May 19, 2014, 8:57 PM

eBay previews what’s next for Magento

At the Magento Imagine users’ conference last week, eBay
Enterprise executives pulled some covers off of Magento 2, which many anticipate will be a major upgrade of the Magento Enterprise Edition. Meantime, the recently released 1.14 version features a more effective level of responsive web design, experts say.

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BookPal LLC has big plans this year for its wholesale book business, president Tony DiCostanzo says. Among the things on his 2014 road map: extending the ease-of-shopping design and functionality of its mobile app to its full mobile commerce site.

“We’ve built responsive design pages within the app itself, but we want to extend that design and functionality to the entire mobile site so that app users who jump over to the full mobile site will have a much better browsing experience,” he says. Responsive design, also called responsive web design, is a technology that enables an online seller’s content to render properly across multiple venues, including mobile apps, mobile sites and full desktop web sites.

That capability, DiCostanzo says, is one of the reasons why he operates his B2B e-commerce site, Book-Pal.com, on the Magento Enterprise Edition e-commerce platform.

An updated and more effective version of responsive design was identified last week as one of the main improvements in the Magento Enterprise Edition version 1.14, which was launched at the Magento Imagine eCommerce users’ conference in Las Vegas. Magento is part of eBay Enterprise, which is eBay Inc.’s  e-commerce technology division. The overall message from eBay and Magento last week was that they are positioning the open-source Magento e-commerce technology to serve both large and small e-commerce companies.

Some systems integrators and software developers who work with Magento privately said at the Imagine show that while Magento can compete with high-end e-commerce platforms like Oracle Corp.’s ATG and IBM Corp.’s WebSphere Commerce in supporting large-scale e-commerce sites, Magento typically requires a lot of extra software customization to handle high-volume, concurrent e-commerce transactions because such capabilities are not available “out of the box” or built into the Magento platform.

But eBay executives last week said the latest versions of Magento have significantly upgraded its ability to scale up with transaction volume. “That out-of-box functionality is available now,” eBay Enterprise president Tobias Hartmann said in an interview at Imagine. “We are already on par with ATG and WebSphere.”

David Hess, vice president of sales at Zeon Solutions, a web developer that works with Magento and several other e-commerce technology platforms, says Zeon has recently seen more interest from large e-commerce clients wanting to work with Magento technology. He declines to name those clients, but adds “I think Magento can compete with ATG and WebSphere.”

Hess adds that eBay finally offered some clear direction at last week’s conference about what to expect from Magento 2, the much-anticipated second major version of the Magento technology platform. Among other improvements, Magento 2 will have a more flexible software code that developers will be able timodify to make isolated changes—such as in how to display multiple products together on a web page—without impacting other areas of the software code, says Mark Lavelle, an eBay Enterprise senior vice president and global head of product and strategy.

Other modifications will include improved application programming interfaces, or APIs, which eBay is redesigning to more efficiently pull data from a larger number of software applications connected to the Magento platform. As head of product and strategy, Lavelle will take over much of the role of Roy Rubin, Magento’s founder, who is retiring.

EBay also announced for Magento Enterprise Edition 1.14:

● New responsive design capability, built with HTML5, JQuery and other web design technologies, that is designed to enable e-commerce site operators to develop mobile sites optimized for tablets and smartphones in about half the time as under the prior version.

● Product indexing, which had been improved in the prior version 1.13, was extended to enable automatic indexing of product data in the open-source Solr site search application. That means that when a merchant adds new products to its online product catalog, the data is automatically updated in the Solr search application.

Such improvements aim to address some of the comments that  Magento customers posted to a comments board eBay featured at the Imagine conference, such as the need for improved site search.

Hartmann said eBay’s strategy is to let large e-commerce clients choose “end-to-end” e-commerce systems that can include the Magento e-commerce platform along with the wide range of e-commerce, digital marketing and fulfillment technology and services that are also available from what had formerly been known as GSI Commerce, the e-commerce technology and services company eBay acquired three years ago, renaming it eBay Enterprise. He added that other e-commerce clients, particularly small and medium-sized ones, may opt for using Magento along with modular components of eBay Enterprise’s “omnichannel” software suite, including order management and inventory visibility across multiple warehouses, and multiple digital marketing applications, including e-mail and display ad applications.

EBay is also working on ways to further improve its technology offerings to B2B as well as retail e-commerce clients, says Lisa Butler, head of enterprise solution enablement at eBay Enterprise. For example, eBay Enterprise product management teams are discussing possible new applications for offering workflow software designed to route pending online B2B purchases to multiple personnel authorized to approve purchases.

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