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Oracle Commerce (ATG) Publishing Tips

In order to be successful, retailers need to constantly review their products and what is selling.  Large etailers constantly monitor products and quantities sold and will adjust price and placement regularly to improve results.

For merchants on the Oracle Commerce (ATG) platform, real-time changes can be made to the catalog however historically the process has been resource intensive and may negatively impact a busy site.  More recent releases of the Oracle Commerce suite have included significant enhancements that are designed to reduce the impact changes to the online catalogue have to the application.

How is performance affected?

The performance of an ATG environment can be affected by catalog publishing and update schedules, depending on the data structure. Oracle Commerce by default uses an active passive two-catalog approach, production mode or development mode. Development mode allows for flexibility on the development catalog but can have additional overhead, whereas production mode is intended for better performance.

When a publish is complete, the development catalog is updated and promoted to production mode, the production catalog is then moved to development mode where it can be more easily updated. After the switch, two additional processes take place. Indexing is like organizing the shelves in your pantry and caching  is checking exactly what is in the pantry and where it is on the shelves. Caching allows the system to place frequently used items in memory, making them easier and faster to find.

The switching of the catalogs and subsequent indexing and caching are the processes that can impact site performance. The database is busy reorganizing the pantry, updating what has been added and where everything is, all while people are still taking things from the pantry. Whether it is a home pantry or an ecommerce catalog, there is a lot going on at once! A number of our system integrator partners have observed that catalog and content related operations can cause overhead, and negatively impact application performance.

How does Oracle Commerce (ATG) 10.x help?

In Oracle Commerce (ATG) 10.x there are a number of enhancements which help support more than one publish per day:

  • Select Cache invalidation (aka Smart Cache Invalidation) allows you to set a threshold in ATG where if the number of elements changed in the catalogue is exceeded, only then does the full cache (caching is the holding in memory of frequently called items) become invalidated and is rebuilt.  If the items updated fall below that threshold the cache is invalidated only for that item and is rebuilt as consumers access that product.  (This feature was back ported to version 9.4)
  • Cache warming  – If turned on, ATG will rebuild the cache automatically rather than waiting for end users to access the product.

Oracle still recommends that publishing be completed outside of peak times, even with the above enhancements.

What else can I do?

For clients on versions lower than 9.4 or those with a very high number of changes, our teams have some additional suggestions:

  • Extend caching for App servers to a greater interval.  Ex.  If caching is configured to refresh every 10 minutes, change it to an hour.  This requires less calls back to the database
  • Minimize the number of times the application has to query the database, that way when the catalogues are being switched the application is not trying to read from DB.  Some fields by default are not set to cache, making changes there can help improve performance.

The enhancements included in Oracle Commerce 10.x, as well as the tips listed above should help protect performance in most cases. There may be extremes, like a client of ours who publishes multiple times an hour. One solution for this is to implement a front door environment.  The client I mentioned has set up a separate environment where their marketing team can make any changes they want, on demand to pricing, product descriptions, categorization, etc.  Only when the consumer goes to buy the product does it move to their ATG environment.

While the above example is likely overkill for the vast majority of retailers, it is important for all merchants to invest in the health and performance of their ecommerce environment. One way to do that is to work with specialist partners like Tenzing. We provide infrastructure, managed services and exceptional support to merchants on the Oracle Commerce platform. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning how we can help you manage Oracle Commerce. 

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