Redmond reveals roadmap for BizTalk Server

The next version of the software will contain many new features, Redmond says. By John Fontana

Microsoft has unveiled its plans for BizTalk Server, including support for RFID technology and integration with Vista and Office, and says the next release of the software, BizTalk Server 2006 R2, will be in the first half of next year.

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will include RFID support. The announcement is the first time Microsoft has explained how and when it plans to add the technology to its Windows Server System platform.

Microsoft made the announcement at the U Connect Conference earlier this month.

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will feature APIs and hardware frameworks so third-party vendors can tie their RFID wares into the platform. In addition, the platform will include a set of business rules and events management capabilities so RFID events can be connected to back-end business processes.

“This is interesting for business process management, where you take real-time events and link them to business processes,” says Burley Kawasaki, group product manager for BizTalk Server at Microsoft. “Traditionally BPM is only focused on corporate systems and has not extended to the edge where real-time processes occur. This allows you to connect the shop floor to enterprise systems like SAP or out to trading partners.”

In addition, Microsoft plans to add native support for electronic data interchange (EDI) and AS2.

All the upgrades to BizTalk are designed to extend Microsoft’s BPM platform to the edge of the network and beyond. They also are intended to deepen the integration of BizTalk with Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft hopes the close integration of the three products, and other software in its platform line-up, will allow it to raise its reputation in the corporate datacentre and become the platform for critical corporate programs such as trading floor applications.

The BizTalk integration with Vista and Office will focus on two WinFX technologies, the Windows Communications Foundation and the Windows Workflow Foundation.

The Communications Foundation is Microsoft’s middleware technology to support web services. Microsoft will provide a framework to help customers build customised adapters to bring applications from areas like the mainframe into a web services infrastructure.

With the Workflow Foundation, users who build applications that integrate workflow can track those through BizTalk.

The workflow engine in the server, however, is not built on the Workflow Foundation technology but on a proprietary workflow engine specific to BizTalk. With R2, Microsoft is only supporting integration between the two. Future versions of the server will be built on the Workflow Foundation technology, the company says.

In Office, users will be able to link workflows like those supported in SharePoint Server 2007 for functions such as turning document lifecycle into business processes and tracking those using BizTalk.

Microsoft did not announce pricing or licensing details or when the first beta will be available.

Early previews will be made available to customers and partners that participate in the BizTalk Server 2006 R2 technology adoption programme.

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