Exam Reviews

Site Server, Commerce Edition

If you want to pass this one, make sure you know Microsoft DNA as if it were your own.

With the exponential growth of e-commerce applications, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, Microsoft is positioning Site Server, Commerce Edition—recently renamed Commerce Server—as a solution for businesses to set up Web-based storefronts.

Of course, Commerce Server won't solve all solutions from an out-of-the-box setup, but it does give you a foundation to work from in developing e-commerce applications. Most everything about Commerce Server can be manipulated via code or as an add-in to pipelines (more on that shortly). I recently sat for the Commerce Server beta test, and this exam definitely wasn't aimed at those who just set up Site Server as an out-of-the-box solution. Not only did this test cover manipulating the objects provided by Commerce Server, but it also went on to test your knowledge of planning, developing, implementing, testing, and managing an e-commerce application.

At 4 hours and 158 questions, this was the longest of all beta exams I've taken for my MCP+Site Building certification—along with Visual InterDev 6 and FrontPage 98. This one also had to be the most comprehensive in coverage of the various Microsoft DNA technologies.

Site Server, Commerce Edition (70-057)
Title: Designing and Implementing Commerce Solutions with Microsoft Site Server 3.0, Commerce Edition

Number of questions: 158 on beta; fewer on actual exam.

Time allowed: 4 hours for beta; expect around 90 minutes for the live exam.

Current Status: Live as of August 1999.

Who should take it? Counts as elective for MCSD and MCP+Site Building.

What classes prepare you? Microsoft recommends three instructor-led courses for preparing for this exam:

  • 1231: Implementing a Commerce-Enabled Web Site Using Microsoft Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition; 2 days.
  • 1125: Implementing Microsoft Site Server 3.0; 3 days.
  • 1077: Installing and Configuring Microsoft Site Server 3.0; 1 day.

Site Server Objects

Make sure you have extensive knowledge of the various built-in objects installed with Commerce Server, as well as how to manipulate them via code, especially Active Server Pages (ASP). You'll need to know this inside and out.

Commerce Server uses dictionary objects to create a wrapper around objects that an ASP developer would normally connect to directly. If you've done extensive ADO programming, be careful when you tackle the test. Commerce Server can throw you some curves. When you're connecting to a database managed by Commerce Server, you could pass a Data Source Name (DSN) directly to the connection object. But passing information directly to the ADO connection object isn't the best approach for a Commerce Server site since connection information is stored in the dictionary object called DefaultConnectionString. Storing information in a dictionary object allows a Site Server administrator to change the physical database that's the back-end for the Web site without having to change any of the underlying code, because the Active Data Objects (ADO) connection is made to the dictionary object and not a hard-coded DSN. Commerce Server stores information such as connections, server information, and other site variables in the site dictionary. Multiple dictionary objects store information on queries, forms, and other information. Once you understand the use of dictionary objects in Commerce Server, you're well on your way to passing this test.

Connecting to databases is just one example of working with Commerce Server's dictionary objects. In the next couple sections I'll go over some of the components that make up Commerce Server, and you'll see how this exam tests your knowledge of the various dictionary objects.

Conducting Transactions

The reason for implementing a Commerce Server site is to conduct business or transactions over the Web. So be prepared to look at diagrams showing order and commerce interchange pipelines and then arrange them in a logical sequence of events to process a transaction.

The Order Processing Pipeline (OPP) is the sequence of events that makes up the actual transaction that occurs when a user makes a purchase on your Commerce Server Web site. Have a good understanding of the default components that come with the OPP. Here's where your knowledge of business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions will be useful. Understand how to integrate the OPP with Microsoft Transaction Server by calling the MtsTxPipline component. Understand its relationship with other OPP objects like SQLItemADO and SQLOrderADO. You must know how to use these objects and also how to handle errors that a user may encounter while conducting transactions on your Web.

The Commerce Interchange Pipeline (CIP) is the part of Commerce Server that allows data to be exchanged among the various applications supporting the order. It could be a component that sends XML data to a fulfillment house, another means of interacting with an accounting application, or sending Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) information to a Value Added Network (VAN). Obtain a basic understanding of transporting data between businesses using various formats such as EDI or XML and the mechanism used to transport the data. Again, a dictionary object comes into play here; know the transport dictionary that handles data names and their corresponding values.

Make sure you've tried implementing Microsoft Wallet in an e-commerce application. Microsoft Wallet provides a secure method of payment for the user. It supports Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) and Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocols. Know how to include MS Wallet in a Web page and how to implement it using non-Microsoft browsers such as Netscape Navigator.

SQL Code

Obviously, since you'll be working with objects like SQLOrderADO, SQL code plays a role in your work with Commerce Server; so know the basics. Understand the different types of joins and how to create relationships among table data.

Analyzing Business Requirements

Knowing how to code isn't all it takes to implement an e-commerce solution; but knowing how to plan, implement, and test the application will ensure success of the project. Work with the sample companies and sample sites that come with Commerce Server. Install and try out all of the samples, since each is aimed at a different aspect of e-commerce.

There may be situations where you'll have to integrate a commerce site into an existing framework. Say, for instance, a company has been conducting business using an existing database structure; try to figure out solutions where you could incorporate Commerce Server into various environments.

Will you need to provide alternative representations for a site based on user requirements, bandwidth, or browser limitations? Be prepared to deal with several types of situations when implementing a commerce site. Since, as I've mentioned, Commerce Server isn't always an out-of-the-box solution, more often than not you'll have to assess the environment and be able to modify the software in order to accommodate it.

Doing the aforementioned tasks will arm you well for tackling potential scenario questions on the exam. These are the questions in which you're given a list of project goals, along with what was done to satisfy the requirements. Your job is to determine how many of the original goals were actually met.

Security

Understanding security models and how they affect your application is a must in order to provide secure e-commerce. Familiarize yourself with firewalls, routers, proxies, and Windows NT security and its integration with Active User Objects (AUO). AUO provides a single framework for access to user information; it's a container for Active Directory Services Interface (ADSI) information. As an Internet developer, you should learn as much as you can about ADSI and AUO, since you'll see more applications that take advantage of this centralized information store with the release of Windows 2000.

Compatibility

Understand the differences among the various browsers out there and the technologies they support. Know which browsers support ActiveX controls and how to implement ActiveX and Java applets in a page.

Capacity Planning

After developing the e-commerce site, you'll need to test your site to see how well it handles increasing amounts of traffic. You can simulate server loads using InetMonitor and use it for locating bottlenecks in your site by using scripts that you develop. Make sure you practice creating and debugging scripts so that when you look at code, you can tell what it will do when executed. Say, for instance, you want to simulate making a request for a page five consecutive times; you'd do so by creating a script for InetMonitor and running it:

LOOP 5
GET url:/site/main.asp
ENDLOOP

The script is different than VBScript, but you should be able to follow it if you have an understanding of the different HTTP methods and logical constructs.

Internationalization

Since we're dealing with a global economy, spend some time learning how to provide services to other countries. How will you deal with encryption? What about displaying localized information, such as taxes, languages, and pricing?

Analyzing Information

Once a commerce site is up and running, you may need to analyze statistical data in order to make business decisions about your Web. You might need to provide banner click information or customized banner views based on a user's profile. Try out Ad Server; integrate it with AUO, and then use it for reporting on the data with Report Writer from Site Server.

Deploying a Commerce Site

Commerce Server comes with Commerce Site Packager, which allows you to package a Commerce Server site into an executable file for distribution. Familiarize yourself with this feature of Commerce Server. The Packager is located on the Commerce Server SDK that comes on the installation disk.

Additional Information
The Preparation guide for this exam is at: http://www.microsoft.com/
trainingandservices/exams/examasearch.asp?PageID=70-057
.

If there's anything on your list of study materials for this exam, make sure it includes Site Server articles from TechNet (the online version is available at www.microsoft.com/technet/default.asp); the Commerce Server documentation; and the Commerce Server SDK, which is installed as a custom option during Commerce Server installation.

Plenty of Prep

This was the most comprehensive of all the beta exams for the MCP+Site Building track. To get out alive, make sure you know how to install Site Server and the minimum requirements for it [See Blair Kovac's review of the Site Server exam in this issue for more on installation and requirements.—Ed.], how to customize a Commerce Server site, as well as all the higher level functions that go along with providing an e-commerce solution. If you want to pass this test, plan plenty of preparation time to break out the Commerce Server documentation. Then, install the sample sites and have a go at modifying the applications. This won't be wasted effort when test time arrives.

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