APPLICATION: Energy Marketplace --
In an age of deregulation, utility companies are scrambling for new and innovative ways of sustaining growth and
keeping customers in an open landscape of competitiveness. With deregulation, the gas company is out of the commodity
business; its money will come from the distribution of natural gas from third-party vendors to customers.
The problem for both sides of the gas distribution issue is that neither side knows about the other. It is expensive
for gas suppliers to market and sell directly to customers. On the flip side, it is difficult for customers to
find the best possible price for natural gas. Los Angeles-based Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) came
up with a plan to build a place where gas providers and customers could come together to buy and sell gas.
Using the Internet as its communication infrastructure, the company built the Energy Marketplace, a Web site
gas customers in SoCal Gas' service area could find information on suppliers and post requests for their gas needs.
In turn, gas suppliers that have partnered with SoCal Gas can bid on each request.
Energy Marketplace, which is accessible to four million customers but only services small businesses at the
moment, uses Netscape Enterprise Server, a NetDynamics Application Server (NetDynamics Inc., Menlo Park, Calif.),
and a Sybase System 10 database, all running on a Sun Microsystems UltraSparc Enterprise 2, said Steven Durflinger,
software project manager for SoCal Gas.
The key to the system is the NetDynamics Application Server and integrated development environment. After evaluating
a number of tools such Cold Fusion from Allaire Corp., Cambridge, Mass., Sapphire/Web from Bluestone Software Inc.,
Mount Laurel, N.J., and Net.Data from IBM, SoCal Gas settled on NetDynamics for its support of the Java language
and "it was the best one at the time," Durflinger said. "We still believe it is the best today."
Why did SoCal Gas select an immature Java language? "We took a leap of faith," Durflinger responded.
"We figured it would be the architecture of the future."
Overall, reaction to the system has been positive, from both SoCal Gas management and customers. "[Energy
Marketplace] shows there are innovative minds and teams in the gas industry," Durflinger said.
- Jason J. Meserve
|ERIC BATY, business information manager
LISA BROADWAY-LIEU, core aggregation program manager
RON KENT, gas transportation manager
STEVEN DURFLINGER, software project manager
ROLLENCE PATUGAN, programmer/analyst
DAVID MCBRIDE, programmer/analyst
NILESH DARJI, programmer/analyst
DOUG WONG, Webmaster
JIM NGUYEN, computer support technician
By creating such a marketplace, it keeps Southern California Gas' customers happy and keeps gas flowing through
their network of pipes.
Windows 95 Workstations (for development)
NetDynamics Application Server
Netscape Server 2.01 with SSL
Sybase System 10 on HP-UX
Sun Ultra Sparc Enterprise 2 running Solaris