In-Depth: Commerce Server Product Roadmap & Information Desk Program Announcement

At this time last year, Commerce Server 2007 (CS2007) hit worldwide general availability. We couldn’t let the occasion pass without some kind of appropriate encore, so we figured the long-term product roadmap announcement might just suffice.

It has been a long time coming – perhaps too long – but we truly wanted to rethink this properly around the unique needs of the Commerce Server customer-base and get it right the first time. Hopefully you think it has been worth the wait! And now, for the details:

  • Commerce Server “7” – This will be the next-major version of Commerce Server (and 7th major iteration of e-commerce technology from Microsoft since Merchant Server’s debut in 1996) and successor to CS2007, targeted for delivery in mid-2010. This release will feature the following themes:
    • Migration from CS2007 – given the size of our 5K+ global customer-base this has to be there and has to be right. Plain and simple.
    • Commerce Foundation 3.0This will be the third major evolution of core e-commerce capabilities, with the first two being Merchant Server/Site Server and Commerce Server 2000-2007. Some of the key enhancements to look forward to include an all-managed foundation (sans a few pieces for backward compatibility), scrubbed and consistent programming model aligned to the latest .NET developer platform, and full support for 2-tier and 3-tier/Web Service support pervasively for both runtime and data management scenarios.
    • Commerce-at-Your-Fingertips – CS2007, with its Web Service support, started reaching beyond traditional Web site scenarios for the first time. “7” will treat all commerce scenarios as first-class citizens, not just the online Web store. Think about things like Web Service-based punch-outs from other systems or marketplaces, kiosks, mobility, emerging mediums (like gaming or interactive/IP TV), and in-store integration – it will all be there in addition to continuing to evolve the Web store offering and making it better than ever.
    • Lifestyle Commerce – Personalization technology has a come a long way. Social networking has emerged as the latest and hottest trend on the Web. Driving convergence of the two together into a seamless experience for both shoppers and business users represents one of the largest areas of investment for CS “7”. First, think about investments in orders and profiles for customer care scenarios to facilitate 1:1 interactions between the business user and shopper – this is an area that could use more investment in CS2007 and we intend to get it right in “7”. Second, think about extending the entire shopping experience (and ability to do personalized targeted marketing as a business owner) to social networks – with things like content syndication, blogs, forums, and other means of collaboration – this will also be a major “7” investment. Third and finally, think about targeted marketing across all channels with predictive analytics to measure the results and make adjustments (that can be off, on full automatic mode, or interactively utilized as “suggestions” by the business owner) – this will also be in “7” as well.
  • Commerce Server 2007 Accelerators – Between now and “7” is a long time to wait, so we wanted to deliver more value to CS2007 customers by adding new capabilities a la carte that have minimal-to-no impact upon existing deployments to facilitate the most oft-requested technology integration or industry deployment scenarios for CS2007. This will be accomplished via accelerators – which will be shipped starting in the 2nd half of 2008 (with preview releases available beforehand) – that can be added to any existing CS2007 deployment.
    • Technology Integration
      • SharePoint – Leverage CS2007 + Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS2007) together for end-to-end site search (SharePoint data + Commerce Server data), commerce-enabled portals (ability to consume CS2007 runtime services in MOSS2007portals), and content authoring/workflow (leverage MOSS content creation to manage your CS2007 catalogs + associated content in a unified experience).
      • Dynamics – End-to-end e-business deployment with Dynamics CRM plus a choice of Dynamics AX, NAV, or GP for ERP.
      • Live! Services – Search engine optimization and publishing for Live Search, store location with Live Local/Virtual Earth, and integration of AdCenter support into the Commerce Server marketing subsystem.
      • Enhanced Business User Experience – Leverage of Silverlight 1.1+ technologies to replace Windows SmartClients for business user tools capabilities to facilitate zero desktop footprint and multi-platform support for business users.
    • Industry Enablement
      • End-to-end facilitation of vertical industry scenarios through a premium version of the Starter Site (with industry-specific functional customizations, controls, etc.), custom schema extensions, customized business management tools, Expression Studio support, and any other capabilities needed to enable a specific vertical scenario.
      • Target industries include: General Merchandise Retail, Apparel Retail, Electronics Retail, Digital Downloads (Software + Media & Entertainment), and General Business/Hospitality Services.

The pricing, licensing, packing, and final naming are all TBD. Needless to say, we are committed to broadening the reach of Commerce Server as much as possible as well as delivering value on existing investments. Likewise, we don’t have more schedule specifics we can share at this time. Stay tuned to the team blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/commerce/ for further details, as they will be shared as soon as information can be made available.

To provide better support to our customers, we are announcing the Commerce Server Information Desk. With a general response time of ~2-3 business days, this is a global, product group-managed program for ALL customers and partners to get tailored pre-sales support and connections with expert resources and best practices for post-sales engagements. The Commerce Server business is unique in that there are no two customers alike – as every organization runs its business differently. This program acknowledges this fact by providing the 1:1 interactions and specialized expertise needed to make customers and partners successful with evaluating and deploying Commerce Server worldwide through a consistently managed experience. (Note: This does not replace product support, which should still always be the first line of getting assistance with production issues.) To get started, simply mail csid@microsoft.com today!

Simultaneously, Microsoft is entering into a long-term arrangement with Cactus Commerce of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada as the new preferred joint development and go-to-market partner for Commerce Server. What this means to partners and customers is that Cactus’ considerable industry and technical expertise and experience around Commerce Server can now be leveraged worldwide through programs in conjunction with the product group. This will help accelerate new software development offerings, better encapsulate real world experiences into the product development cycle, and provide global reach of deep Commerce Server expertise to whomever needs it, whenever and wherever they need it.

In short, today is one of the biggest days in Commerce Server history. We have a great product with Commerce Server 2007 and Microsoft’s FY07 was a banner year for Commerce Server 2007. Now, we have more resources than ever working on e-commerce, new programs to help get engaged, and the strongest, most specific roadmap in the product’s history. I, for one, am truly looking forward to the future – and on behalf of everyone in the product group, we hope you share our excitement as well.

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