Thursday, April 23, 2009

Open Source Web Store for System i

I've been working with a user on replacing their current web store with one that actually integrates with their System i POS system. Their old one printed an order form off, and they had to pick up the printer output, manually check inventory, grab it, complete the order, then notify the customer. If anything went wrong, they had to notify the customer. It was all asynchronous, which is not what most customers expect from a web transaction.

This is not a new task for us. We've done this for other customers in the past. You typically need to access two things: Data and Logic. Raw data is typically not too hard to get at. Logic is a bit trickier. Our customer was price concious (who isn't, these days), so we looked at ways to reduce costs for them.

One way we did this was to go with a lot of open source software.

osCommerce is an open source web store product that uses MySQL as its database. We've found a way to hook the calls to the DB and, where relevant, pull/push data from/to the POS system through PHP web service calls.

In some cases it's data that we process directly, such as inventory levels for product availability. But in other cases we provide a web services layer that calls directly into RPG programs, allowing for the POS to process order completion, including credit card validation and all that fun stuff.

We have an amazingly simple process for creating a web service that calls an RPG program, using the FusionWare Integration Server Designer.

The customer is installing osCommerce, on top of Apache and PHP, on top of Linux, on commodity hardware. They are using more commodity hardware to run the FusionWare Server on, which enables them to keep the load off the System i (we could run there, but most System i apps are running pretty full load). The end cost is a fraction of what IBM quoted them for a WebSphere and Global Services-based solution.

We've been doing this kind of data/logic integration for web sites since about 1995, when we had two customers start using web servers (One used Netscape, one used IIS) to put up web stores. These were custom jobs. They came up quickly with minimal functionality, then more was added over time. With products like osCommerce, you can quickly and easily bring up a full-featured web store, saving you the effort and pain of gradually creating this presence and getting it right. Now, with FusionWare, you can bring the freedom of open-source osCommerce to your System i POS system.

For anyone who is going, we'll be at the COMMON trade show next week in Reno. Booth number 214.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your post and it was superb .I would like to hear more from you in future too.