Price optimizing: to be or not to be

It can be quite confusing when you first edit prices in Episerver Commerce. To your surprises, some of the prices you imported or edited might disappear, or change, without your consent! What happened?

To answer that question, it’s essential to know there are two pricing system in Commerce: IPriceService and IPriceDetailService.

They have some different characteristics, and one of them is very important: the default implementation of IPriceDetailService saves prices as-is, while the default implementation of IPriceService does not: it optimizes prices before saving. Prices which are best for customers will be favored over the “less good” ones.

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Merging carts when a customer logs in

It’s quite common when a customer browses your site without logging in – either she/he intentionally does that, or just forget about logging in. The customer might add some items to carts and even checks out, but then is asked to log in or remember to log in. What would happen?

By default, Episerver Commerce will do as following:

  • Attach all orders made by that section to logged in customer. (I once placed an order in a famous retailer in Sweden without logging in, and then I asked their customer service to link that order to my account so I can track it easier. To my surprise, it cannot be done! That’s why I personally appreciate this feature.)
  • Merge all carts to existing carts, by name and market. So if I’m currently in US market and I added a item to that cart, and the US-cart linked to my account already have 2 other items, then when I log in, my US-cart will contain 3 items.
  • Merge all wishlist to existing wishlists, also per market. (The name for wishlist, by default, is fixed to “Wishlist”)

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Multisite in Episerver Commerce

It seems that we currently have an increasing number of questions regarding multisite feature in Episerver Commerce. It’s fully supported in CMS. You can have only one site, one database to serve multiple domains – which of course reduces the cost. But can it be done in Commerce as well?

The answer is (as almost always): it depends on your definition of “multisite”: multisite can be that customers see multiple domains, which probably different styles, but in the backend everything is the same – you share the same collection of orders and customers. Or multisite can be that there is a separation in backend: each site has its own collection of orders and customers.
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Can Episerver Commerce support our catalog size?

One of the questions customers usually raise during evaluation of Episerver Commerce is : “Can it support our catalog size? We have (a very big number of ) entries. Will it work?”

The answer is (of course, as always): It depends!

I’ve seen “big” catalogs. Some big enough in number – 1 million entries catalogs are not very uncommon, and some are even (much) bigger. Theoretically, Episerver Commerce can support up to 512 millions 1 billion of entries (!), so you can have pretty much anything in your catalog until you reach a hard technical limit. Just for comparison, Amazon.com, which is arguably the biggest eCommerce site on the world, has about 500 millions SKU(s) in 2015. But the number of entries is not everything. There are several factors which determine your catalog “size”. the number of entries is an important factor, but there are several other factors as well.

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Watch your indexes closely

Recently we were tasked to help a customer having a problem with a query. This specific query ate a lot of CPU resources (30-40%) and causing performance problem for other queries – as it slows the entire SQL Server instance down.

Upon investigation, we discovered that the query was accessing a table with an outdated index. The index was supposedly updated in Episerver Commerce 7.10.3, which was released almost 3 years ago.

For some reasons, the index was not updated in customer’s table. Instead of just having to do a index seek, SQL Server was forced to do a full table scan, which is much slower, causing the problem.

If you want to go into details, it’s mdpsp_getchildrenbysegment stored procedure, which looks into UriSegment column of CatalogItemSeo table, previously, the index was like this:

You can see the problem: The order of the index was bad – because ApplicationId was not distinctive (in fact, in most of the cases it’s the same for every row), and because UriSegment was not the first column in the index, this index will not be used if a query uses UriSegment only. Continue reading Watch your indexes closely

Quicksilver + ServiceAPI: the authentication issues

It’s possible to run Quicksilver and ServiceAPI on a same site, with some modifications, as I blogged here. However, if you go down that path, there is something you must keep in mind: They are not using the same authentication mechanism.

I’ve seen issues where Quicksilver implementations have some WebAPI controllers, which were working fine until ServiceAPI is installed. The controllers started returning null for CustomerContext.Current.CustomerContact, and so on, breaking some functionalities. It’s bad, yes, but it happens because of reasons.

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Tale from inside TransactionScope

One of the last things you want to get from your Commerce site is that the order data is gone. What can be more confused than if your log shows that the cart has been converted into a purchase order, you even got the PO number, but after that, the order disappears? It’s nowhere to be found, even if you look into database. It’s kind of magic, but not the kind of magic you would want to have.

But everything happens for a reason. And actually it’s with a good reason: data consistency.

Episerver Commerce has the concept of TransactionScope. Simply put, it allows two or more database operations to be done as atomic: Either all of them succeed, or all of them will revert back. If a TransactionScope contains 3 operations A, B, C, then even if A, B succeeded, but C is yet to commit, and something goes wrong, then A and B would be reverted.

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The Catalog UI trade-off: performance or better UI

I supposed this is a well known feature, but I was asked more than once about it, so it’s better to write something here to clarify the confusions.

If you have some very, very big catalogs, you probably have seen this “notification” in Catalog UI

By default, the Catalog UI groups a product and its variations in a parent-children view (they are not exactly parent-children, by the way). However, to do that, it needs to know about all the entries in that specific category. If it’s a small category, it should be no problem, but if it’s big one, then it’s inevitable slow. The lazy loading which the catalog content list only loads the contents when you scroll to them is not helping in this matter. Moreover, the grouping introduces an overhead for the UI, and having too many groups can severely affect the performance. Trust me, you won’t like a sluggish UI.

This improvement was introduced way back – 7.11 if I remember correctly – thanks to my colleague Magnus Rahl. To this day it’s still valuable – the performance was improved – but not that much to remove the threshold completely (And the improvement to the catalog versioning in Commerce 9 should have nothing to do with this).

When you see this notification, and if you’re unhappy with it, you have two (primary) options: Either to sub-categorize your category – i.e. introduce sub categories so each will have a smaller number of entries. Or increase the value of threshold.

Each approach has its own disadvantages. Sub-categorizing might break your SEO, while the second approach will undoubtedly effect the UI performance. Your call!

Now – the tricky part – which number to configure in SimplifiedCatalogListingThreshold setting. Obviously, it must be greater than the biggest number of entries in a category. But how to obtain that number? I’ve seen the confusion to raise that value to 3000, 5000, or even 10000 and it’s still not working. No, you can’t guess, you have to know for sure.

One simple option is to look at Commerce Manager Catalog Management. There is a small text in right corner of the list which shows the number of entries in that category (No, it’s not available in the Catalog UI, but I assume it would be helpful?)

 

The nuke option is to look at the database. Usually we recommend to avoid manipulate the database directly, as it can be dangerous – but here is a little code which only queries data (so practical harmless)

Now you know the biggest number of the entries in a category – just change the threshold in setting. Try it and see if the UI Performance is acceptable to you.

Find.Commerce is not for Commerce Manager

I’ve seen this more than once, and this can be quite tiresome to fix the problem(s) after that. So here the TL;DR: If you are installing Find.Commerce to Commerce Manager, you are doing it wrong.

You’ll probably end up in the error like this

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Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 2

Or lock or no lock – that’s the question.

This is the second part of the series on how can you improve the performance of Episerver Commerce site – or more precisely, to avoid the deadlocks and 100% CPU usage. This is not Commerce specific actually, and you can apply the knowledge and techniques here for a normal CMS site as well.

It’s a common and well-known best practice to store the slow-to-retrieve data in cache. These days memory is cheap – not free – but cheap. Yet it is still much faster than the fastest PCIe SSD in the market (if your site is running on traditional HDD, it’s not even close). And having objects in cache means you won’t have to open the connection to SQL Server, wait for it to read the data and send back to you – which all cost time. And if the object you need is a complex one, for example a Catalog content, you will also save the time needed to construct the object. Even if it’s fast, it is still not instantaneous, and it will cost you both memory and CPU cycles. All in all – caching is the right way to go. But how to get it right?

One common mistake for to have no lock when you load the data for the first time and insert it into cache.

Continue reading Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 2