by October 9, 2006 0 comments



Although the dot com bubble has busted, e-commerce has become a reality for
many around the world. Now people buy everything from clothes to tickets, to
books to computers and even groceries over the Internet. And there are more and
more sites that offer products and services for sale on the Internet everyday.
So while you have so much being offered, creating an e-commerce site for someone
could be a good business that one can venture.

And the fun is that since most e-commerce sites have similar functionality,
most often, the process turns out to be just reinventing the wheel. And that’s
precisely the reason why e-commerce platforms exist. One of these extremely
popular platforms has got a long awaited facelift. This is Microsoft’s
Commerce Server, version 2007. CS07 (Commerce Server 2007) is a complete
platform for developing and hosting e-commerce sites. This version is built on
.NET 2.0 and ASP.NET 2.0, which gives developers all that they want for creating
sites and services quickly. We will take a look at the different components of
CS07 in this article and how they enable e-commerce.

Price:
Rs 900,000 for Enterprise Edition; Rs 320,000 for Standard Edition
Meant For:
Developers, IT managers
Key Specs:
Platform for building powerful e-commerce sites
Pros:
Has all required options available in e-commerce sites
Cons:
Takes some time to learn to work with it 
Contact:
Microsoft Corporation, Gurgaon Tel: 4158000, E-mail: karunt@microsoft.com 

Server platform
The Commerce Server platform runs on Win 2003 with IIS 6.0. It also requires SQL
Server 2005 and .NET 2.0 pre-installed. The setup involves running the installer
and answering a few questions about the connection to SQL Server, the service
account, the platform runs in, etc.

Once the setup is complete, you can configure the system. CS07 allows you to
host more than one e-commerce site on a server. That is, you need to follow the
configuration steps for each site. If you are to work in a hosted environment,
you may be able to escape this in case you avoid a staging server for your
information.

Architecture
The CS07 platform allows for two different ways of working with it-the Local
and the Agent mode. The ‘Local’ mode is when the code and applications you
write, sit on CS07 itself and uses its native API to work. The ‘Agent’ mode
is when the code sits elsewhere and uses a set of Web services provided to talk
to CS07.

Commerce Server Manager lets you manage different E-commerce sites and their settings on a particular server

This analogy is extended to Administrative Apps, Sites and Business Apps.
Admin apps are applications that are run by people with local access to the
server and are used for configuring the server and features. These apps use the
API to talk to Commerce Server. The Sites are the actual e-commerce websites
that provide consumers the features of that site. This is something that you
would create according to your needs. Since the site will run atop CS07, it will
also use the Local API mode to communicate with the platform. Finally, the
Business Apps are the applications that are used by the backend business team
who may be completely non-technical.

For instance, someone who enters lists of new books that have come to the
site. The business apps are usually Windows clients written in .NET and are
sitting on a user’s machine. These use the Web services of CS07 to publish the
information entered remotely. 

Data storage
Commerce Server has many data components. These are listed below.

  • Catalogs: These are the data of all the types of stuff offered by
    your e-commerce site. For instance, catalogs can be of books, apparel,
    electronics, etc.
  • Categories: These are further classifications within catalogs. For
    instance, within the books’ catalog you can have categories like cooking,
    computers and fiction. Categories can be nested within on another for even
    finer grained classifications. For instance, the category called Fiction can
    have more categories like sci-fi, horror, thriller and romance.
  • Products: These are the actual items that are available for sale on
    your site. There can be different product types and each product type can
    have a number of properties. For instance, a book product will have author,
    title, ISBN, etc. A CD product will have album, artist, tracks, etc. You can
    define your own properties and create your own product types as well.
  • Profiles: These are data objects that represent multi-row values
    that are used in the site. For instance, a User is an object in the site.
    This User can have multiple Address objects and multiple CreditCard objects.
    By querying a User object in CS07, you automatically get access to related
    objects.
  • Orders: These are the actual order details that come into the
    system from the site.
  • Marketing: This holds information about ad campaigns, discounts
    running, etc. And is used in conjunction with the catalog to manage
    marketing.
The business applications allow for many e-commerce business scenarios that can be used by a completely non-technical business team

One of the best things about using CS07 is that although all the data is
stored in SQL Server, by using the API or Web service, you will never need to
actually write any SQL code yourself-neither for creating data schemas nor for
updating or retrieving the information.

Creating a site
Once the schemas are configured and the products you want to sell are entered,
you need to publish them on the site. For this, you will need to create a new
CS07 site and wire up the way you wish to display the information to your
consumers. CS07 comes with a starter kit sample site that you can use as a
launching point.

When creating a new site, remember that you are on ASP.NET 2.0. This means
that you can use all the new features of ASP.NET 2.0 and get them to work with
CS07 without any major hard work. Here’s a case in point. In normal websites,
you would need to write the user registration, login and access control
yourself, taking care of the HTML, the script and the database access.

In ASP.NET 2.0, you can simply use the rich login controls provided and you
get all of this functionality for free. But in case you are thinking that these
controls will work only directly with SQL Server and not CS07, you are wrong.
CS07 contains a Unified Provider Model that is built upon the same provider
model used by these login controls.

So all the work that you need to get these controls to work with CS07 is add
one single configuration line to Web.config and you are done. This applies all
over the platform so if you are familiar with ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005
you are ready to start using CS07. Therefore, CS 07 offers greater flexibility
and security for business users by giving multiple ways of talking to the
platform platform through a local API or remote Web services.

Bottom Line: An all-round solution that enables you to define and
extend the schema of products being offered as well as other e-comm processes
like inventory and marketing.

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