E-Commerce is the magic word in the era of web enablement. In this era of internet driven innovations, a rising number of professionals are engaging in innovative business models and services within their own. There are further numerous professionals employed within the domain as experts. This article provides an overview of E-Commerce Infrastructure Planning and Management.
So why do we need to focus on e-commerce infrastructure and how should we plan it? To define its Mission: It would be to design, develop and maintenance of e-commerce business venture and enable three critical objectives:
- First objective (what we are building): An open, distributed and safe infrastructure which is scalable and thus has provisions for future needs
- Second objective (how we can use): Using internet based technologies to demonstrate the value creation for the users, and facilitate the delivery
- Third objective (who will pay repeatedly): Define the right business model to sustain in the future, in tandem with the IT infrastructure
E-Commerce Infrastructure identifies the functionalities of the Hardware and Software components, specifies the corresponding service level requirements, and describes the management and operations of the whole system. It may comprise briefly of the following components at a very abstract level.
- Software components used: Content management systems, Web analytics, Text analytics, Application Programming Interface (API), Database server, Middlewares etc. Object oriented (e.g. CORBA), Transaction processing, communication (https, messaging), data base (e.g. ODBC), application middleware (CGI)
- Hardware components used: Servers, proxy servers, load balancing systems. Firewalls, encryption devices and interactive voice response units etc.
Some of the major components, which a techno-functional professional in the domain is expected to know are as follows:
- Middleware: Systems that resides between the client (user) and the server (database and application resources). These could be data access components, communication protocols, specialized servers, or a mix of all.
- Directory services: Email Directory Services enables users to locate other users for sending emails. LAN Directory Services facilitates functions like connecting to the web, sharing printers, LAN chats, LAN based KMS
- Lookup Database: This is the database that stores information about network resources and user profiles. Enables usage of network resources based on entitlements.
- Meta-Directories: Facilitates the flow of data between one or more directory services and databases. Enables synchronization of data across databases or data warehouses
- Groupware: Facilitate the automation and streamlining of business processes not implemented in legacy/ERP systems. Group communications and information sharing enabling collaboration between teams and individuals
- Internet Domain Name Service (DNS): DNS facilitates the unique identification of an organization or entity on the Internet. DNS maps the domain name of an organization to its IP address
Further, as a systems or a business analyst, typical criteria for evaluating infrastructure for e-commerce setup could comprise of the following:
- Flexibility: The ability to respond quickly to changing requirements, and scale up based on the need of the customer. Resource virtualization can be an important factor in such a scenario.
- Costs: The CapEx & WorkEx, like acquisition and maintenance costs for servers, licenses and other hardware and software. License cost and its renewal policy would also play a significant part of the evaluation.
- Scope & performance: Factors include degree of fulfillment of specific requirement, knowledge about service and performance quality. Service uptime could be another sub-criteria.
- IT security & compliance: Factors like government, industry and firm specific needs in the areas of security, compliance and privacy are covered. How the information assets are protected could be a regulatory issue.
- Reliability & trustworthiness: Factors like service availability, consistency of delivery and fulfillment of the Service Level Agreements. Whether the consumer can get the same uniformity of service every time, is the evaluation parameter.
- Service & cloud management: Factors like offered support and functions for controlling, monitoring and individualization of the web interface.
Beyond this, another important dimension to deliberate upon, is to focus on the key metrics of an e-commerce infrastructure policy. These could be noted and elaborated as follows:
Further, professionals need to understand the Performance Models associated with E-Commerce Infrastructure, which may be useful during audits. A model is a representation of an information system. It could be physical, logical or functional. The model should be as simple as possible. It should be capable of capturing the most relevant characteristics of the system under evaluation or audit.
The performance of e-Commerce site depends on the pattern of services requested by customers, as described by customer model. It also depends on the demands that each service places on the site’s resources and the intensity at which customers arrive at the site.
In view of this, it would be pertinent to focus on the following aspects of E-Commerce Infrastructure:
- Monitoring and Reporting on Web and other e-Business Applications, and the Response Times for Web transactions
- TCP/IP Performance focusing on End-to-End network response times and the Effects of operational performance control
- Network Routes and Equipment focusing on the End-to-End route response times, Identify route patterns and defects and Identify and minimize loss of data in the network
- Other important dimensions include adequate site capacity, Scalability and Fault-tolerance.
Basic Question for the evaluation would attempt to address the key question: What portions of my “service-product” are popular? This would need renewed focus on the Capacity Issue and the Method of Analysis
- Which files are being requested frequently?
- Which content configurations are requested frequently?
- Which processes deliver that content?
- Am I paying too much for my ISP service contract?
- Can I get by on a lower-bandwidth contract?
Method of Analysis:
- Site log file analysis
- Add up all http: transactions made to your web site during some time period
- Visitor on site trend analysis
- Purchase trend analysis
Capacity planning would address these requirements through a cycle of workflows of analysis in a multi-stage approach.
During the Business & Functional Planning, focus would be on the following components:
- Interaction Model: It focuses on how a user interacts with the e-Business site to execute the function. Example: two consecutive HTML forms may be needed to implement the function of online application to a course.
- Web Technology Used: Different technologies may be used to implement an e-Commerce function. E.g. HTML forms, Java Applets, Active X controls. Suitability of technology chosen to fulfil functional needs would have paramount importance.
- Use of User Credentials for Authentication: This information specifies if an authentication protocol such as SSL is used to implement the e-Commerce function. This would have significant importance in terms of security and information assurance.
The Customer Behaviour Planning would comprise predominantly on the Business Intelligence aspect to mine the customer’s preferences and purchase behavior and make suitable recommendations. Techniques like classification, pattern association and sequential rule mining may be used to meet the requirements of this stage.
The IT Resource & Infrastructure Planning would focus predominantly on the specification of the workload model. This would entail a series of activities focusing on workload estimation, workload specification, performance modeling and calibration for validation. Further, based on the performance modeling output, cost-benefit analysis of the system needs to be completed. Subsequently the IT Infrastructure Evolution Plans can be drawn based on the completion of this analysis.
We hope this article provides you a deeper insight of the activities and strategies which needs to be planned for when you are initiating an e-commerce venture. Please do let us know if you have further queries.