FRAMINGHAM (07/06/2000) - Microsoft Corp. in two weeks will ship the beta of Commerce Server 2000, which should add some beef to its e-commerce platform.
The server, due for release in the fourth quarter, is the next generation of Microsoft Site Server Commerce Edition and has been redesigned to host electronic storefronts or "sell-side" commerce. The server has a new product catalog system, management tools and online analytical processing-based reporting tools. It also features enhanced data-mining and profiling capabilities.
Those features help enterprises tailor delivery of content to electronic buyers, such as offering discounts to repeat customers or special offers to first-time visitors.
Early adopters of Commerce Server 2000 say the new features are a welcome addition.
"The ability to track users and understand their behavior patterns is a huge benefit," says Barry Wadham, president of C-Systems, a Concord-Mass.-based developer of e-commerce Web sites. He says the tracking ability lets Web-site operators collect information such as how much time users spend on a site, what products they look at and for how long.
Wadham, who has written two books on Commerce Server, has been running the beta testing of Commerce Server in production since early last month for his Web site Dogs in Review, an online magazine for show dogs.
"Until about two months ago, I was very guarded in my feelings about this server because I thought they wouldn't complete the feature set. But I think they came through," Wadham says.
Wadham says the performance is improved because of Commerce Server's hooks to Windows 2000 and COM+, installation is much easier and development time is significantly reduced. He also says the server's Site Packager greatly simplifies moving a commerce site from development to deployment.
But some critics say features are missing, including a back-end management component that can be dedicated to individual storefronts. Also, support for XML won't be complete until the server's next version.
But Commerce Server does have other features that could get users started including sophisticated search features, a graphical editor for managing business processes such as checkout and shipping, and reporting tools for data mining. A feature called Business Desk has more than 20 modules that let site managers review reports, create marketing campaigns, update product data, check order status and modify profiles. Those capabilities should help Commerce Server compete against IBM's WebSphere Commerce Suite.
"We made all the components more tightly integrated so we could extract rich information that users can drive reports against to develop campaigns and profiles. We call that closing the loop," says Rebekkah Kumar, Commerce Server 2000 product manager.
Commerce Server 2000 requires Win 2000 Server and Microsoft SQL Server 7 or 2000. It is a key element of Microsoft's Windows DNA platform for building Web-based applications and is priced per processor starting at US$8,499 per CPU.