BizTalk 2004 Preps Devs for Integration Projects

Microsoft's BizTalk 2004, slated to ship April 1, will begin to set the stage for many enterprise developers, .NET and Java, to get more accustomed to participating in integration-driven project work, according to analysts and partners IDN spoke with this week. Get insights into how BizTalk 2004 might begin to change the developer landscape at your firm.

Tags: BizTalk, Business Processes, Integration, Developers, Support, Enterprise, Partners,


Microsoft's BizTalk 2004, slated to ship April 1, will begin to set the stage for many enterprise developers, .NET and Java, to get more accustomed to participating in integration-driven project work, according to analysts and partners IDN spoke with this week. Get insights into how BizTalk 2004 might begin to change the developer landscape at your firm.

Microsoft's BizTalk 2004, slated to ship April 1, will begin to set the stage for many enterprise developers, .NET and Java, to get more accustomed to participating in integration-driven project work, according to analysts and partners IDN spoke with this week. Get insights into how BizTalk 2004 might begin to change the developer landscape at your firm.

Microsoft partners and analysts told IDN that with the release of BizTalk 2004 next month, even with its uncoupling from more grand content and portal products, the core BizTalk platform upgrades or adds many integration-friendly features.

Improved business-process automation and taking a lot of the hard-coding away from projects are keys that will drive senior staff to explore using BizTalk in their back offices, right alongside Java/J2EE and enterprise applications, Patrick Petschel, marketing director, Enterprise Microsoft Services, HP Services told IDN.

"NET versus J2EE can be a religious war, or it can be a fact of life," Petschel told IDN. "In the next 6-9 months, I think there will be a lot of opportunities for developers looking to use BizTalk because of the improved support for business processes, as well as BizTalk's lead in support of web services standard technologies, like XML and SOAP, over J2EE."

Inside BizTalk 2004's Integration Story
BizTalk includes a core set of BPM (business process management) templates that made it much easier for developers, and even non-developers, to integrate a complex business process across two or more different systems, he added. "A lot of this integration couldn't have been done three years ago with any product," P added. "It was simply a largely manual process," Petschel said.

He told IDN that although Microsoft may have "taken some lumps" with its earlier version of BizTalk, Microsoft engineers have also been listening and customers have been telling them what they want. "As a result," Petschel said, "there may not be a lot of rip-and-replace" of J2EE app servers with BizTalk 2004, "but a lot of our customers are looking at it for the integration support BizTalk 2004 provides."

HP Services is already working with or in discussions with many Fortune 500 firms about implementing BizTalk 2004. One project, launched in December 2003 during the beta release of BizTalk 2004, will go live March 18th. A Korean joint venture between Samsung and Total Fina Elf, which comprises some 16 different business units will use BizTalk 2004/.NET to integrate their systems and manage day-to-day workflow across multiple systems.

Productivity on the integration aspects of the project were a massive concern, Petschel said, noting that with BizTalk 2004 improvements for business process management (BPM)/workflow support, along with expanded integration adapter support, deployment times were cut roughly by 50%. Petschel particularly noted the expended library of BPM templates within BizTalk 2004, which will likely become a core part of the broader..NET patterns library slated for release later this year.

Ronald Schmelzer, a senior analyst with Zapthink, a web services research firm in Waltham, Mass. also says there is a window of opportunity for BizTalk 2004, even in heavy J2EE back offices. " BizTalk is a tooling for enabling integration. So, while I don't expect big rip-and-replace[ments] from Java, but I can see where it's quite possible that BizTalk's [2004] support for XML and other web services ahead of Java may capture some interest."

Microsoft's Integration Vision for BizTalk
In an interview last week with CRN, Ted Kummert, Microsoft's corporate vice president of e-business servers, who presided over the launch, shared comments on their "BizTalk-to-any" stand toward integration support. In part, the interview reads:

CRN: Some of your partners say with this new version of BizTalk, the rules are changing. Customers are now looking at IBM, Microsoft and BEA Systems for integration, not necessarily the pure-play Tibcos, WebMethods, etc. Do you agree?

Kummert: Yes. Customers want a comprehensive platform, basic integration, EAI as well as connectivity to business partners to enable trading. And they want a platform that can really scale up. They say, 'Give me orchestration capabilities, tools to construct them easily and quickly.' Customers want a comprehensive solution. Read the entire CRN interview with Ted Kummert.

In addition to the application integration capabilities found in previous versions, BizTalk Server 2004 delivers new capabilities to enable enterprises to more effectively manage and apply rules to business processes, connect to trading partners, and analyze the health of their business processes. The new functionality in BizTalk Server 2004 includes the following:
  • a scalable messaging and orchestration engine for business process management (BPM), including support for Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), an emerging standard for linking business processes between trading partners, applications and business users.
  • Integration with Visual Studio .NET 2003 enables developers to build, orchestrate and manage business processes using a highly productive integrated development environment
  • Enterprise single sign-on streamlines the sign-on verification process for Windows and non-Windows users accessing line-of-business applications.
  • Highly scalable business rule engine enables business analysts to create flexible and more-responsive rules and policies around business processes.

    Moreover, Microsoft has other add-in options that could help simplify developer projects.

    Using the business activity monitoring engine in BizTalk Server 2004, for example, end users can access data from business processes in real time from their desktop, allowing them to make decisions and react more quickly to changing business conditions. BizTalk Server can integrate directly with the Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 information-gathering program that allows BPM rules and processes to be shared via eforms.



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