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Implementing E-Commerce on Your Linux System
Previews of TallyMan, Yams, and OpenMerchant
December 20, 1999
Merging e-commerce, open-source software, and Linux may be one of the shrewdest moves of this year and next, as these are the three areas currently monopolizing the attention of venture capitalists, stock-market investors and the general computing public.
That's what makes TallyMan, OpenMerchant, and Yams--three highly touted open-source, GPL-licensed e-commerce solutions that are perfectly suited for Linux--worth looking at, even if they're not yet close to a final release. All three products are in prerelease form, aimed at developers evaluating e-commerce software who might be interested in incorporating the e-commerce code into larger projects. And, in the best tradition of open-source software, all three projects are being developed in an open environment: you're welcome to download the source code, install the current product, and kick the tires. (Which was, in fact, what we did. We downloaded all three from their respective Web sites and installed them on a Slackware Linux 7 server. We also took advantage of an online demo provided by Akopia, the TallyMan developers.)
Bringing e-commerce to the Linux world is a challenge, of sorts, as there's really no track record here. The majority of e-commerce servers either run on Windows NT or a commercial version of UNIX. In addition, many application servers are deployed as customized e-commerce solutions, but the application-server field is only now beginning to see the huge potential of deployment on Linux systems (see our overview of application servers and Linux, as well as our reviews of Cold Fusion 4.5 for Linux and the Zope Application Server).
The three packages are also open in another sense of the word: they're designed to work with open technologies. The back-end data is stored in SQL databases (although, in the case of Yams, the preferred extraction tool is the freely available MySQL database manager). All three systems are built around the Perl programming language, designed for deployment as server-side tools and administered from anywhere via a Web-browser interface. While there are many other shopping and auction programs built around Perl, they aren't generally as sophisticated or well-designed as TallyMan or OpenMerchant. The data is sent to end users via standard Web servers, such as Apache, that support either CGI scripts or Perl.