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The mid-90s brought major advancements in the commercial use of the internet. One of the major innovations was IBM WebSphere Commerce. It was among the first generation of ecommerce solutions. In this post, we’ll discuss the prominent legacy enterprise e-commerce platform and the changes it went through the years.

What is IBM WebSphere?

IBM WebSphere Commerce is a cloud-based ecommerce platform that allows enterprise managers to manage and sell their products across all sales channels. It allowed merchants to sell their products directly to customers (B2C), to other businesses (B2B), or to business-to-consumer companies (B2B2C).

It was first introduced in 1996 as a product called Net.Commerce. IBM rebranded its name to WebSphere Commerce in 1998 and was marketed an application that provides Java-based tools that allowed businesses to design and maintain extremely sophisticated websites while lowering their costs.

It wasn’t until 2016 when IBM introduced WebSphere Liberty into its application server that made WebSphere Commerce accessible to the cloud. The Liberty Continuous Delivery model allowed new capabilities and features delivered more frequently.

The current version can be used in the cloud, whether it’s a public, private, or hybrid cloud. It’s also possible to use it on-premises.

The software assists businesses in identifying potential value from application investments and reduces time to market through its services.

The main features of IBM WebSphere include:

  • Application edition management
  • Application migration
  • Cross Component Trace (XCT)
  • Data Collector
  • Dynamic clustering
  • Health management
  • IDE options
  • Intelligent routing
  • Java Batch
  • Java SE 7
  • Messaging Engine
  • OSGi Blueprint specification
  • Security
  • Selectable JDK
  • Track admin changes
  • Web 2.0 and mobile

Businesses could link their website’s users to Java apps and servlets using the system’s WebSphere Application Server (WAS).

Best of all, it provided businesses with a unified admin console for Node.js and Java applications, as well as an API for developing applications that can be connected to other apps.

What Happened to IBM WebSphere Commerce?  

At the height of its popularity, WebSphere Commerce was the platform of choice for some of the largest brands in high street retail, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Topshop, and Sainsbury’s,

Its popularity dropped significantly in recent years due to the increase of competition.

The arrival of newer and more robust ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud meant that WebSphere Commerce’s older architecture couldn’t keep up with its merchants’ growth– it failed them frequently during major sales days like Black Friday and Boxing Day. A few reported incidents include:

  • Argos’ website couldn’t handle the influx of Black Friday shoppers in 2014. The ensuing website crash lost the company an estimated £5.6 million.
  • In 2014, Sainsbury’s website crashed under the strain of Christmas traffic, canceling hundreds of orders, and enraging consumers.
  • In 2017, GAME’s website collapsed within seconds of launching its Black Friday promotions, resulting in millions of dollars in damages.
  • Topshop’s site crashed due to extremely high demand following the launch of a collaboration with Beyoncé. Long lines and payment issues plagued shoppers.

From IBM to HCL: The Acquisition

Despite the platform’s many flaws, 44 retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 1000 relied on WebSphere Commerce to power their sites.

So, it came as surprise to everyone in the tech world when IBM announced they were selling parts of its software business to HCL Technologies in 2018.

According to John Kelly, IBM senior vice president of cognitive solutions and research, the divestment of this portion of IBM’s software business would allow the company to better concentrate its investments in more emerging, high-value segments of the IT industry such as artificial intelligence, hybrid cloud, and cyber security.

The acquisition costs a whopping $1.8 billion and was finalized in July 2019.

HCL Technologies, an Indian multinational IT company has full ownership of research and development, sales, marketing, delivery, and support for seven IBM products, including WebSphere Commerce.

HCL Commerce: Same Software, New Name

Since the acquisition, WebSphere Commerce has been rebranded to HCL Commerce. It contains all the features the last version of IBM WebSphere Commerce had as well as additional key features from HCL Technologies. A few examples are:

  • Powered by Google Cloud. Utilize Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics capabilities to create positive, data-driven customer experiences online.
  • Improved Administration. Accelerator and Org Admin functionality moved into the CMC management console.
  • Improved Search. HCL introduced ElasticSearch as the new internal search engine. ElasticSearch makes it easier to operate and manage, minimizing the need for DevOps. It has improved deep nesting and aggregation support, and strong analytic and machine-learning capabilities that provide automated boosting and burying.
  • SPA Reference Storefront. The initial stores will include browse, checkout, registration, and authentication processes, with HCL planning to provide improved storefronts with even more capabilities like product comparison, store locator, and BOPIS, to mention a few.

Final Thoughts

IBM WebSphere Commerce was among the first generation of ecommerce solutions. As with all legacy ecommerce solutions, its technical drawbacks and lack of scalability eventually led to its decline in popularity.

Since its move to HCL Technologies, the platform has received a new name, improved features, and additional capabilities.

The newly dubbed HCL Commerce is a promising platform for launching your ecommerce site. It provides a wide range of features and capabilities that can help you create a successful online store.

But choosing the right ecommerce SaaS development specialist to build your eCommerce store is all about striking the right balance between a slew of variables. There is no silver bullet, but given the intricacies of ecommerce development, there is always a candidate that best meets your needs.

Jarvis is a world leader in eCommerce recruitment and SaaS recruitment.

We have successfully sourced and placed full-time and contract professionals with ecommerce retailers and service providers for a wide variety of clients, from start-ups to megastores in all industries.

Ready to supercharge your eCommerce presence with the help of HCL Commerce development experts?

Get in touch today.

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