Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Using Hybris for e-commerce

Recently, I had a chance to work on Hybris, which is a private company (now acquired by SAP) offering an application framework with the same name, which is a customizable platform for handling e-commerce B2B and B2C needs. While I was initially skeptical of the framework in the sense that it is not apparently clear how to create an online store like Magento or Spree, but is much more than a CMS that creates a shopping front-end for the user.
Technically, hybris is a framework built on top of spring that runs on a customized tomcat or SpringSource DM Server and uses maven for build automation. While this architecture is carefully thought out, the problem lies with its openness- the community is quite limited and as learners, we are restricted to the hybris wiki and forums. Given the evolving nature of the application (different versions come frequent and fast), opening it up would make a lot of sense. As SAP recently acquired Hybris, it may provide integration with its tools and databases in future as well as provide forums and community support like other mainstream software.

Coming back to uniqueness in this framework, here are a few notable observations:
Open-Close model: While the software is not open source, the way of creating application on top of framework comes with least surprises and there is a lot of flexibility.
User oriented: Cockpits are specialized interfaces that power users/admins of the software can use to quickly access the information present in their application.
Thought out: Like a matured product, entire gamut of e-commerce application is present and one can not only provide the http based web solution but also plugin with an existing application.
Scalable: As jvm based approach is followed, it is quite scalable - though it requires an upfront resource allocation during development, it sure pays back to ensure the scalability of the website.
Performance: The customization comes at a cost of computing resources, as well as slow/complex process workflows. The overall performance of the application if compared against other ecommerce solutions is worse.
XML based: The configuration is mainly in xml and parts like the UI is built on custom framework, which is pretty restrictive. While these might not be the issues, but they stuck out like a sore thumb to me, which brings us to another conclusion discussed in the next point.
Old standard Architecture: Application development seems archaic on this framework as the choice of the technologies used as well as provided seems to be a decade old - and regardless of the things mentioned on the website, integration with popular technologies is quite hard.

As I continue my exploration into this framework while working on real world projects, the things gained so far would help me to compare this against both open-source and corporate alternatives and enable me to contrast the differences more accurately against each of them.

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