|By Yakov Fain||
|August 2, 2012 09:00 AM EDT||
People are accustomed to buying goods online. If a company sells products to individuals, we call it B2C for Business To Consumers. If a business sells to other businesses – it’s B2B. Having an online store allows to sell around the clock regardless of the consumer’s location (at least within the country) as long as he or she is connected to the Internet. People spend some substantial time online and sellers are trying to reach their clients via all possible channels and devices being that a regular HTML Web page, a social network, a mobile application on any device with embedded browser. Still, some people aren’t Internet savvy and business will continue using more traditional channels like printed mail order catalogs. This is what the multi-channel marketing is about. Ideally, a business should be able to combine marketing the products with selling them right there. If you’ve seen the product commercial on Facebook or your mobile phone the storefront should be there too.
Ingredients of an online store
If I’d ask you to give me an example of an e-commerce site, most likely you’d answer Amazon or eBay. Agree. But what’s needed for building an e-commerce system? Let’s come up with a list of building blocks and solutions that Joe Smith, a CIO of the Best Stuff, Inc. would need to create an e-commerce portal:
- A shopping cart
- A catalog
- Integration with several payment systems
- Order management system
- Full text search
- High-load solutions
- Selling through social networks
- Ability to create UI supporting variety of desktop and handheld devices
- Integration with warehousing software
- Data feeds from external systems
- Consumers reviews, locator services, Web analytics
- Live video chats with customer supports
This list is not complete. Starting developing such a complex system from scratch would be insane unless you have unlimited budget and no deadlines to meet. On the other hand, trying to find a Swiss army knife solution usually translates into purchasing super expensive software with 80% of the functionality that you’ll never use. The truth is somewhere in the middle, especially in the age of Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) where you can subscribe to only what you need.
Our company, Farata Systems has an e-commerce team that works with the Hybris software suite. For detailed comparison reviews of the e-commerce solutions refer to Gartner or Forrester. I can just offer you a Hybris review based on our real-world experience.
When we were offered to work on our first Hybris project we had to google this name up. Still, we were hired because of our solid expertise in enterprise development using Java and Spring framework, which are pre-requisites for developing software with Hybris Multi-Channel Suite.
Hybris is a well design modularized software built on top of Apache and SpringSource components, containers and servers. We’ve been given login credentials to be able to access product Wiki and rolled up our sleeves. The software comes with an installer that includes modified Apache Tomcat servlet container, Spring modules and a home-made ORM framework for data persistence.
Finding goods in your online store has to be easier than in a brick and mortar one. Say you want to buy an engagement ring, but not sure if it has to be made of a white gold with diamonds or something more modest. Writing strict SQL queries is not overly flexible, but the full text search (FTS) technique allows examine all words in each document in your database rather then specifying the column names in the database table. The FTS feature give lots of flexibility in creating stores which allow to quickly find the products that closely match your customer’s needs (e.g. diamonds of certain shape, size, price range etc.) Hybris ships with the FTS module based on the fast search engine Apache SOLR (a Lucene extension). The system periodically (say, every minute) runs the data indexing process. You write queries not in SQL, but in a special query language.
This tightly integrated software allows you to create and release in production a simple online store in less than a month. But a typical store or an auction requires implementation of lots of custom solutions. For example, let’s take order fulfillment. Hybris offers off the box the basic solutions supporting order management and consignment. But in our projects we had to implement fulfillment algorithm that would take into account the distance between the warehouse and the consumer and minimize the number of shipments. For example, the customer wants to purchase twenty large screen TVs. The system has found six TV’s in one of your stores and four in the other. Since we need another ten TV’s our custom algorithm sends a request to a warehouse to order these additional TV sets. As a result – the customer will get a shipment of all twenty items shipped in a least expensive way.
Such customized business logic is implemented in Java as beans of Spring framework, which is literally a fabric of the entire Hybris software. Your code always has access to Spring context object. By adding custom extensions you create the child context object with your Spring bean containing custom logic to place a distributed order of 20 TVs.
From the software architect perspective, the ease of extending existing Hybris entities is very appealing. For example, if you need to add customer reviews features, just add a couple of fields to the Product entity, create a new entity for ProductReview and link them together. Then add a row of those yellow stars to the storefront UI and you’re set.
Yet another interesting Hybris module is called Cockpit, which becomes quite handy in environments where the information changes quickly and the customers need to see the latest product information. We even customized Cockpit for building our own administration tool for the online auction project.
The launch of your Hybris server can be configured to load only those modules that are needed for your store. Our fully loaded server starts within 2 minutes, which is not bad at all. The initial install of the Hybris server comes with the in-memory HSQLDB, which is fast, but not suitable for the real-world applications. We started with MySql Server and then switched to Oracle with very minimal manual tuning.
Integration with the payment gateway is probably the most critical component of any online store or auction. Hybris has its own payment module, but we’ve been asked to integration with another payment processing engine – Litle.com using XML as the data exchange format. Little accepts all kinds of credit cards, PayPal, eCheck, mobile payments, and bill-me-later option. Introducing another provider in your payment workflow can make a lot of business sense, but be prepare to find yourself in the middle of the finger pointing game until you finish the payment integration. Add some more cushion there if you are making project estimates.
Hybris comes with a clustering solution from the box. Each node of your cluster can be configured to include only those Hybris extensions that it needs. For example, you can configure a cluster with one more for the administration module, three nodes for the store UI, and one node for the data indexing.
In March of 2012 Adobe has announced its partnership with Hybris. Adobe’s CQ5 will help in creating multi-channel digital marketing campaigns and building strong brands for online stores created by Hybris.
Room for improvements
Although our overall impression after using Hybris on a couple of projects is very positive, this software has room for improvements. I’m sure, Hybris management has their reasons for keeping its community closed, but it may hurt the adoption of the software. The product documentation is not too detailed and up to date. Hybris technical experts have to pay more attention to the developer’s forum. In many cases we’ve been using the source code de-compilers to find the answers to our questions. Since Hybris is built on top of Java EE, I’d like the future version to include a JPA-based solution that would allow using the data persistence solution of our choice rather than a proprietary ORM.
While finding solutions in developing software with Hybris was difficult at time, we never hit the wall, which can be credited to the engineering team. Overall, it’s a solid platform for creating modern online stores and auctions.
When we started our first e-commerce projects with Hybris, we couldn’t find any publicly available online materials about this software written by people in the trenches. I really hope that this article will help anyone who’s still in the process of selecting the right e-commerce software package for their next generation online store.
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Oct. 4, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 142
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
Oct. 4, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 340
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
Oct. 4, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 329
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Oct. 4, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 373
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
Oct. 4, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 317
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
Oct. 4, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 656
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
Oct. 3, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 356
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Oct. 3, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 568
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Oct. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 649
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Oct. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 419
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 590
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 395
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Oct. 3, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 313
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Oct. 3, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 534
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
Oct. 3, 2015 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 538
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgeniakhela will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgeniakhela is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dramatically improve productivity, reduce collaboration costs, and increase the overall enterprise value by bringing ...
Oct. 2, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 535
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, will show how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He will use a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors to web services, and cloud integration to connect accounting and data, providing a Bluetooth...
Oct. 2, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 335
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Oct. 2, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 554
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
Oct. 1, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 396
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
Oct. 1, 2015 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 7,343