and because these systems are standard, multipurpose machines, they can be re-deployed as business needs change.

Networking products

Cost-effective, high-performance client platforms and servers for Web-based visual computing are only two parts of the e-business equation. The third component is cost-effective, easy-to-scale networking that links legacy systems to visual computing applications, and employee desktops to each other and the Internet.

Intel offers a wide range of high-performance networking products designed to create high bandwidth connections between servers and clients. Intel's network management products allow an entire corporate network to be managed cost-effectively.

Intel as a catalyst for e-business

Along with offering building block technologies that underlie the world's e-business infrastructure, Intel supports a variety of technologies that make e-business transactions faster, richer and more relevant to changing business environments. The company works with key players throughout the industry to advance e-business technology, expand its availability and simplify its implementation for all concerned, including large corporations, small businesses and consumers. Intel's efforts are focused in the areas of software developer support, e-business market alliances, market development initiatives and e-business production site development. In addition, activities such as Intel's Wired for Management initiative help make the e-business infrastructure easier to manage.

Making e-business content compelling and effective

VRML Models and 3-D Graphics

VRML allows customers to "play with" a product, viewing it from any angle and moving it around within a viewing environment. (A customer could, for example, arrange the furniture in a virtual living room.)

VRML is also highly effective for online training scenarios, such as those where users may want to practice assembling or taking apart a complex piece of equipment, or connecting it with other equipment.

Intel works with VRML vendors to optimize their plug-ins for high-performance IntelŪ Architecture-based systems. These optimized plug-ins will be capable of displaying detailed 3-D objects with smoother movements and a richer, more interactive experience overall.

Streaming media

Streaming audio and video make it feasible to play audio and video over corporate intranets, even to users with 28.8Kbps or 56Kbps modems. Previous approaches to networked video and audio required an entire video to download to the user's PC before it could be watched. Depending on network bandwidth, a video clip might take up to ten times longer to download than to watch; the cumulative load of networked video could be considerable. With streaming media such as Intel Indeo 5.0 video technology, users can both view and listen to a file while it is being sent to the PC. This way, there is no downloaded file to store and delete.

High resolution images

imaging can be used to easily create interactive, 3-D-like image environments on the Web. This includes interactive, 360-degree panorama environments, which give the user the sense of being at the centre of a scene with the ability to view or zoom into it from any direction.

Users can also easily stitch together photos of various angles of an object to create an interactive 3-D-like object. Intel works with digital imaging software vendors to enhance the user experience, and to enable easy image authoring by taking advantage of the power of the Pentium III processor for image editing and manipulations.

Plug-ins

Plug-ins are browser extensions that allow users to experience on the Web. For example, the user can experience smoother video playback and near CD quality audio with the new G2 player from Real Networks.

Java Applets

Java applets are applications that download from a Web server and run locally on a Java-enabled browser without requiring a plug-in. In conjunction with JavaScript, Java applets allow Web site developers to create a more personalized interactive experience for users. PCs based on the PentiumŪ III processor run Java applets quickly and responsively.

XML (eXtensible Markup Language)

Businesses spend millions of dollars annually converting data between incompatible, proprietary file formats. XML is an emerging de facto standard that addresses this problem and makes it easier for different departments or companies to share and effectively use information. XML specifies a method for storing data within documents. Using this specification enables companies to exchange information between applications, converting documents, memos, e-mails, Web pages and other information from an unstructured wealth of knowledge to a highly structured and organized "library of knowledge." Users can also do precise, full-text, full-context searches.

Scalability detection techniques

Scalability in this context means the ability to tailor Web content to fit the capabilities of the user's PC, including factors such as processing power, available plug-ins and other media capabilities. Intel supports vendors developing technologies that deliver scalable content, such as streaming 3-D. Plug-ins that use these streaming technologies will deliver higher quality images and more complex content to high-performance Intel Architecture-based systems, thus giving users a more rewarding experience. Scalability detection techniques can be performed by the server or the client (i.e., the user's PC).

In server-side detection, specialized software on the Web server queries and determines the capabilities of the requesting browser. The software can also extract information from the client's Internet Address to determine whether the user is connecting through a high-speed cable network or from a dial-up network. Client-side detection is similar, except that the user's computer determines the browser's capabilities. This requires that the customer's browser supports extensions such as scripts that tell whether a specific plug-in is available.

Database solutions

Traditional databases were designed for storing numbers and strings of characters rather than images, audio, 3-D models and HTML information. Newer e-business tools help with developing and deploying secure, interactive client-server and Web/intranet applications across an organization. Features include the database server, full capabilities for managing databases at remote offices, data replication services and Web/intranet services. To help with e-business solutions, the work-group server can be integrated with Internet server software. This combination provides robust Internet services for Web-based database applications and support for browsers on the desktop.