Meet the Experts: Brian Thomson on WebSphere Commerce

This question and answer article features WebSphere Commerce expert Brian Thomson, who answers questions about WebSphere Commerce Express, Professional Edition, and Business Edition.

Brian Thomson (thomson@ca.ibm.com), Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM WebSphere Commerce Architecture

Photo: Brian ThomsonBrian Thomson is a Senior Technical Staff Member and manager of architecture in the Websphere Commerce product development area.



07 April 2004

IBM® WebSphere® Commerce products provide a robust J2EE platform supporting over 200 adaptable out-of-the-box business processes that power solutions for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) commerce through the value chain. These products consist of a set of integrated software components that enable enterprises to build and manage personalized e-commerce sites. For more information, see developerWorks WebSphere Commerce zone.

Question: We are currently prevented from using the 64 bit version of DB2® v7 on AIX because of the lack of support for JDBC and DB2 Extenders. In DB2 v8, the appearance of 64 bit JDBC drivers and Net Search Extender would appear to allow us to run our WCS site against a 64 bit UDB v8 instance. Are there any other limitations in WCS/WebSphere which would prevent us from migrating to 64 bit DB2?

Answer: No, if you remember to use the 32 bit DB2 client, since the Application Server is 32 bit. For more on DB2 Java clients, check out this article Java application deployment considerations for 32/64 bit DB2 UDB users. We may produce a WebSphere Commerce-specific technote on this in the near future.

Question: I want to make a "web interaction" and to submit a structure to an RPG program. But I don't know how to define the structure and then the fields within it.

Answer: Websphere Commerce development uses features of Websphere Studio Application Developer that are common to all deployment platforms. What you want to do is outside of Websphere Commerce, and uses iSeries-specific capabilities of WebSphere Development Studio Client for iSeries. I won't claim to be an expert on that topic, but I think the answer goes something like this: When you create a Program Call Bean, that brings up the the Web Interaction wizard. First, use the Add Structure button to define an (empty) structure. Then, select the structure in the wizard navigation tree and hit Add Parameter and you can define a field. Add Parameter either adds a parameter to a program, or a field to a structure, depending on what you have selected.

Question: Does IBM have some spreadsheet templates that we can use for Commerce capacity planning?

Answer: Your success is important to us, and we want to help you make these decisions well. Because the training necessary to use these planning materials is not externally available, we have built up WebSphere Commerce capacity planning competency within IBM that is at your disposal through several channels. If you are working with IBM Global Services or IBM Software Services for WebSphere, they will be able to help you with these questions. If not, you can contact the Websphere Commerce Support organization. I encourage you to contact Shawn O'Quinn (soquinn@ca.ibm.com) and ask how his Advanced Services team can help.

Question: I'm here in the WebSphere Commerce V5.5 Implementation course WA381 in Miami with some IBMers who said you might could answer this question. Everyone seems to agree that there is a rule that WSC will only function with DB2 when the DB2 is running on the same OS that WCS is running upon. The wisdom is that even when WCS and/or DB2 is clustered, a Windows® WCS must be backed by a Windows DB2 and an AIX® WCS must be backed by a AIX DB2. Is this true? Can an AIX WCS executing in an AIX WAS instance have its data in z/DB2? (submitted by Al B.)

Answer: It is generally true that we specify homogeneous environments. Not because we can't make mixed ones work, but because we want to be sure that when we do support a configuration, we are ready to supply the information and tools you need for successful deployment. Of course, these decisions are constantly being reviewed as we get new requests from customers, and so when we released V5.5 last year, we added two hybrid configurations: DB2 for OS/390 and z/OS, with the Websphere Commerce and Payments servers on either Linux on zSeries or Linux on Intel based systems. Appendix A of the Linux Install Guide for Websphere Commerce describes the extra configuration steps that are required and how to make use of the JCL we supply. It also describes the differnces you may see as you use and customize WebSphere Commerce, for example, that a number of columns specified as VARCHAR(254) on other platforms become VARCHAR(212) on zSeries. We want to be equally thorough when we add other combinations. As I said, it's customer feedback and requests that drive this, so if you have a need that our current list does not satisfy, please let us know by contacting IBM Support.

Question: I have found documentation that talks about a Transition Tool Suite that converts Commerce 4.x data to 5.5 data (Best Practices and Tools for Creating IBM WebSphere Commerce Sites - Redpaper). However, I can't find a place to download the software. How do I get this software?

Answer: Those tools dealt with migration from 4.x to 5.1 and 5.4, but a third version to target 5.5 was not published. The old versions have been retired from the developerWorks site as customers completed their migration and the tools became less popular. We will take your question as a vote of interest for these tools.

Question: When creating a hosted store in WC 5.5, using the demand chain hosting model, is there a way to indicate that the reseller can only sell certain categories from the shared catalog? From the documentation, it seems like there is, however when I go through the process, I'm only given the option to sell the entire catalog, rather than part of it.

Answer: When you create the hosted store, you select the shared catalog. Restricting the content is a separate step that uses the Catalog Filter function. This is available in the Hosting Hub when you manage the created store under the Merchandising tab. The reseller can also apply custom pricing there.

Question: When running one of your Commerce 5.5 sample stores, the response time is poor especially in the catalog views. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer: Achieving good performance depends on making effective use of caching. In 5.5 we use the application server's Dynamic Cache, but caching is not enabled by default when you publish a sample store. Instead, we ship examples and fragments of the cache control file, cachespec.xml under the ${WCS_install}/samples/dynacache directory. Chapter 9 of the Store Development Guide explains how to plan caching for your site, and how to build the cache control file you need from the examples we supply.

Does this all seem like we are making your life more difficult than necessary? Overly aggressive caching can yield stale or inappropriate results if cache keys or invalidation rules are incorrect for your customized store and operating procedures. Rather than risk that outcome, we ask you to understand the issues and acknowledge them by taking action.

Question: Should I use Commerce to build my entire site or just the product and order capture pages?

Answer: The main advantage of using WebSphere Commerce is that it gives you e-Marketing spots whose content is controlled by rules managed through our Marketing subsystem. That content can be influenced by the user's profile if they are authenticated, or by their behavior, or by merchant-initiated campaigns that feature particular messages. Every page you display to a customer is another opportunity to get your message across, so do not waste those opportunities.

Question: It is very inconvenient to debug the JSP if we need to restart the server every time we do any minor changes. Is there any setting that allow us to not to do that: the server will pick up the newly updated JSP and deploy them to the running mahcine.

Answer: You can control whether and how often the Web container checks for new content. Edit the Stores.war/Web Content/WEB-INF/ibm-web-ext.xmi file and change the "Reload Enabled" to "true" and the "Reload Interval" to some nominal value, say 10 seconds. Restart the server and the classloader should be able to detect changes in files you put inside of the WebContent directory.

Question: When I add an item to a wishlist I want it to display the discounted price, why doesn't it?

Answer: Discounts are not calculated or saved because they can change from the time the item it is added to a wish list until it is actually purchased. When the item is transferred to the shopcart, it will calculate the discount correctly. If you want to implement a different business rule, where the discount is saved with the wish list, you can extend the InterestItemAddCmdImpl command and store the discount in one of the customizable fields.

Related information

About Meet the Experts

Meet the Experts is a monthly feature on the developerWorks WebSphere Web site. We give you access to the best minds in IBM WebSphere, product experts and executives, who are waiting to answer your questions. You submit the questions, and we post answers to the most popular questions.

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