Most of the meat of Commerce Server is to be found within its programming model and underlying data storage mechanisms. Commerce Server started out with the 2000 release by providing extensions to Active Server Pages. Today, with the 2007 release Commerce Server provides a platform that extends the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and above – utilizing Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and above as the development toolset. In particular, Commerce Server 2007 is geared towards extending ASP.NET, as that represents the primary means of building Web applications on top of the .NET Framework (though certainly many other creative or legacy means are available).
Commerce Server 2007 supports both x86 32-bit as well as x64 64-bit processor architectures natively, running on top of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and above. The product does not, however, support the 64-bit IA64 processor architecture (though it can leverage SQL Server running on IA64 systems). For the most part, Commerce Sever 2007 relies upon Microsoft SQL Server for data storage. Commerce Server 2007 supports both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005. The product, because it still supports SQL Server 2000, does not leverage any specific SQL Server 2005 capabilities however. The rationale behind this was simple – most pre-existing Commerce Server customers were running on SQL Server 2000 at the time of the product’s release; the thinking was that upgrade to a new database platform (given the newness of SQL Server 2005 at the time) would be a barrier to technology adoption. BizTalk Server 2006 is supported from an application integration perspective as well. Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 is supported from a systems health monitoring perspective. Beyond those components, Commerce Server 2007 does not have any particular technical dependencies warranting consideration.
All of that being said, a Commerce Server developer should be proficient in all of these technologies to be successful: .NET Framework 2.0+ (in particular ASP.NET), SQL Server 2000+, Windows Server 2003+, and potentially Operations Manager 2005+ and BizTalk Server 2006+. This, of course, makes finding qualified Commerce Server architects and developers an at times rare breed of individual.
Going forward, Microsoft is committed to enhancing core platform support of Commerce Server 2007 throughout the product’s 5-year standard support lifecycle, which commenced upon August 1, 2006. This makes the product relatively future-proofed. So, as new versions of Windows Server, BizTalk Server, SQL Server, and Operations Manager are shipped in the 5-year period from August 1, 2006 through August 1, 2011 – it is reasonable to expect that Commerce Server will support those versions barrring any egregious breaking changes in the underlying platform – at least until replaced with subsequent versions of Commerce Server itself. Conversely, as products in the dependency stack have their standard support lifecycles end – such as SQL Server 2000 in the coming years – it may come about that platform support is removed in future service packs or other interim releases.
SP2 adds support for Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and .NET Framework 3.5. SQL Server 2008 support on SP2 is imminent; details forthcoming.
When planning deployments and which versions of technologies to base a system upon, the bleeding edge should indeed be chosen to maximize longevity of the solution once deployed.