INFORMATIONWEEK ON LINE November 29, 1999 (Excerpts Only)

Build The E-Commerce Catalog

New content-management tools bring together disparate data formats and item descriptions

By Saroja Girishankar

... FastXchange Inc., an online-procurement service for maintenance, repair, and operation supplies and electrical parts, faces a similar challenge. The site offers buyers access to hundreds of thousands of catalog items from 30,000 suppliers, and it needs to be able to search and aggregate catalog product information easily.

However, these and other online marketplaces and procurement sites face a serious problem: how to automate the process of extracting, updating, and aggregating items from catalogs residing in disparate databases that range from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and flat files to legacy and relational databases.

The task is made more difficult because different catalogs use different descriptions, attributes, and parameters to describe the same item, making it almost impossible to do comparison shopping in a meaningful way. But an emerging class of automated tools and product suites is starting to simplify the process of catalog search and aggregation in real time. This means big savings in cost and time.

... eBroker and ePort products are now sold commercially by PartNet Inc. ... trade stock.