Sitecore Commerce 8.1 Release

For those following the Sitecore Commerce roadmap, a few weeks ago Sitecore released the 8.1 versions of the Sitecore Commerce product suite.  This includes Sitecore Commerce, SC powered by Dynamics AX and Commerce Connect.  A little background: 

Sitecore Commerce is system stack including

  • Sitecore Experience Platform:  Core customer experience functionality
  • Commerce Connect:  A framework and API that can be used to integrate any eCommerce system with Sitecore.  This is Sitecore's best practice approach for eCommerce integration. 
  • Sitecore Commerce (Commerce Server 11.3): Core commerce functionality, including product catalog, merchandising, customers & orders

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Sitecore Commerce powered by Dynamics AX is a variation on the above theme, and includes integration with Dynamics AX.  This system stack still makes use of Commerce Server for product catalog (Edge catalog), but uses AX for a more powerful set of merchandising and product management functions.  Integration between AX and Sitecore is done through a documented routing framework.  Note:  8.1 for AX requires the CU9 release of AX.  

What's new in 8.1

The business user won't notice significant changes, but this release is an important one.  

  • Sitecore Commerce 8.1 is a requirement for customers that want to upgrade from Sitecore 8.0 to 8.1.  
  • Sitecore Commerce 8.1 takes a big step into the cloud, as it now supports Azure PaaS.  Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has been available, but an optimal cloud environment is PaaS. 
  • The PuP has finally been retired, in favor of PowerShell.  Those of us that have worked with Commerce Server over the years know the limitations of the PuP.  The power & flexibility of PowerShell is a welcome change. 
  • Product search indexes are now in their own config file, which makes it easier to optimize for search driven product browsing. 
  • The Merchandising Manager includes a few enhancements
    • Improvements in multi-term product search
    • 2-way product relationship management
    • Bulk editing of products, product families, categories, and relationships
    • A product workspace for managing frequently changed products (see below)

We're all looking forward to the next release and hope to see the final retirement of the legacy Commerce Server desktop business tools.