Microsoft Corp. products tend to be weak in their first versions and improve with each subsequent release. Site Server, the companys first attempt at a full e-commerce system, was born weak and didnt get much better in its next two versions. Two years after the last major release, Microsoft has renamed the product Commerce Server 2000 and made it into a complete, easy-to-deploy package for building complex e-commerce infrastructures.
Last weeks release is a key portion of Microsofts .Net initiative and a clear indication of how the system will integrate data and use XML (Extensible Markup Language). Commerce Server 2000 uses XML as a base for much of its internal code and leverages the technology for managing data exchange, both natively and through integration with BizTalk Server, another .Net product.
eWeek Labs found Commerce Server 2000 to be a very capable platform for building both business-to-consumer and business-to-business e-commerce. It was easy to deploy and manage and provided core e-commerce functionality such as personalization, data analysis and CRM (customer relationship management).
However, Commerce Server 2000 relies heavily on ASP (Active Server Pages), a technology not used by some e-commerce sites. It is also less robust than higher-end e-commerce systems from Blue Martini Software Inc. and BroadVision Inc. But at $8,499, Commerce Server 2000 is less expensive and easier to implement than rival products.
One of the biggest weaknesses in Site Server was its lack of catalog creation and management features. Commerce Server 2000 adds very good management tools and can import catalogs stored in XML. The new server also includes modules for managing advertising and marketing campaigns and for building online auctions.
To create and manage complex processes for B2B transactions, Commerce Server 2000 retains one of Site Servers few strengths: the Pipeline editor, which provides a very good visual interface for creating and editing processes.
Site development agencies and consultants will like Commerce Server 2000s Site Packager, which lets a developer build a site and package it for easy deployment at another site. In tests, we were able to use Site Packager to package sites created in other environments, but it worked more smoothly with sites created in Commerce Server 2000.
Commerce Server 2000s reporting and data analysis capabilities are much better than Site Servers, making it easier for site managers to use information generated by e-commerce sites to handle personalization and CRM.