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Microsoft redirects Commerce Server

May 24, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

Feature Pack 1 is first steps of revived plan that follows the demise of Jupiter.

In the ashes of its disbanded Jupiter project, Microsoft last week revived its e-commerce server with the introduction of a new feature pack and a promise that the next version will ship in 2006.

With Feature Pack 1 for Commerce Server 2002, Microsoft has updated the interfaces of its Business Desk client software, which let product and marketing managers maintain an e-commerce site with little IT intervention. The company has added a more Windows-like, tree-menu navigation, and reinforced management of catalog content and product-discount services offered online. Also new is a feature that allows for multi-environment staging across firewalls of commerce sites for easy review before those sites go live, and support for coupons and online promotion codes.

While Feature Pack 1 is available now, the next major upgrade of Commerce Server, code-named VNext, won’t ship until 2006.

“Given the changes around Jupiter, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to Commerce Server,” says Stacey Ellingson, product manager in the business process and integration division at Microsoft.

Commerce Server provides tools for building and maintaining online commerce sites, including user profile management, personalization, merchandising, catalog management, order processing, globalization and online business analytics.

Announced in 2002, Jupiter was an effort to integrate BizTalk Server, Commerce Server and Content Management Server into a suite. It was to compete with Java-based middleware bundles from BEA Systems and IBM for supporting content-rich, process-driven business applications. Microsoft scrapped Jupiter earlier this year when customers said they did not want to buy the products as a suite. The company said it still would build integration between the individual products.

“With IBM pushing on WebSphere and BEA with its commerce platform, I don’t see Microsoft getting out of the game,” says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with the research firm Directions on Microsoft. “For a long time Jupiter was the road map. Now they have to assure customers that Commerce Server is not dead.”

That effort will get its first boost in the 2006 version when Microsoft will add BizTalk adapters to Commerce Server that make it possible to connect online order-management processes to back-end systems.

Microsoft also will replace the reporting engine in Commerce Server with SQL Server Reporting Services, which can pull together commerce data from multiple business channels, including Commerce Server and point-of-sale terminals. The same reporting services also will find their way into other server products, such as Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, so Microsoft can provide centralized reporting capabilities, experts say.

Commerce Server also will be more closely integrated with Visual Studio 2005 to allow quicker development and deployment of commerce sites. The Visual Studio integration is part of a long-range plan to get all server applications on a common platform that’s based on .Net. Microsoft also will provide additional user interface upgrades on par with those in Feature Pack 1 and more self-service features that would let online users check their order status, inventory levels and account information.

Feature Pack 1 for Commerce Server 2002 is available as a free download.