Microsoft's BizTalk hits beta

Microsoft on Monday released the first beta of BizTalk Server 2000, which is designed to integrate applications and business partner networks using XML.

BizTalk is the last server to go into beta testing of the seven servers that will make up Microsoft's .Net server lineup. The .Net initiative was announced in June as the company's push for making the Internet the center of its infrastructure servers.

BizTalk is focused on e-commerce with the goal of allowing companies to connect applications across platforms and business partners across the Internet. It is designed to translate data formats into XML Messages, and route the messages between applications and corporate networks.

Critics are watching closely as Microsoft attempts this back-end integration of Microsoft and non-Microsoft platforms, an area that has never been the company's primary focus.

Microsoft hopes to pit BizTalk against IBM's WebSphere application server and WebMethods' B2B line of integration software.

A key feature of the BizTalk beta is a technology Microsoft debuted in June called Orchestration, a graphical tool for defining business processes and modeling them into a workflow such as an approval cycle for a purchase order.

Besides Orchestration, BizTalk features five other key tools: BizTalk Editor, for defining the structure of data; Mapper, for detailing how data will be translated; Management Desk, for tracking data and details of trading deals with business partners; Administrative Tool, for managing the BizTalk Server; and Document Tracking Tool, a data-mining feature.

Besides XML, BizTalk supports a number of transport and other protocols including electronic data interchange, HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, Microsoft Message Queue Server and flat-file transfer.

Earlier this month, Microsoft set up a .Net Enterprise Server Division, which will be led by Senior Vice President Paul Flessner. The division will oversee the development of BizTalk, as well as Exchange 2000 Server, SQL Server 2000, Application Center 2000, Host Integration Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, and Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000.

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