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Amazon Example

Sometimes the inner workings of software can be better understood by looking at an ebusiness system in action. Let's look at how "documents" are exchanged between applications to create an ebusiness experience.

Imagine what the ebusiness system that is Amazon.com must look like.  Click on these diagrams to enlarge.


Like other businesses Amazon has unique challenges in meeting the needs of its various distribution channels.   They address these challenges using sophisticated software techniques which permit them to standardize processes on their back-end systems yet also deliver highly customized, highly personalized customer experiences.   Can you see 3-tiers here?   Customers would access Amazon's systems using their preferred client like a browser, a device, or a procurement system (presentation layer).  Amazon's business logic would be managed by an enterprise resource planning system (application layer) .  Their intense data collection and data management needs would be managed by a layer of databases (data layer).     All of these systems would be supported by various technology applications which help Amazon systems work efficiently and help Amazon employee's collaborate effectively.

Now, imagine what happens when a customer fires up a browser and shops at Amazon.com.


The customer, through their browser, would request web pages from Amazon's servers.  In the process Amazon would apply smart rules to respond with a collection of appropriate documents which, interpreted by the customer's browser would create a personalized web experience and secure connection to Amazon's services.


The layers of a document in the real world can help us to visualize the layers of documents used in software-to-software communication.   Instruction rich documents are exchanged between communicating software modules and these instructions are used by software modules to configure themselves and then carry on and carry through with a function as it pertains to the broader process.  It might help to think of the way a series of Russian Dolls can be assembled, "transported" and disassembled each within another.   Even this very web page you see now, like any delievered by Amazon, is actually a collection of documents which you requested from the server and which your browser collated, interpreted, acted upon, and presented to you.  This is the presentation layer in action.  In addition to making the experience look and feel good it is also trying to apply security settings as suggested by the server and to apply personalized settings which reflect your personal preferences.

The documents are transmitted as bits of data across the InternetAmazonexample4

After a whole series of these exchanges a business process is strung together.  The WWW acts as a front-end to Amazon's sales order management software.  When you make a payment that sales order management system would set to work on reserving inventory, scheduling a shipping, creating an invoice, updating accounting records and so on.

Voila, your package arrives......and you're doing eBusiness (ok maybe it's not quite that simple...but you're getting there).

Posted by Mark Hemphill on November 8, 2007 in Module III - Software | Permalink


What tracks inventory? The DBMS right?

Posted by: Krista Mackenzie | Nov 15, 2007 11:32:54 AM

Was there a certain business who set up business this way online? Was Amazon one of the first???

Posted by: Johnny Kelly | Nov 18, 2007 10:50:05 AM

When we're talking about logistics? Are we talking about the activities you do within the webpage? Like if it is Amazon, then shopping cart, browsing catalogs, searches...etc.

I don't know if this is too in depth for our course or but when you talked about wrappers and transferring information, is the information separate but travels together, or combined all together and sorted on the other end of the request?

Posted by: Abby | Nov 27, 2007 12:31:32 PM

When we're talking about logistics? Are we talking about the activities you do within the webpage? Like if it is Amazon, then shopping cart, browsing catalogs, searches...etc.

I don't know if this is too in depth for our course or but when you talked about wrappers and transferring information, is the information separate but travels together, or combined all together and sorted on the other end of the request?

Posted by: Abby | Nov 27, 2007 12:33:15 PM

In the layers part of this post, when refering to the document.The document is made up of sub levels that start at the basics and go through a series of steps to give you a finished product? Is it kind of like the getting dressed lab we did. where you do through a series of steps adding more layers of clothing to get a finished product? I may be way off.

Posted by: Nick Drake | Dec 1, 2007 8:09:24 PM

This example really helped me understand the 3-tier architechture model.

Posted by: Mike Adams | Dec 2, 2007 11:03:36 AM

It's crazy to think of all the steps a eBusiness company like this one has to go through to meet the needs of the customers. If i was purchasing something from amazon.com there is no way i would think of all these very important steps that have to be carried out in order for me to get what i want. It's very complex and a lot to take in but its a great example of 3-tier nonetheless.

Posted by: Amy Corrigan | Dec 2, 2007 7:59:23 PM

I agree with Amy I never knew so many steps and details went into purchasing something online. Using standardized processes in the back-end and more comfortable, personalized outlook for the front-end proves to be more efficient for the company keeping everything on track and the customer getting quality service and getting the product they want. It makes me wonder if most or all online shopping company's use the three-tier architecture approach.

Posted by: Ally Power | Dec 3, 2007 1:24:28 PM

I also agree with Ally and Amy... I never knew how complex the process was to purchase something online. To think that all of that is going on within a matter of seconds. I think its hard to believe because the process is so quick... and judging by what I read on this post, I would assume the process would have to take alot longer then it actually does. I guess that is the power of the internet/WWW though!

Posted by: Ryan Keefe | Dec 3, 2007 3:17:44 PM

I also would have to agree with everyone else as well, I really never took the time to think in what goes on during a transaction over the internet, I thought it would be a simple task to do, but after learning all about the 3 tier architecture and all the tasks that lead up to the transaction and the programs that make these tasks happen, is really complex.

Posted by: alex stevenson | Dec 3, 2007 5:01:48 PM

I never knew how complicated and how indepth companies have to go when customers purchase a product online. I always thought it was a very quick process for us, so it must have been the same for the company. This really helped me to understand what 3-teir architecture was and how it's used.

Posted by: Holly MacInnis | Dec 3, 2007 8:38:44 PM

I would have to agree with all of the other posts. I never took the time to think what happens when we purchase products online, it always seemed like this simple process but after reading this post I realize that they need to go through a lot of steps before the product actually gets to you. This has helped me to understand the 3-teir architecture.

Posted by: Tiffany Richard | Dec 4, 2007 11:27:30 AM

i knew there would be a couple of steps before reaceiving your product when purchasing it online but i never knew there were this many steps they had to go through. This post helped me to better understand the three-tier architecture!

Posted by: Jolene | Dec 4, 2007 12:51:52 PM

Purchasing products over the internet is something that comes second nature to me. I never thought about the many steps involved in breaking down the transaction. After reading this, and all the posts, it really helped to connect the 3-tier architecture. The example of the Russian dolls was also kinda neat and I would never have thought of it, but I liked it because it was simple and made sense. This example of amazon really helped because it was something that I used and had experience with so I could understand it better.

Posted by: Kate MacDonald | Dec 4, 2007 1:08:25 PM

I also shop online fairly frequently and never actually thought about how complicated it may be for the company on the other end. For the customer it is quick and easy, therefore you would assume it would be the same on the other end. It makes sense that the company would make it easy on its customers but I never thought it would be this complex for the company. I enjoyed this post because it was something I coud relate to, and therefore made it easier to understand.

Posted by: Carrie MacKay | Dec 4, 2007 2:09:06 PM

I too agree it seems so easy to follow the simple steps of purchasing online but you never really stop to think about how it actually gets confirmed without anything being messed up and how much time someone had to put into this just so we could make fast and efficient purchases from our own home.

Posted by: Dave Dunn | Dec 4, 2007 2:41:19 PM

This post really made me think about how persistant the application layer of a business really has to be. It's crucial to the business' success. If it made mistakes all the time, people would simply resort to other resources like shopping on a different website. One thing I don't understand thought is how it is trying to apply personnalized settings that reflect my personal preferences?

Posted by: Nathan Snowie | Dec 4, 2007 7:24:00 PM

The Amazon example is really strange I had no idea that buying online take so many steps. After studying this I thought about the famous facebook! Would this be a good example of how Amazon would work except we do not buy things on facebook we search and be inquisitive of other peoples business. I analyzed it as, the sign in process is the first layer and the second layer would be the home page of who did what and the third layer would be the results of what we intented on doing. I know confusing but thats how I interpreted Amazon as it relates to facebook. Would this qualify as a good example if asked ??

Posted by: Laura | Dec 4, 2007 8:23:27 PM

I agree with you Nathan. It is much more complex and detailed than I had ever really thought, and to think that a million more companies use this similar process for online shopping and whatever other client/server services may be offered over the internet. I still do find this one a tad confusing though!

Posted by: Lauren Tweel | Dec 5, 2007 6:31:56 AM

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