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Microsoft Offers Beta of Commerce Server 2002

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released the beta version of Commerce Server 2002, a .NET Enterprise Server scheduled for release this spring.

Commerce Server is Microsoft's server software for customers who want to quickly build and run e-business sites. Commerce Server competes with ecommerce platforms from IBM, Oracle and Broadvision among others.

Commerce Server 2002 represents the fifth generation of the product, which has been around since 1996. The server software requires Windows 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000.

The new version brings tighter integration with Visual Studio .NET, adds out-of-the-box capabilities for global organizations, eases security administration and includes scalability enhancements.

Although the product contains some nods to Microsoft's forthcoming .NET Web services framework, L.J. Germinario, product manager for Commerce Server at Microsoft, says the new version of Commerce Server is an interim release in terms of the overall .NET strategy.

"We're saying this is .NET ready. You can build sites using the .NET Framework. I'd really look to the next version of Commerce Server [post Commerce Server 2002] to be the .NET version," Germinario says.

The development cycle has been fairly quick. Commerce Server 2000, released in September 2000, was one of the first .NET Enterprise Servers to ship after the Windows 2000 launch in February of that year. This time, the release of Commerce Server 2002 will be linked to the Visual Studio .NET developer toolkit that Microsoft will launch on Feb. 13.

Those who wanted to develop applications using Commerce Server in the past had to use tools that shipped with Commerce Server, or build generic applications in Visual Studio 6.0 without access to specialized Commerce Server functions like the shopping basket.

Now, programmers in Visual Studio have an option for building Commerce Server applications right in Visual Studio .NET's new project wizard. Meanwhile, the Commerce Server developer tools, such as Commerce Manager, Pipeline Manager and Campaign Manager, are now exposed to Visual Studio. That means a developer can build a Commerce Server 2002 application without leaving the Visual Studio .NET environment.

Another enhancement is making it easier to create global Web sites out of Commerce Server 2002.

"Global ecommerce is something we're trying to enable throughout the product," Germinario says. "In the previous version, these capabilities were not provided out of the box. Commerce Server 2000 was able to be customized."

One example of the new globalization of the product is the ability to link an SKU in a catalog to multiple language descriptions, attributes and currencies.

In addition to making globalization easier, Microsoft is trying to make security less of a pain in the Commerce Server 2002.

Microsoft is introducing a new security module called the Commerce Server Security Management Module. It provides a centralized view of all sites and campaigns to allow system administrators to set permissions more easily.

"You may have catalog managers, you may have marketing managers who work on campaigns, you may have business managers who work on reports," Germinario says. "You can set up very granular level access and permissions around the site. In the older version, you'd need to do it in each catalog and each campaign."

Microsoft is also working on supporting scalability in this release. One step is to go through the certification process for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Microsoft's operating system supporting up to 32-processor servers. Germinario says Commerce Server 2002 will be certified for Datacenter by the time it is released to manufacturing. Only SQL Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2000 among Microsoft products have been certified for Datacenter so far.

Meanwhile, Microsoft development teams have tried to push the limits of Commerce Server 2002 scalability in the development labs.

"We've tested up to 25 million authenticated users in SQL Server, and up to 10 million in Active Directory," she says.

Microsoft has not settled on pricing, but the company does plan to introduce segmentation into the product in the 2002 version, creating an enterprise edition and a standard edition.

The standard edition will be limited to two processors, two Web servers and two Commerce Server applications.

To download the beta version of Commerce Server 2002, click here.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.