I'm afraid that you don't give me enough information to recommend a technology strategy, much less a concrete technology... this implies to me that you perhaps are not a technologist with a background in creating such applications... this will be reflected in my following answer. Now, obviously, since you've posted this on perlmonks, and I happen to be quite a big fan of perl and associated open source technologies, I am prejudiced in such a way that would pretty much guarantee that you're going to get the standard issue: "what you need is Linux, Apache, MySQL (or PostgreSQL if merlyn is around), and Perl!" However, that's not what you're going to get from me.
Who is going to maintain this code, and what are their competencies? Are these people that understand enough about computers that they could be given an FTP or WebDAV interface into a template directory and be relatively guaranteed not to screw up product templates and site look and feel, or do these people need a content management system with an enforced workflow process for site management? Just becausee you might be a star developer doesn't mean that the people who are going to have to keep these 500 products going are even marginally competent.
So, the reqal question is... have you considered any of the very fine 3rd party application providers out there for quickly and rather effortlessly putting up a web store? I mean, does your client (who might be yourself) want to manage webhosting, backups, database administration, security audits for credit card transactions, personal liability for flaws in your code? Because that's an awful lot to ask of a small business who just wants to put together a "data driven ecommerce web site for 500 products."
Ever consider Yahoo stores? Sure, it won't give you quite the same cache with your geek friends as hacking together YAES (yet another ecommerce site), but it's one hell of a deal. hosted on Yahoo's servers, managed by them, backed up by them, *they* handle CC transactions, they have a really nice workflow system for putting new products in place, and all for probably less that it would cost you to build the site and host it. This would definetly give you access to using yahoo forums, yahoo groups, and the yahoo portal...
I'm not saying that putting together an ecommerce website isn't a worthwhile endeavor, however, this is one hell of a wheel you're re-inventing. I can't immagine, for 99% of the ecommerce clients I've had over the years, suggesting that they go and build a website now a days, when the entire concept has become a turnkey commodity. So, you asked what the technology strategy I would recommend is? Simple, don't have one... use a trusted 3rd party that has invested 100s of millions of dollars in creating a powerful service.
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