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The Almighty Buck

Open Source E-Business Solutions? 110

Thor Sigvaldason asks: "I work for one of the largest companies in the world (PwC). Some of the powers that be have recently decided that we need to do the E-Business thing in a big way. My mandate is to determine who can provide this. Yeah, yeah, I know; php4 compiled as an Apache module will do everything you ever need. I've been running Linux since the pre-1.0 days, and still can't figure out why people would boot to anything else. That's not my point. Most big clients need a 1-800 number to settle their frazzled nerves. There are millions of dollars being spewed into e-commerce as we speak. But where is the OpenSource equivalent of Broadvision, NetPerceptions or someone like them? The market is really, really ready. Do you need help with an IPO? Have I missed the relevant URL's?" Sounds like a void some brave entrepreneurs might want to fill.
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Open Source E-Business Solutions?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is an extremely interesting question that I have been thinking about alot. I do not beleive that the large or well funded businesses (Amazon, OutPost, etc) really need an open source or "standards" based solution because they have the money and resources to build there own. The real businesses that need a reasonable out of the box open source style solution are the Mom'n'Pop/SOHO store fronts sprouting up or wanting to sprout up on the net. The under $1 million ($100K?) a year gross sales businesses with little or no technical resources, such as my mother want to sell homemade xmas decorations. Starting up my own small e-biz storefront I thought would be trivial. Install RH6.0 with apache & postgresql on my old P133, hook it into my DSL, get a domain name ( []), and then search the net for an open source e-commerce RedHat RPM. The last part proved tricky. I wresteled with MiniVend and just found it unnecessarily difficult and not exactly the solution I wanted. I then looked at propiertary systems and found them unsatisfactory either because they don't deliver what I want (i.e., easy customization, nice hooks into backend accounting and management, etc), are too expensive or both. What I finally settled on was simply doing it myself with PHP and PostgreSQL (I like the feature set better then MySQL). Luckily in my day job I happen to be a games programmer and it only took me $200 in books and a week to learn PHP (very nice BTW), HTML (the differences between netscape & MS), and SQL. Problem is that most people don't have 8 years professional programming experience and that shouldn't be the cost of entry into establishing an e-biz storefront. Personally I don't want to write my own because I have a lot more to worry about. The company or persons who provide the solution or definitely going to hit it big... Micah Pearlman
  • Well yes.

    Some guys at PWC have been pressuring us to turn
    off DNS zone-transfers for PWC-Domains. Noteably
    these domains contained 2 IP's each (mail and www),
    but that's not the point. Evidently some maroon
    at PWC has decided that disallowing zone-transfers
    is good for security, completely ignoring the fact
    that you cannot only transfer zones by domainname
    but by in-addr-arpa too.

    The same bahaviour is exhibited by various half-witted
    "security" companies. If you have no idea what
    can happen, you don't care. If you really understand what
    can happen, you're prepared and
    confident. But if you know only half of it, then
    it makes you frightened. That's why some companies
    are so sensible when it comes to portscans, while
    I just don't care.

  • Hey, we still submit our T&Es on paper! George MCS NYC

  • I doubt there will ever be a plug-and-play open source e-commerce app. The non-open source turnkey solutions that I've seen either aren't very flexible or aren't very turnkey.

    There are lots of tools to implement a web site, both open and closed: Apache, PHP, serverlets, Cold Fusion, whatever you need. There are lots of ways to implement a shopping cart, with or without cookies - you don't need a solution, just a bit of web savvy.

    The back end: credit card validation, payment, merchant accounting - these things can never and will never have an open source solution. To do any of these things is not a matter of code, it's a matter of dealing with a bank or credit card organisation.

    CyberCash [] and Bell Emergis [] (just to name two) are offering for a fee just such backend access. It will probably always be that way. If you have an account or access to someone like that, you can do all the rest using open source solutions.
  • I forgot to mention, you can sign up for a 2-week free trial of using Zope at (an ISP). If you're looking for a way to mess with it, etc., that's a good way, they set me up in less than a day. My wife (non-technical) was able to get the hang of using Zope to manage content in an hour, so it's really good for letting marketing weenies do their own content, etc. without breaking anything.
  • Since the entire thing is 3Mb, runs on your own 95/NT bitty-box (or Linux), has pre-compiled binaries for both, and installs in about 2 minutes flat, this is a little bit pointless...

    Zope is very interesting though - especially the new 2.0, which looks to take a lot of pain out of the development process compared to the older version.

    Even if you just use it for content management, with no custom code, you still get delegation and revision management, transactional changes (undo) and other goodies.
  • I agree, I've used WebObjects since pre WO1.0, and it's pretty reasonable. I mostly use PHP and perl now, since WO cost $$$ and is serious overkill for most web-apps -- if you really _need_ it's complexity you should be writing a real application not a web-enabled one... But, it's solid, follows a reasonable model, performance tested, runs on various OSes, and most importantly, fills the 'askers' request by being commercially supported, shoot Apple will even do all the coding of you web-app for you if you want.

  • Well, maby e-commerce as normal commerce doesn't exist, but that is irrelivant here.

    Never mind that the normal Joe Schmuck doesn't do e-businell, *companies are ready to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the software and services*, that is the point beeing made here.

    The e-market customers today may be only companies that want to be ready when the e-business takes off big-time.

    But the market definately is here, for companie that sell e-commerce solutions.

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • has an open-source e-commerce system built on open-source AOLServer.
  • Our 401k provider, Franklin Templeton just put up their web interface, and our personnal mgr was having problems - I tried it on one perfectly good browser machine and watched it thrash the hard disk for 4 hours before I cancelled it. Just checked Netcraft [] and sho 'nuff, it's coming from the IIS/NT4 mentality. I would LIKE to tell them if they design a site the only works with you-know-what I will take my $$$ elsewhere - but for the employer match and my vested interest.

  • So why is it that smaller companies who are willing to take risks and invest in new technologies don't run circles around these older corporations who aren't and put them out of business?

    Remember how the Roadrunner's Coyote always treads air for a while before he plunges 1,000 ft down the cliff embedding himself in 5 feet of solid rock?
  • There is a slight difference between the two. E-Commerce is doing sales over the Internet. E-business is managing your business through a web browser.

    I wouldn't be surprised that open source e-Commerce solutions come out while the e-Business take a few years. You know, ERP through a Web interface.

    Hate to nitpick, but I don't want the issue to get blurred.
  • I keep on seeing people talk about e-commerse when the topic is e-business.

    Here is the difference:
    e-commerse: makeing sales over the internet.
    e-bussiness: doing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) through a browser interface.

    Very different animals. This wouldn't bother me so much if it wasn't for the fact that I work for a company that does e-business software but no e-comerse software.

    You notice I don't mention the company name. Why, not open source so it is not relevent to the topic.

    Stepping off my high horse.
  • Careful there bub, or they'll slap a troll label on you next. :)

  • big-ticket proprietary software alesmen throw at them.

    Yep. Get 'em drunk on power, and then sell 'em anything at all. It's too perfectly right not to be true!

  • I have to agree, this doesn't seem like flamebait to me. Probably the moderator didn't read the guidelines. In any case, if we all meta-moderate hopefully we'll catch all the bad moderators and not have this problem very often.
  • I got a flamebait last week on one of my comments that caused me to have the same damn reaction. Go figure. I wonder if some moderators take time to read the post or they get pissy or something. Here's hoping a good metamoderator will fix you up later. =)
    "We hope you find fun and laughter in the new millenium" - Top half of fastfood gamepiece
  • Is an open source shopping cart system that seems to be in use, Their page has links to all the other pieces that are needed (mostly free, but some not)

  • The idea behind free software, is that when you come acrost a problem, if a solution dosn't exsist, you can code it.

    Perhaps this is such a time. Someone needs to write it first, why not you? Maybe you can convince the "powers that be" to fund it?
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • I also realize that yes, commercial apps can be cracked... but hardly anyone has the source code for those...

    yes, but some people do... personally, if I needed something to be really secure I'd probably use open source, or develop my own. Its not without precedent for commercial apps and OSs to have backdoors.
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • How the is this "flamebait"?
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • Very promising site (no software at this moment available) []

    It seems to me what MiniVend is the most advanced
    OS solution available today. []

    If you like Walnut Creek CD-ROM store then this stuff is for you []

    Yet another Perl & MySQL marriage []

    And at last, if you prefer to build systems by hand from simple blocks look at this page. []
  • The only thing you can accurately describe as "Scotch" is a sticky tape made by 3M.

    Funny, my bottle of Glenfiddich says "Scotch Whisky" on the front. Care you to argue the use of the word Scotch with that family (to invest in our company, marry our sister....Glenfiddich ad)?
  • You can also set up an account at and be using it within a minute.
  • I'm sure you have a valid reason to need this e-business solution, I really am. But does anyone else out there see a lot of this e-business stuff as being purely for the sake of e-business? Lot's of people out there trying to throw their company onto the internet and become the next Amazon.

    It's not that I'm against E-business. Not hardly. I think companies like Amazon and Dell have made tremendous strides in making the Internet a vital (and in Amazon's case, the only) part of their business. What I don't like to see, though, is sites who's E-business is half-assed. So I agree with the first poster. Let's write some really good e-business, OpenSource, software that can be reused. I'm up for it.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • also has a wallet, multi-currency and also open source.

    (Disclaimer, it uses one currency that may make me rich, if I work hard and sit up
    straight and smile a lot at the right people -- DigiGold.)

    I can show anyone who's interested a small e-gold transaction, just click on the
    QuickGold URL and send me an account number, saying you saw this here. We
    want to help commerce work -- no obligation.

  • Is it just me, or does the YAMS [] logo look like Mr. Hanky [] and a couple of his buddies? RP
  • The company I work for now has Doug MacEachern of mod_perl fame :) And I've seen Cliff Skolnick and Brian Behlendorf still around the bay area, so they don't have all of them yet. IBM has dumped a *lot* of money into Apache, and into creating ties with companies that will use their HW/SW platform with Apache. They did help sponsor ApacheCon and had a large presentation there.
  • Selling a secure webserver and calling it a turnkey package is a load of BS. If that were the solution, life would be easy. There are already buttloads of SSL capable OSS webservers out there.
    Hell, one of the best secure webservers out there (stronghold) is basically Apache.
  • It's not free (although it's 10% of the cost of Broadvision), but it *is* nearly completely open-source & written in ColdFusion.

    The only closed-bits are are the security API.

    It's not released yet - they expect to release in the 2nd week in Dec - but they'll support people going live with a Release Candidate.

    The info's here [].

  • Yeah well, some companies to pander to ignorance
  • As a WebObjects [] developer, I think it would be 'insanely great' if Apple could find a good business reason to Open Source WebObjects.
    For that matter, I don't really see what would prevent some enterprising developers for making a clone. The back-end parts of WebObjects are already there with there with GNU-Step []. The WebObjects specific parts consist of only a dozen or so classes. The TOUGH part would be replicating something like Enterprise Objects Framework (EOF) [] which is the magical part of the whole system that maps the underlying database to the web application.
    Sounds tough, but not impossible. In any case, I believe WebObjects is a good model to base an Open-Source Web-Application framework on. Once you have that, you'd use an easy time putting together an e-commerce package.

    Ideas? Comments?
  • I think if they just made sure that their staff was competent and that the technologies they selected were well understood, they could confidently proceed without one.

    I think part of the problem is that "big clients" are used to purchasing buggy closed source products, like Windows, that crash for no discernable reason. Unless they can call Microsoft in on the case, there is simply no solution easily available. No one else understands the product.

    Open source should be the answer to this problem. There is only one problem, How many Linux users actually read the source ?

    Of those how many can change it to fix a problem ?

    How many can actually decide whether changing the code is appropiate ? It may be easier to change the project implementation rather than the OS code.

    This leads back to making sure you have qualified pesonnel. At this level of sophistication, you really need fairly sophisticated interviewers in order to understand whether or not you are actually getting a qualified professional. Most organizations simply don't have this core competence. (A lot do, especially in hardware development and civil engineering.)

    This leads to another business opportunity, a consulting firm could offer technical interview services. Unlike headhunter's these firms would "guarantee" a persons technical qualifications only. The prospective employer pays a one time fee for this evaluation.

    Back to the idea of developing an OSS solution for E-Commerce...if such a "turnkey" solution appeared today it would be some time before it was well understood by the community at large. This negates the short term advantages of OSS. You still have to be able to "call" someone. If that someone isn't being paid, how can you be sure they'll be there ? Only after an Open Source solution has been used for a while will it seem an acceptable alternative to large companies.

    What companies fail to understand is the cost of e-business. A lot of companies go into e-commerce thinking about the costs they can avoid, like real estate and sales staff. They don't want to hear about how some of those expenses are going to be replaced by the purchase of high tech talent.

    Along with failing to understand the costs, companies fail to understand some fundamental advantages. Most companies don't want to pioneer, they want to follow where others have already been and avoid mistakes. Sensibly cautious. Unfortunately this closes those companies to new revenue opportunities.

    Have you ever seen a customer kiosk that allows you access to a company web site in that companies stores ? This would seem to be the cost effective way to give brick and mortar customers access to everything that may not be in their particular store. No more dealing with sales associates for special orders. If it is on the web site, the store can deliver straight to your home so why lose that customer because they go home and surf the net to a competitor's site ? Ever try to explain that simple idea to the VP of Sales ? Might as well be talking to a wall.

    Take it another step. Why don't stores have interactive maps and stock levels of/for themselves ? I want to know where the baby oil is at this "X-Mart" so I go to the kiosk and click to Baby Oil and have the store map come up. (You are here, baby oil here) Now if this particular store is out of stock, you can automatically be given a chance to order online...seems like a no brainer eh ?

  • WebObjects is be a terrible model for a web application framework. It's vastly overcomplicated for what it does. EOF is a very nice object-relational application framework which works really well for GUI application development, but there is really no point in trying to reinvent it for HTML applications.

    I rue the day when Apple gave up on Objective C and Openstep, but hanging on to them in the form of WebObjects is just prolonging the agony of defeat. There are better, faster, easier to use solutions available like Meta-HTML, AOLServer, PHP, Zope, Enhydra, and so on.
  • Uhhhh...

    If thats not enough for anyone using Linux, I don't know what is!
  • You are exactly on target. The real action is in business peer-to-peer doing perfectly mundane things with huge avoided cost ROI's (check out Commerce One doing [yawn] supply chain. The retail guys get the buzz (and if they ever make a profit.....) and have the good-looking sites, but they are fading as a share of the game. Proprietary stuff like is what makes the big wheels turn, and they could care less about the elegance of it all...
  • I've seen some work in this area done by jon, one of the guys at working-dogs - he'd posted a link to it in the JServ mailing list, but I've since lost it. If anyone has it, please post it... JServ should definitely be a gateway for this project, and I believe that work may already be underway...

    As someone who spent almost a year battling with MS SiteServer Commerce (not my decision), I can definitely tell you that there is a market and a need for it.
  • All that noise, then this guy remembers we have Big Blue in our corner now. I know, not the right long term solution, but after reading so many posts, none of which were quite here yet, it cracked me up for some reason. It does seem like a no brainer at the moment.
  • Open source financial software. Its still in the early stages, but this is a huge component of open source e-commerce.

    GNU Enterprise:
  • Yes Linux-Kontor uses Java and seems promising, but as far as I recall it is basically meant as a free ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system à la SAP R/3, not an e-com system (although I'm sure e-com extensions would be quite trivial to add).

    Definitely a project to check from time to time if you're in the B2B & ERP business.

    Just my 0.018 Euros
  • Wouldn't it be the open source thing to do to create this solution internally, and submit it to the open source community for evaluation and comment. Your company would be best served by an internal workforce over a contracted outside company. Internally developed and maintained projects usually have a better turn around time, and the product is usually aimed at the needs of the company more specificaly. Here is a need... invent someting.
  • Would you like the source for that?

    Droplets(TM) [] is a capability environment for web based applications. Most of it is covered by the Mozilla license.

    On the [] site, you'll find a running demonstration application and tutorial, as well as a live shopping cart application for making purchases using e-gold [].

    The Droplets(TM) environment includes an open source interface to the e-gold Shopping Cart API, so that anyone can quickly setup a web storefront.

  • Very good summary.

    That's how e-business works when big established companies want to put the "e" into an existing business. I've been through that procurement process - IBM was the ONLY vendor that responded competently to us. Broadvision and Interworld told us (paraphrasing slightly) to bend over and squeal like a pig.

    OTOH, much e-business isn't about Sears going on-line, it's about Amazon and Furby-4-U starting from scratch. These are companies with no initial attachment to a particular vendor, and no legacy issues to fight. The one thing they care about is time to launch - they don't even mind spending money like a Swedish sportswear shop, provided it gets that site live by yesterday. At this point in time, there isn't any vendor that's offering good products that can reliably build big sites like this. The market is completely wide open to a vendor with a good product - IBM don't have lockdown on it by any means.

    No, template driven shopping carts are NOT what a large site wants.

  • eBusiness is going to be about B2B comms, not B2C (not quite there yet).

    Customers are easy. They turn up at your site, all using nice predictable browsers. I'm sick of hearing some bunch of Mac-using Gustavs whinging and whining about needing to support both IE and Netscape as client UAs 8-)

    The really awkward problem is supplier comms. How do you talk to suppliers when barely a tenth of them have EDI, EDI sucks dead bunnies through a straw anyway, their legacy platforms are all over the show and you can't even rely on workable tcp/ip comms to the machine room.

    The holy grail of eCommerce at present is warehouseless trading; where orders are despatched to suppliers on a Just-In-Time basis, then turn up at UPS to be broken down off the pallets, packed into customer-sized boxes and then dispatched. The retailer doesn't need to own a distribution chain, and they don't need to pay for stockholding. Getting this to work right makes a huge difference to your bottom line figures and it all depends on good B2B comms engines.

    We all love to flame M$oft, but if BizTalk works right, then I'd just love to talk to Bill about licensing deals over my soul.

  • minna-san:


    the source is open, except the gateway to credit card processors...

    greenspun-sama has written *at length* about server-side web development, and basically, i agree that with his assertion that any business is going to require so much customization that no solution will obviate the necessity for programming.

    beware of closed e-commerce *solutions*, they may require months of work mapping your data to their "flexible" model (with nine-hundred tables--to take an example from legal billing, the dread lawpack to cms open transition). kuma

  • Well, I for one am working on a free software (not "open source", TYVM) e-commerce package called ENSale (named after the first group I dstartted work on it for). It's currently a whopping 100K of Perl; however, I want to PHPize it and perhaps C-ize it as well. It already has some spiffy features. Basically, it's an HTML preprocessor roughly along the lines of MiniVend, only without the shoddy documentation, unhelpful user community (well, there's NO real "user community" for this stuff yet, but I want to make a helpful one if this gets popular ;)) and sendmail-like configuration difficulty...heh. Anyone out there interested in helping me PHP- and C-ize the thing? Bear in mind, this project is COMPLETELY GPLd and will remain thus. If you can work within those terms, I'd love help.
  • Perl?? Not always. I work for a firm that is presently rebuilding an e-commerce solution for a client, that IBM had originally done. Here's the kicker, we were asked to do this because "Big Blue's" solution is NOT Y2K compliant... So that's how you treat your "pals"?
  • As to B2C pattern, there are actually several standard modules: 1. Online Category, which can learn a lot from the portals. Also a well designed site should have very strong personalization feature and fully-DB-based. 2. Payment. Maybe more mature solution is needed. I have little idea about it, so just stop here. 3. User-tracking. This seems to be a promising fields. To have some software to data-mining from mysterious log file, or even DB marketing. There are still some other important components, like load-balance, hot-back-up. All these fields are very specific and easy-to-isolated. Two or three major solutions are possible, or have a de-facto standard. All solution are based on a given standard as the presumption of design. But in a field where so many kind of architeture competing, nobody could win out as solution. There must be a battle of standard before a battle of solution. As to B2B, anyone could tell me a good site or just a experimental B2B? thx.
  • Hey, I work for PwC also and if there is one thing that I've noticed, its that the "people that be" would never go with anything along the lines of Linux because they are so cozy with Microsoft. Very cozy. PwC Europe rolls out Netware5 but before the Americas can do likewise, the "people that be" decide to roll out NT instead. This makes absolutely no sense until one realizes that MS is behind this move. NT doesn't support the amount of users that PwC has. NT [in the PwC rollout format] doesn't support LDAP - something PwC relies heavily on!!! If there was any advantages of NT over NW5 (and there are none that could be explained to me by "the people that be"), then they would be nullified by the fact that Europe is already on NW5. But PwC sticks with NT and sends me to classes to prepare me for the problems I will encounter because of this lousy decision. "The people that be" need to realize that a company of this size should have a quality in-house software department instead of relying on half-baked external solutions. Example - I just submitted my time and expense report with an app based on a 7 year old Watcom database engine. PwC doesn't have the mindset for Linux. Darren GTS Detroit
  • Slashdot has already covered HP's e-speak technology which will be released as open source early next year. It is a platform for e-business which looks promising. Crucially (as opposed to some middleware) it will provide support for billing as well as QoS issues. This seems to be just what you are looking for! The HP initiative is nice in that it provides all the 'comfort' for manager types of coming from a blue chip as well as been open.
  • There are PLENTY of open source e-commerce solutions out there. For example, WebStore, written by Gunther Birznieks and myself has been available as open source/freeware since 1995! There are hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses that use WebStore and all of the hacks that other clients have sent in to improve the base code. You can download it at ...... However, there are at least a dozen other stores available as well including Richie Carey's commerce.cgi, Ignacio Bustamante's WebMall, and Matt Wright's WebShop. Knowing all of these developers I could recommend any of them (though commerce.cgi is open source/not-freeware). ...... Of course, this is only a small part of what e-commerce is. When I think of e-commerce I think more in terms of business to business transactions (store to American Express, or store to supplier or, store to store) rather than simply selling online. This is where we need some better open source products. We're working on it at Extropia. We're building business logic and order processing objects in Perl and then Java, but we won't have the new code for WebStore out until early next year. But I would be happy to see some other people fast track it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers up until about three months ago. Anyone from PwC can tell you why PwC does not use OSS, and does not as a rule participate in its development. The Liability. Which vendor does PwC go after when something goes wrong? If PwC does the implementation work using open source software, and things go wrong and PwC gets sued, who do they go after?

    You should read a PwC contract. The contract will say that PwC is not liable for anything that happens as a result of the consulting services, and that the vendor of the software (Microsoft, SAP, Oracle ...) is responsible for any damages caused by using the system(s). If it is open source, then the client is going to say "But you recommended this stuff to us... there is no vendor" Heaven forbid that PwC actual help develop the OSS - that would make their exposure even worse.

    For those of you that have read one of these contracts, or like me has prepared them, you will understand why PwC does not use OSS.

    The business model of the Big Five parterships is a Dinosaur. They lack the swiftness and ability to truly get into "e-business". At the top are parters that are so far removed from the business that they are only capable of maintaining client relations (which, I admit, they do well). At the bottom is the young, untrained multitude of consultants that swarm on each project, learning a little as they go and working their little asses off without the benefit ot training or experience.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    #include \
    #include \
    #include \

    #define BLACKLISTS 2

    #define INVALID -1
    #define VISA 1
    #define AMEX 2
    #define MASTER 3
    #define NOVUS 4
    #define UNKNOWN 5
    #define BLANCHE 6

    char *cardTypes[6] = {
    "Visa", "American Express", "MasterCard",
    "Discover/Novus", "Unknown", "Diners/Carte Blanche"

    char *blackList[2] = {
    "0000000000000000", "2121212121212121"

    int isValidCCNumber(char *ccNumber)
    char *cardNo, *tempPtr;
    char tempStr[20];
    char ckMask[16]="2121212121212121";
    int cardType=5;
    int count, x, ckttl=0;


    /* securely copy the cc number, omitting dashes, crlf, etc */
    for(x=0;x248) break; /* prevent buffer overflows */

    /* length check */
    if( ( strlen(cardNo) > 16 ) || ( strlen(cardNo) left) */
    while( strlen(cardNo) != 16 ) {
    strcpy(cardNo, tempStr);

    /* checksum: double every other digit,
    * if doubled number has two digits, use sum of digits (18 = 9).
    for(count=0; count9) x-=9;

    /* match card against blacklisted values */
    for(count=0; countBLACKLISTS; count++)
    if( strcmp( cardNo, blackList[count] )==0 ) return INVALID;

    /* if mod10 is not zero, fail! */
    if( ckttl % 10 ){
    return INVALID;
    } else {
    return cardType;

    /* Pay Me Now */
  • You're missing the point that since "Linux is hot" they're actually starting to consider it as an option.

    For a long, long, time, they have denigrated free software because the (rather incestuous) relationships where consultants and vendors of both software and hardware is beneficial to all.

    Something like a "Free R/3" might be somewhat tempting insofar as it would allow consultants and hardware vendors to have bigger shares of the "pie."

    On the other hand, this would require that they actually become "technology" consulting firms, which seems rather unlikely.

  • I've been EXTREMELY impressed with Zope, which has been made Open Source by Digital Creations. It's based on Python, which unfortunately I haven't learned yet, but just playing with Zope, I can say it puts web application frameworks like Domino or MS Site Server to shame. I did see on that that they have phone support contracts for Zope, and they're primarily a consulting shop, so I'm sure they'd be able to build a strong E-commerce site using Zope, to your specifications, offer phone support for years afterwards, etc. I am in *no way* affiliated with Digital Creations (I wish I were!), it's just that I've been truly impressed with what they've done with Zope.
  • Actually, I don't at all see how the differing nature of business processes affect the adoption of OSS. After all, it's not like MSSQL is naturally more flexable than, say, Postgres. Indeed, OSS can more easily be customized for a variety of situations precisely because it is modifiable.

    But, I doubt we'll see a lot of OSS in e-commerce too. Just for different reasons.

    It seems to me that because it is the nature of business to be competitive, it is against the corporate mindset to trust a large part of the business to a co-operative effort. The suits I've talked to are more likely to view these endeavors as being necessarily quid-pro-quo: the logic seems to be that if they're not paying top dollar to have someone put this stuff together for them (right down to the software level), it's suspect.

    I expect it's an unfortunate side effect of the elusive nature of software systems. A lot of executives view techs like mechanics: they don't know what we do, they don't care, they just don't want their engine to jump out of the hood and land on the road, and they expect to pay for the privilege. If I told you I knew a mechanic who doesn't charge for parts... well, that'd be weird. Corp types think the two things are equivalent.
  • Bottom line: pick a product that meets your requirements, don't pick your requirements based on your selection (IS Project Mgmt 101).

    Unless of course you're working in the real world where some clueless suit reads something in Computerworld, and decides that the hot new product du jour is their strategy.

    At GM, the word on the street is that GM is not refreshing Unix boxen for using Unigraphics, and are instead moving to Micros~1 Windoze NT. Why? Because NT workstations are supposed to somehow be cheaper than HP-UX and Solaris boxen, despite the fact that operating and and administrating these boxes isn't going to be any cheaper. Factors like stability, reliability, and performance are being completely ignored. According to UG Solutions, NT is the greatest thing since sliced bread, therefore NT is the now the preferred solution of choice.


  • It might also be that the people in large organizations setting the "standards" and controlling procurement also take into account the dinners at Morton's, World Series tickets, and other things that big-ticket proprietary software alesmen throw at them. Open Source solutions may be technically equivalent or better, but wheels like to be greased.
  • I tend to doubt there will ever be a real open source (or possibly even closed source) Ecommerce solution. There will be parts of the solution but to a large degree much of the code would have to be written customized. Really no two businesses will be using the same practice. So one companies order confirmation number will not be generated the same as another companies. No two companies will probably want to display their products the same way. I do think there will be parts that are reusable, but not the entire solution. And businesses will be unwilling to change their practices to meet something unless there's a company to help them customize.
    Don't get me wrong I think it'd be a great business and could benefit from open source, but this is one of those areas that is better left in house in a corp because it will have to interact so much.
    The basic compnents are already there too. I mean there are open source web servers, databases, and even page editors (like vi and emacs ;). Most of the rest needs to be speciallized for each company. Well more acurately each company will want it specialized.
    Just my opnion.
  • The biggest job I have as an implementor of EC software is convincing the clients that the hard part of electronic commerce is not the web site or the technology that runs it.

    The hard part of setting up an electronic business is all the infrastructure stuff that has to go on in the background (ie. Shipping/Warehousing, Order Tracking, Customer Service, Credit Card Fraud investigations, Sales Tax accounting and payment (which can be a nightmare). Putting up a web site that displays your catalog of products, allows people to order from that catalog and takes and processes their credit card info is comparitively easy. Also, most commercial "EC" software solutions do none of the backend processes. They hook into what you already have (your accounting software does have public api's/views right?) with custom code (written by the vendor's $$$ consultants) and they are far from free (sometimes into $ millions).

    OK, now to the free, open source E-commerce software running on a free, open source web server. First, read the article at html []. This provides far more detail than I have time to write here and is the best reading I could recommend to someone considering purchasing commercial EC software. Second you can get the software (it's all source code, it's in TCL) at html []. Third, you can see the software in action on an ancient solaris box at [].

    I learned most of the stuff that Philip espouses the hard way. He is certainly not humble but I would have killed for that kind of info 18 months ago when I busted my toe on each and every stumbling block associated with online commerce!

    Oh, and it all runs on Linux as well.
  • I wasn't going to mention this product, since it's doesn't meet your "800-number" requirement... but I saw similar stuff posted, so I thought I would toss it out there: MiniVend [] is an interestingly feature-rich product done largely in Perl.

    The installer takes the administrator throught an intensive Q&A session, asking everything from what user will be running MiniVend to what background colors you want your default pages. It loads up sample data and starts up a fully-functional store that you can use as soon as it's installed.

    There's a lot more to MiniVend. I've looked at it only briefly, out of curiosity, and I have yet to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down (as if anyone would care :) I'm just throwing it out there.


  • I recently have been hacking with Apache JServ [] and GNUJSP [].

    The combined force of Java servlets on one hand, and content/presentation separation of JSP (and maybe XML with Cocoon, which I haven't really played with yet) seem to me like an ideal e-commerce solution, as any existing infrastructure can be tied to a Java API these days.

    But, as much as I appreciate the work of the Apache Java people, I believe an extra layer of abstraction is needed, a web-application Java API. Wouldn't be nice if any score of developers and small companies could sell/license specialized Java classes that could be dropped in the same web-application framework?

    I'd really like to see a company that would support such a standard, collect and standardize the different classes, and compensate the developers appropriately. So, for example, a small company could develop a shopping-cart class. Then, the 'brokerage' company would tie in this class with the rest of the application and sell the entire application to a client, providing support: the developers of the shopping cart class would get a pre-agreed-upon share of the sale and support fees. And of course, to create more competition they could also license the same class to any number of 'brokerage' companies...

    Does anybody else out there want something like this? It's not exactly open source, it's more like open API/standards, but hey, small-time developers have to eat too ;-)...

  • I think part of the problem that you'll be encountering is people not wanting to put something weird on X86 hardware. I've had very tough times telling people that yes, free operating systems can provide really great service. One thing I've seen is that companies are not as afraid of SCO or BSD/OS as they are of Linux, might have something to do with the longstanding corporate backing, but X86 OS'es other than NT are tough to push. If you are at a point where BSD/OS is acceptable, you might suggest FreeBSD or even OpenBSD to get in the door. You can make the claims that since they're based on 4.4BSD (lite-2/etc), that you have a similarly stable code base, remind them of the last time they saw big bad things about BSD/OS, FreeBSD or even OpenBSD. You can remind them that Wells Fargo, the US Government, Hotmail, Yahoo, CDROM.COM, and countless others use BSD based products. Its not perfect, but its a start. Getting free software in the door is the biggest step, once you accomplish that, you're almost assured a success.
  • They toed the PWC company line, said that only NT could deliver 100% uptime with some type of mirroring, and tried to downplay HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, and MVS, since they could only claim
    99.995% availability.

    Thats pretty a pretty interesting figure, especially since MS can't even do it. I've checked out quite a few versions of 'Wolfpack' and it fails to do even 99% uptime in most situations.
    NT also requres *4* machines do get there, and if you're running SQL7, you're SOL because it doesn't support it yet, *AND* its not instantly available either. That DB has to startup, check through possibly corrupted data, and then become available. That could take up to half an hour for a large database... It was very interesting explaining this to the manager of the DB department where I used to work at MSN. He said it was all BS, but gee, when he released his pet project, it flopped HARD and didn't even work because the DB response was so bad. (Maybe a whole slashdot article on its own) Ohwell, too bad for him :) I quit about 3 weeks before.
  • I agree that there might not be a full-scale open source e-commerce solution, I don't think that it is due to problems with customization. Software like Broadvision is extremely customizable and doesn't pose the sort of limitations I _think_ you are refering to.

    I think the best feature of these packages is the ability to link individual users to individual content (one-to-one, in BV's terms). Slashdot, for example, seems to use perl scripts to accomplish this ("seems", "i think", "might", etc..). An open source toolkit using free db's and webservers, similar to a couple of the projects mentioned earlier, could very well be a successful open source project.

    I think I may, I think I might, get back to work and sleep tonight,


  • by pme ( 85978 )
    But there is a free as in free speech solution as well ... YAMS [] is a GPLed package that currently has a shopping interface, a store management interface, some level of inventory management, and a variety of nice features.

    It was started to handle our internal needs, and outsourced because we knoew that was the best way to make it better.
  • Minivend is a tried and true package that has been serving very popular stores for years. It is EXTREMELY feature rich. Though it can be strange at first, there is no open-source (or closed-source, for that matter) alternative with the same power and flexibility. Minivend is overkill for just a few products but for thousands of products there is no other way to go. Also, there is commercial support available. I work with the original creator of Minivend to provide it. Email me at for more information.
  • Open source still has a while to go, but in the free-as-in-beer-but-free-as-in-speech-soon area is OpenMerchant, which will have its source released this month, supposedly. Go to for more details. It promises to be professional and easy to use. (says them.) I would wait for it.
  • IBM has many of the core Apache developers in their Research Triangle Park facility.

    Also, the guy that invented PHP is now employed by IBM's apache group.

    Seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • by higg ( 11739 ) on Monday October 18, 1999 @12:42PM (#1604810) Homepage

    E-Business is nothing but a marketing term. It means absolutely nothing on its own. Before looking for tools, you've got to define what you mean by E-Business.

    Just guessing, but PwC probably isn't looking for shopping cart-type apps. You're probably looking more for customer relationship and customer account management-type apps. So, you've got to figure out how to interact with your existing back-end systems.

    Yes, Apache+PHP (or, Apache+mod_perl, Apache+JServ, Zope, ...) can probably handle this job, but you're legacy system vendor might also offer tools that work better.

    Bottom line: pick a product that meets your requirements, don't pick your requirements based on your product selection (IS Project Mgmt 101).

  • by KrAphtd1nN3r ( 33859 ) on Monday October 18, 1999 @09:48AM (#1604811)
    I'm currently working on a project called SmartWorker. It uses Apache, mod_perl and MySQL (we're working on full compatibility for other databases) to make online applications and sites easy to write. The backend has become really stable lately, and we're improving it a lot.

    Check out [] for more info!

    And it's completely open source :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 18, 1999 @10:06AM (#1604812)
    I also work for PricewaterhouseCoopers (the accounting firm with the longest name...) doing R&D and have many times tried to push through Linux and/or Open Source solutions only to be told, "Forget it, those products aren't on our list of approved platforms."

    It doesn't matter than I can show the solution will be cheaper, better, more reliable and more configurable, and even give them examples and show them places where its being used for much larger projects that what we're doing. I can't use it simply because it's not Windows NT, or just barely maybe they'll let me use Solaris if I can come up with a good enough argument why NT simply won't work at all.

    In a lot of Big Corporations, it's not whether or not the solutions exist, or whether they work, it has more to do with whether they fit the approved mentality of the company. In the case of PwC, because of the way management works, I suspect it also has to do with whether or not the vendor is in good with one of the partners who makes decisions on what technology to use.

    Linux is making some inroads, and so are other Open Source products, but never, ever in my experience, in any "production-quality" service. I suspect this is similar in most other Big Business companies.

    This comment is partially a venting of frustration at seeing the company spending literally millions of dollars on proprietary solutions to do what a $5000 Linux PC with a few hours of PHP programming can accomplish, (hence the Anonymous Coward posting - you might think you recognize me, but you probably are wrong) but it's also an attempt at commentary or questioning on how some companies can get so big that they can stagnate and ossify on the inside to the point that no truly new directions ever get taken, yet somehow still maintain enough moemntum or simply have so much money that they can't die, or at least give the appearance of undead.

    So why is it that smaller companies who are willing to take risks and invest in new technologies don't run circles around these older corporations who aren't and put them out of business? Is it just the name recognition? Is it just the tremendously deep pockets and the fact that money begets money? How is it that PwC in particular, and very likely many other companies in this industry as well, can position itself as a technology consulting company when it isn't willing to invest in new technology for itself? It would be interesting to see how many companies who position themselves as "technology consulting firms" have an list of internally-mandated software titles from which there is allowed no deviation, yet claim to understand all the latest technolgies and fads.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 18, 1999 @10:28AM (#1604813)
    I work for IBM. I work for IBM e-business. I, in fact, am a large part of the 'steering' of those people who answer that elusive 1-888 number.

    I don't even know where to begin, other than to say this - e-business does not exist.

    e-business is a phrase coined by IBM's marketeers to describe the combination of content hosting services with live customer service. The actual software involved varies across the board. There is an open-source e-business solution, it's called perl, and we use the hell out of it.

    I deal with really, really large and expensive web sites. We use really, really expensive computers. The software is simply not the issue - it's all vanilla crap, db2 and netscape web servers, IIS, domino, whatever, there's nothing special about any of it.

    Yes, it can all be done with apache on linux boxes.

    You don't pay a million bucks for apache on a linux box, tho - you pay a million dollars because, and this is something everyone needs to understand about corporate computer provisioning, you are in bed with your customer. Our largest customers? Sears, Macy's, etc - we have existing contracts with all of them for all sorts of stuff. They're used to giving us money, and they are pals with the people with whom they sign the contracts.

    And that, folks, is how business in the real, 2.5 billion dollar a year, world works.

    Suddenly Anonymous E-Coward
  • by x mani x ( 21412 ) <> on Monday October 18, 1999 @10:16AM (#1604814) Homepage
    There is a package that seems to be under development called "OpenSales []", an open-source e-commerce solution. It is being developed by IdeaLab.

    Magic-SW [] also looks interesting.

    Here's a link to a Slashdot post about the above, you might find some of the responses helpful: /09/29/2048229.shtml [].

    Personally, I'll keep using XEmacs, apache, perl, php, and MySQL as my "e-commerce solution". :)

  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher&gmail,com> on Monday October 18, 1999 @11:52AM (#1604815) Homepage
    As a disclaimer, I have worked with PWC as a partner on some large projects (and CL before the longestnameinaccountingmerger). Your comments are spot on, and offer an insight into what is wrong with many large companies trying to do it all.

    PWCs chief negotiators walked out of a 600 million euro project because the client had a safety critical system and NT was on the blacklist. PWC was asked to send their best and brightest, but they just didn't understand why NT wasn't god's gift to safety. They toed the PWC company line, said that only NT could deliver 100% uptime with some type of mirroring, and tried to downplay HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, and MVS, since they could only claim 99.995% availability. That kind of shit doesn't play to a savvy customer, and they lost the whole deal (staffing, engineering, documentation, training, project management, procurement, auditing, ad infinitum). My client got the network and telecomms bit, so I'm happy.

    PWC is a traditional accounting and auditing firm, but growth in that area is limited. They are trying to expand into managing huge telecoms and IT projects as well, assuming it is all the same game. But PWC doesn't have the expertise to slap some sense into the boardroom members. So they think they are cutting edge because they have a nice deal with MICROS~1, BillG told them all other technologies are obsolete and not to ever put them into a bid. Corporate herd mentality, kills every time.

    Back to the original "ask slashdot" question.

    What a client is looking for, when they purchase some commercial software, is that the supplier will have a small number of people available to respond to their questions in a timely manner. This is between 5 and 20 people at the absolute maximum. There will be a frontline customer service person always answering the phones, 24/24x365. Backing them up is an account rep whose bonus comes from keeping the client happy and renewing the maintenance agreement. Internally there is 1 or 2 technical support with intense knowledge of the product and the systems it runs on, and systems it connects to or deals with. Optionally, there is one person who knows what the product does from a business perspective. Finally, if there is a big enough problem, there is one engineer who wrote part of the code and can be interrogated for tiny details or forced to fix a bug or add a feature.

    That is it. Get a handful of technically competent people together on staff, and you can support any free/OSS project. You need to have the helpline person available (4 or 5 fulltime staff or 2 and pagers). There has to be an account rep to keep the PHBs happy.

    Then you need 3 to 5 programmers or systems people. With OSS, everyone will have access to the source code, so fixes can be implemented to the client's whim. If a problem crops up, have one of your programmers get on usenet or IRC or buy a linuxcare contract. Chances are they can research the problem and have an answer within 24 hours.

    Compare that model to where you do not have a commercial software provider under a contract to provide you with near instant fixes. At best you can hope for is to get through the often clogged helplines, and then get told your fix will be in the next service pack in a few months.

    Have you ever tried to negotiate with MICROS~1 for a 24 hour guaranteed response for a critical installation of NT boxen? I have, and when we mentioned that price was no object and we wanted access to the source code or the original programmers, the droids stared at us blankly. They didn't get it. The big client wanted some custom changes guaranteed, and an iron clad contract with penalty clauses for the supplier if they couldn't provide certain functionality. MICROS~1 only dictates, and they NEVER sign a contract with a guarantee for fixes. Sun got the contract.

    What PWC can do...

    If PWC were to create a linux or OSS or nearly-free OS (*BSD) support group internally, they could save a fortune on support costs. PWC bids on big projects, and passes on the support costs from the suppliers (M$, Sun, IBM, CA, SAP) to the client, without being able to take a cut for themselves. If PWC is the prime contractor, they face the liability for support, and for business losses of their clients if they can't provide a functioning project. If one of their suppliers, MICROS~1 for example, decides not to fix some problem for another 1.5 years, PWC is liable for all the clients losses, and for all their size there is nothing they can do to force M$ to fix something. M$ is never under a contract to fix or guarantee their soft. With an internal OSS support group, PWC themselves can generate a response to a client almost immediately, and keep the support costs for themselves.

    You just have to pass it off as a business case, and hope they take notice. Up till recently, they haven't. So do yourself a favor and find an employer who has an OSS support group and bids linux into big projects. KPMG and Anderson both support OSS at this point, and the profit is all theirs. Do the math, a 10 box server installation typically gets a US$30,000/year support contract, and a 15 person team of linux hacks can support 2000-2500 boxes.

    the AC

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission