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May 24, 2012 08:24 PM|LINK
I have a lot of experience developing auto parts e-commerce sites, especially for OEM/factory parts. You are right to be worried about the database because you want the database to fit a lot of use cases, such as:
Straight part number searches
Browse for vehicle / parts that fit together
Free form search
Related parts (if you buy brake fluid, maybe the customer is interested in brake pads as well.
So I would start with the use cases you need on the front end and develop the database from there. I spent months optimizing the database from there, and eventually reduced the load on the database by 50 % and the average query time when down 50 % as well.