Commerce Server Boosts

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2002-05-13 Print this article Print

.Net Support"> Microsoft Corp.s Commerce Server 2002 doesnt look like much of an upgrade on the surface, but major improvements in the underlying code and in how the server integrates with other Microsoft servers and with Visual Studio .Net make it a compelling choice for e-businesses—especially for those moving aggressively to .Net.

Commerce Server 2002 is the first product in the .Net server family to fully support .Net Framework. This, along with Visual Studio .Net and BizTalk Server integration, gives Commerce Server 2002 an excellent breadth of capabilities when it comes to incorporating and delivering Web services.

In addition to its under-the-hood improvements, Commerce Server 2002 includes more obvious new features, including more extensive analysis tools and a very good virtual catalog capability.

Released last month, Commerce Server 2002 comes in an Enterprise version (which we tested) and a Standard version. The main differences between the two are price and scalability. The Enterprise edition is priced at $19,999 per CPU, with unlimited CPUs supported. The Standard edition is priced at $6,999 per CPU, with a maximum of two CPUs.

Commerce Server 2002 runs on Windows 2000 Server or Advanced Server and requires Microsoft SQL Server 2000. The Business Desk user client requires Windows Millennium Edition or later and Office 2002, which limits its remote access options.

One of eWeek Labs favorite new features in Commerce Server 2002 is the virtual catalog capability. We found this a fairly unusual feature that made it possible to combine multiple product catalogs into a single virtual catalog.

The virtual catalog capability can be extremely useful for online businesses that want to create unique line catalogs, build sales catalogs or customize catalogs by location. The feature was simple to use—we just combined catalogs within the Business Desk and defined settings for the virtual catalog.

Commerce Server has always had good built-in analysis capabilities for an e-commerce package, and the addition of integration with the online analytical processing features in Microsoft SQL Server extend these functions further. The server can now also work in conjunction with a data warehouse.

Among the improved integration features in Commerce Server 2002 is new authentication support through Microsofts Passport. Implemented in many ways as a Web service, this feature made it possible to build a site where users could authenticate using their Passport credentials, which would be approved by the main Microsoft Passport server.

Many of the new capabilities in Commerce Server 2002 are on the developer side. We found the products integration with Visual Studio .Net excellent, making it easy to build applications that automatically recognized and worked with Commerce Server components.

And while Commerce Server 2002 fully supports new ASP (Active Server Pages) .Net code, it is also completely backward-compatible with older Component Object Model-based ASP sites. This will make it possible for sites to keep stable and time-tested code up and running while they implement new capabilities in .Net.

Another service that Commerce Server has always provided to users, its excellent sample codes and sites, has been encapsulated in Commerce Server Solutions Sites, which can be downloaded from commerceserver and unpackaged using Site Packager, which was introduced in Commerce Server 2000.

Solution Sites demonstrates implementations of many key features of Commerce Server. New in this version is the inclusion of "sitelets," which demonstrate a single capability, such as ad implementation or profiling, and which can be easily converted to meet unique needs.

Although the sample code can be very useful when building a custom site, businesses should take care to audit it carefully. In the past, sample code that has been compromised by malicious hackers has been used to hack sites based on the sample code.

East Coast Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be contacted at jim_

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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