Now that I've got your attention, let me qualify this somewhat by stating that developing a B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce web application is both easier and less costly than developing a B2C (business-to-consumer) web application. This is especially true when your application platform is SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 and Commerce Server 2007!

Take for example the hardware and software requirements. In a B2C scenario, you need to size your hardware for a much larger potential peak load. Remember's first holiday season? You just never know for sure how many "consumers" will hit your site at the same time. Most (if not all) businesses that sell to other businesses already know who their customers are and the numbers range from a few hundred to a few thousand. Purchasing servers to support a few hundred concurrent users (peek load) is much easier and less expensive. Since most businesses will accept orders in a variety of formats (snail-mail, telephone, fax, email and over the web), true 24 x 7 x 365 site availability (and the redundant hardware / software it requires) may not be absolutely necessary, at least not at first. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy the best hardware you can afford. It means that generally, this hardware doesn't have to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The software costs go right along with the hardware costs. Most medium size businesses can get started in B2B e-commerce by purchasing the "Standard Editions" of SQL Server 2005 (retail: $5,999 per processor), BizTalk Server 2006 (retail: $8,499 per processor) and Commerce Server 2007 (retail: $6,999 per processor), although I always recommend looking closely at Microsoft's volume license agreements to save some money. Developer licenses of all three products are also very inexpensive, so the barrier to get started is very low.

Development costs are also very reasonable and most medium size businesses with a few knowledgeable .NET developers can put together a B2B web application in a few months. We did our entire e-commerce project with two developers in only four months and we neither of us worked exclusively on the project. It really doesn't take a rocket scientist (I humbly apologize to my friends at NASA) to learn to use SQL Server, BizTalk Server and Commerce Server. All three products are designed to work together seamlessly to provide a robust application development platform (see, I really wasn't asleep during the keynote at TechEd) and all the developer needs to do is write the code that brings everything together!

Over the next several months, I'll be presenting a new series of posts aimed specifically at how to write a B2B e-commerce application using SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 and Commerce Server 2007. I'll start at the beginning (planning your architecture) and then move through the development process step by step. I'll be presenting code samples within each post (which can also be downloaded as a zip file) so that you can try things out for yourself. I'll be linking to many blogs from the BizTalk and Commerce Server communities as well as to some excellent MSFT white papers recently released.

As always, ping me via this blog with your questions and comments. I'll try my best to get back to you with answers as quickly as possible.

Technorati Tags: SQL Server, BizTalk Server, Commerce Server

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