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Microsoft Ships Commerce Server 2007, But Road Map Remains Unclear

Microsoft is getting a little--but not much--clearer about its Commerce Server plans in the wake of Commerce Server 2007's shipment on Tuesday.

Commerce Server 2007's shipment

The next step is to tailor the offering for small- and midsize businesses and hosting partners, said Brian Goldfarb, lead product manager for Microsoft's Web Platform and Tools team. How that will be packaged and delivered will be settled in the next 18 months or so, he said.

"We will focus on building the core commerce infrastructure, the basic functionality that everyone needs to take advantage of e-commerce--the shopping cart, the catalog--and tailor it for SMBs and shared hosting companies," Goldfarb said. "Nobody in this space is doing that today." Commerce Server competes with offerings from ATG and IBM.

Whether that core capability will show up in a successor server SKU or be delivered via the platform--within ASP.Net or BizTalk Server, for example--remains unclear. Both options are possible, Goldfarb said.

Still, he came close to promising a successor Commerce Server SKU for high-value functions needed by enterprises that go beyond those core deliverables. "There is early thinking about how to make the marketing engines better, to make the custom experience, BI [business intelligence] and optimization better," Goldfarb told CRN.

"There is absolutely a need for the technology, and I do agree there's need for a SKU. But how you package up that SKU is unclear," he added.

The fact that Goldfarb was the go-to guy for this announcement is noteworthy. Commerce Server, like Content Management Server, has bounced around at Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash., software company quietly moved Commerce Server out of the Business Process Integration group last month. The server is now part-and-parcel of Goldfarb's Web Platform and Tools team, which has responsibility for ASP.Net, Atlas, Visual Studio, Internet Information Services and Internet Explorer for Web developers.

In keeping with that developer focus, the new developers edition of Commerce Server 2007 will be free, according to Goldfarb. In the past, that edition cost about $500, he said. The price for the Enterprise Edition of Commerce Server 2007 is about $20,000 per CPU before volume discounts.

The latest Commerce Server has been completely rewritten in .Net 2.0 and uses Windows Forms and ASP.Net, so developers can use their current skills, Goldfarb said. The product also has tighter ties to BizTalk Server for application integration and to SQL Server's reporting services. The server requires the use of Windows Server 2003 SP1 or R2 and SQL Server 2000 or 2005.

One partner, who requested anonymity, said the code revamp has its benefits but also will require a significant rewrite of applications running on Commerce Server 2002 and Commerce Server 2000. The latter, based on the older Component Object Model (COM), is still used by many customers, and the application overhaul won't be trivial, he said.

Bob Shear, president of Greystone Solutions, a Boston-based Microsoft partner, welcomed the arrival of Commerce Server 2007. "I wish it was here sooner and the road map was clearer, but this is still probably the most cost-effective commerce server platform available from a major player," Shear said. The IBM WebSphere product is pricier and more hardware-intensive than Microsoft's offering, he added.

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