In light of retail's continued evolution, a number of companies with strong ecommerce presence have revamped their strategies, and tactics online, beginning with the one-two punch known as the marriage of "the cloud and open source."
Jason Ordway, CIO for Ice.com, a luxury jewelry site based in Canada, agreed to discuss his solutions approach for 2012. The conversion from "rack and stack" to the cloud, from the physical to the virtual, is not without its headaches, but he contends the switch is the only answer for savings and growth.
"We need to grow. Our strategy was never bricks ‘n mortar. Marketing and IT got together and determined that more social-based loyalty marketing required exiting a custom solution," Ordway pointed out. "We can get under the covers very quickly and develop new functionality with open source and the cloud as our foundations," he added.Ice.com is exiting a long-standing relationship with Ecometry, to enter the world of JBoss and a Seam framework, next generation enterprise java development. Seam is a powerful open source development platform for building rich Internet sites, Ordway explained. By way of a quick overview, Seam 2 integrates security, internationalization, and business process management by combining the two frameworks Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB3) and JavaServer Faces (JSF). However, simple Plain Old Java Objects (POJOs) can be used at the back end. Seam 3, with new integrations, provides a modular set of extensions to the CDI programming model, with Java EE6. Many developers have turned to the Play framework, a pure Java framework that allows you to keep your preferred development tools and libraries. Ordway likes JBoss's Hibernate, the popular Object/Relational (O/R) mapping framework, which just released its 4.0 version on Jan. 18 this year,including multi-tenancy support, and preparation for OSGI (the Open Services Gateway Initiative) support.
The OSGi Service Platform allows for a modular system and assures interoperability of applications and services over a variety of networked devices. Its alliance touts more development productivity in 2012 for its off-the-shelf and in-house modules.
Ice.com, already a double-digit, multi-million dollar enterprise, intends to leverage Google Analytics and Omniture, owned by Adobe Systems Inc., even further in its 2012 plans alongside Pentaho, a business intelligence suite. Pentaho offers data access, visualization, integration, analysis and mining in an annual subscription model for professional users, however its basic features are available under an open source GPL license.
Ordway said he is now celebrating his one-year anniversary with the company and that his challenges around legacy issues have been navigable, but at times, intense. "You inherit load decisions. You have to watch where you step, and covert each piece of data to a new platform. Over a million customers visit our site annually. This will be about a nine-month conversion process and we are almost complete, now in month seven," he said. The process entailed 30 people, some internal staff and outside freelancers. "The sheer speed of deployment under open source, and the use of the Amazon cloud, versus rack and stack, has created a 50% plus savings in hardware and time. We would have had to tack on 4 to 6 months, if we weren't doing this in the cloud," Ordway said.
All this is seamless to the typical end user which profiles as a Midwestern woman in her 40s, making, on average, a $200 jewelry purchase at least twice a year, he added. In 2008, Ice.com raised $47 million in new venture capital from Boston investment banking firm Polaris Venture Partners, and earlier in 2006 completed an external financing round from Ignition Partners, a premier venture capital firm based in Bellevue, Wash., related to the purchase of Diamond.com. Internet Retailer has listed the company as one of its fastest-growing top 500 shopping sites online. It has achieved distinction as a Top 50 online retailer and holds the status as the #1 trafficked jewelry website, according to Founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development & Communications Pinny Gniwisch. He spoke on a panel at the National Retail Federation's Big Show this month on "Social Wins for 2011 and Beyond."