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Commerce Server Gets New Owner, Revitalization

In November of last year, Ascentium, an independent digital agency specializing in design, technology and integration, announced their acquisition of Cactus Commerce – Microsoft’s development partner of the Commerce Server product.  Ascentium plans to take Commerce Server forward from where Microsoft left off – developing and marketing future editions of Commerce Server to mid-market, Fortune 2,000 companies.

About 4 years ago Microsoft tipped its hat to product commitment when it outsourced Commerce Server development and support (along with its leadership team) to an outside vendor.   Despite not having a documented product roadmap and Microsoft backing, Commerce Server has made its way through the halls of many of the Fortune 2,000 companies.  You’d be surprised at the number of name brands that have Commerce Server in place.

So, why Commerce Server?  If you’re a Microsoft shop, Commerce Server is one on a very short list of enterprise grade commerce offerings.  For MethodFactory, it’s one of 3 solutions.   Much of the mid-market isn’t staffed for, and doesn’t have the budget for Big Blue or Oracle commerce and content management solutions.  And, despite the growth in turn-key SaaS models like DemandWare and MarketLive, most of the folks we speak to want their eCommerce on-premise and under their control.

So, what’s next for Commerce Server?  Ascentium announced two 2012 product releases.

#1.   Rebranded CS2009 & CS2009 R2:  This is essentially a maintenance release that enables Ascentium to be able to legally sell licenses.  No changes are planned for this release, which should be published in the first half of 2012.

#2.   Commerce Server X:  This end of year 2012 target release is expected to include:

  • Site/storefront framework improvements, which will include a proper separation of business & presentation logic, and reduce front-end development complexity
  • Improvements in SP2010 out of box customer experience
  • Implementation of a .NET presentation framework that simplifies pure ASP.NET development and WebForms based CMS inclusion
  • The first iteration of a web based business user experience platform – what could be the eventual retirement of the much complained about CS Smart Tools

Ascentium has communicated their intent to begin sharing forward-looking product roadmaps and has started to outline what may be in the next full release.  Features are expected to include less IT dependent business user experience and publishing functionality, tight integration with the upcoming SharePoint 15 product and support for the cloud (Azure).  We’ve also heard of an approach to integrate tightly with selected 3rd party best-of-breed products. 

Microsoft will continue to honor mainstream and extended support of Commerce Server 2009 through 2014 and 2019, respectively. Commerce Server 2009 R2 is the last release from Microsoft and will continue to be part of the company’s official price list until July, 2012. Ascentium has invited MethodFactory to be a part of their Product Advisory Council for Commerce Server. 

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