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A Prickly Commerce Server Solution

Microsoft on Wednesday tried to clear up nagging questions about its Commerce Server roadmap and did. Kind of.

The company is buying vertical and specialized industry expertise from partner Cactus Commerce, and will offer it up as part-and-parcel of "accelerators" for Commerce Server 2007, and as part of the successor core product, now code-named Commerce Server 7, due in 2010.

Ryan Donovan, Microsoft product unit manager for commerce server and Web hosting, said that Commerce Server is probably the "least commoditized" of all Microsoft's servers. Each engagement tends to be hugely different and customers need a lot of customization, he noted.

That customization and verticalization know-how is what Microsoft will get from Ottawa-based Cactus. It will then test and package it up in "the Microsoft way," he said.

The resulting accelerators and server SKUs will be sold by Microsoft and its partners, Donovan said.

The overall plan going forward is to update the core server less often but to offer accelerators with additional functions and features more frequently, he said. The current Commerce Server 2007 shipped almost exactly a year ago.

The first set of accelerators, starting in the second half of 2008, will focus on technology integration for things like tying into SharePoint Server for content management and search and integrating with Microsoft ERP and CRM products so an order entry flows from server to back-end and sales systems.

A second set of industry accelerators for verticals such as retail apparel will provide online shopping expertise, database schemas and extensions, Web Services extensions, and business customizations by industry, he said.

Cactus has done much of this work for customers on a one-off basis but it is not packaged up, ready to sell, Donovan said.

Some Microsoft partners still balked at this news. Several have long said that Microsoft was being purposely vague on Commerce Server plans. They also complained that Microsoft had dubbed Cactus the Commerce Server partner-of-choice for customer and press referrals, which rankled other Commerce Server experts.

These partners still maintain that if Commerce Server were really a priority, Microsoft would have had internal resources focused on customization and not had to go outside.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.