Cloud e-commerce

Overview

This post is not about the term “cloud e-commerce” as something new. In 2020, all retailers doing business online know what this means. Dozens of articles across the Internet have listed the benefits of cloud IT infrastructure many times. We also have a detailed blog post about this topic.

Today, let's talk about the cloud, not to save IT budgets with more effective use of IT resources, but as a tool for business growth. E-commerce companies that have opted for cloud solutions are faced with solutions based on SaaS and cloud-native approaches.

Have a look at their benefits and disadvantages in terms of launch time, flexibility, scalability, and responsiveness to market demand and trends.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS e-commerce is specialized software for online commerce, licensed on a subscription basis and hosted by a third-party provider. Depending on the set of features in the tariff plan (aka subscription plan), SaaS provider gives you instant access to a variety of cloud-based e-commerce solutions for a fee. Among the most popular SaaS solutions are Salesforce, NetSuite, Slack and others.

Usually, the more expensive tariff plans contain the richer set of features in SaaS e-commerce, like some advanced things as smart shopping cart and mobile apps. Consider SaaS as a tool for business growth, let check its pros and cons.

Benefits:

  • Short time to launch your business online, even from scratch
  • Ready-to-go templates and various of one-click software tools
  • Relatively low monthly operating expenses with pay-as-you-go basis
  • A flexible response to seasoned e-commerce peaks

Disadvantages:

  • Heavy and complex customization beyond predefined templates and already available features of the software
  • In most cases, the inability to build your e-commerce ecosystem based on the SaaS platform
  • For large online stores, the subscription fee can be high enough

Cloud-native e-commerce

Cloud native e-commerce is a service delivered within the SaaS model. Get significant business benefits through on-demand features, scalability and reliability.

  1. On-demand: use the e-commerce service as a whole or its separate components as needed;
  2. Scalability: in the public cloud, it can be easily scaled to support peak demand and long-term business growth;
  3. Reliability: can leverage a solution deployed across multiple data centers and availability zones to maximize up-time and reduce potential revenue losses.

Cloud-native e-commerce should be designed on principles: Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless, and Advanced Extensibility.

Cloud-native applications are built as a set of headless microservices (modules) and packaged in containers, managed by the cloud platform. Each microservice implements a specific business opportunity that executes within its own limits and interconnects via API, such as Digital Catalog, Order Management, Content Management, Marketing, etc.

Applications and microservices are not limited to the composite applications; they can be used for building any other application and are therefore functionally independent. So, you can mix either ready to use applications, customized applications or custom applications.

An application can be deployed, updated, scaled, or restarted independently of other applications, as part of an automated system. Therefore, applications can frequently be scaled or updated without downtime and without causing inconvenience to e-commerce customers.

To transfer data between own microservices and external applications, cloud-native apps are built around APIs for interaction and collaboration. Lightweight APIs based on protocols such as REST and GraphQL are used.

Next specialty is server and operating system independence. Cloud-native applications are not tied to a specific operating system or a single server unit; they operate at an abstraction higher. The only exception is when a microservice needs certain physical resources such as server-class solid-state drives and graphics processing units.

Cloud-native applications are highly automated. They go well with the concept of infrastructure as code and are ready to work on a wide variety of clouds, including Azure, AWS, Google and Alibaba clouds and in pure private or hybrid clouds.

Benefits:

  • The ability to build your extensions and further develop the e-commerce apps ecosystem
  • Flexible choice of the public cloud
  • Predictable costs for running cloud-native applications
  • Realize your own strategy for the development of architecture using modern principles

Disadvantages:

  • Suitable mostly for long-time business strategy and growth, not for quick testing of e-commerce ideas and market niches
  • Not so easy to start from scratch compared to SaaS
  • Much more costly than SaaS for small retailers
  • Own mistakes in architecture development could slow down the growth of the company business

Cloud services to save time of the developer team

As we mentioned, the microservice architecture relies on the provider's cloud services in allocating server and disk resources, content delivery, scalability, and data & apps security. A solid commerce platform, developed as a cloud-native, supports ‘out of the box’ integrations with the provider’s services... Here are some of them:

This is an extensible Application Performance Management (APM) service for developers and DevOps gurus to monitor your live applications. It will automatically detect performance anomalies and provide analytics tools to help diagnose issues and understand what users actually do with your app.

  • Azure App Service for developing and hosting web Storefront и Platform apps, mobile back ends, and RESTful APIs with zero downtime.

With Azure App Service, you can develop in the various programming language, be it .NET, .NET Core, Java, Ruby, Node.js, PHP, or Python. Applications run and scale with ease on both Windows and Linux-based environments. App Service adds services to your application, such as security, load balancing, autoscaling, and automated management plus. You can advance DevOps capabilities, such as continuous deployment on Azure DevOps, GitHub, Docker Hub, and other sources.

  • Azure Logic App for application middleware integration bus with ready-made connections to various services.

Azure Logic App helps you schedule, automate, and orchestrate tasks, business processes, and workflows to integrate apps, data, systems, and services across enterprises or organizations. Logic Apps simplifies how to design and build scalable solutions for app integration, data integration, system integration, enterprise application integration (EAI) in the cloud, on-premises, or hybrid cloud.

  • SQL Elastic Pool for better stability and reduced cost of cloud apps.

Elastic pools are a simple, cost-effective solution for managing and scaling multiple databases with varying and unpredictable usage demands. Elastic pools in Azure SQL Database enable developers to optimize the price performance for a group of databases within a prescribed budget while delivering performance elasticity for each database.

  • Azure Blob Storage and CDN for storage and access of unstructured data at a worldwide scale.

Blob Storage helps you create data lakes for your analytics needs, and provides storage to build powerful cloud-native and mobile apps. Content Delivery Network (CDN) lets you reduce load times, save bandwidth, speed responsiveness when distributing streaming media, gaming software, firmware updates, or IoT endpoints.

What more can you read

Check out the Virto Commerce architecture reference in Azure. The content presentation layer (front-end) is separated from the business logic and functional layer. All the platform’s functionality is exposed as various Restful API’s that fully satisfy SOA’s (Service-oriented architecture) main principles.

Another interesting article to read, shows the scalability of Virto Commerce solutions from small to extra large and helps you choose the right Azure services and price plans.

Summary

SaaS or Cloud-native e-commerce solutions are designed for different planning horizons of business development. But for e-commerce business, they are not the antagonists. For customers using SaaS but have outgrown ''SaaS services’ capabilities, we offer a seamless model of transition to cloud-native architecture while maintaining all aspects of business continuity.

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About the author of this article

Oleg Zhuk
Technical Product Owner

Oleg is a leading technologist and has grown professionally from being senior C++ and C# developer to solution architect. He joined Virto Commerce as a Solution Architect was promoted to lead Technical Product Owner. Oleg has leadership and communication skills and has had the opportunity to coach solution architects and share best practices of building great architecture. He holds a degree in mathematics from the Emmanuel Kant State University.