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Website Back-end Complexity

ecommerce Components

E-commerce is an example of a complex application that involves more than just a front end and a back end.
Following is an example of the steps a user may go through, with the components that might be involved in each step.
  1. On a home computer, a consumer browses an e-commerce site that specializes in custom surfboards: the PC hardware stores the browser software.
  2. The consumer's actions are transmitted to and from an ISP, such as Earthlink or AOL, transmitted via modem and phone lines.
  3. The ISP network hardware receives and routes the customer's traffic: hardware (routers, servers), software (password authentication, traffic balancing), and high-bandwidth lines (Internet backbone).
  4. The e-commerce surf shop site's server receives the request for data; software provides specific Web page documents and launches additional applications (keyword search engine database, product database, and personalization).
  5. The e-commerce site displays supplemental content fed from a third party content provider:

Software Architecture
  1. The "Surf Now" section of the site may show streaming SurfCam images of local beach conditions provided by another Web company.
  2. The "Your Health section of the site may use online drugstore partner's "news" items drawn from online version of medical publications regarding UV rays and skin cancer or muscle strains.
  3. The "Get outta here!" section of the site lists newly added vacations packages to surfer-friendly beach areas, linked from an adventure travel agency site.
  4. An Active Server Pages application integrates outside content into the Web page; WebCam images require camera and specific software; software may be used to reformat third party content.

  1. The user makes a purchase; the purchase request is processed by the e-commerce site's ASP, which integrates database applications of the order system, customer service department, inventory tracking, fulfillment, and shipping departments.
  2. The order proceeds through fulfillment process; middleware hosted at the site's ASP manages communications between diverse databases.
  3. The order is billed to the customer's credit card by a transaction-processing network (software and hardware) of the e-commerce site and the user's credit card company.
  4. The customer calls to check on the order; the e-commerce company's Customer Service Department uses a wide area network to access the order history in database at ASP; can access shipper's package tracking servers via the shipper's Extranet.
  5. The product is shipped; the order history is updated in all databases; email notifications from the shipper are converted using software; and a company email is sent to the customer.