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BizTalk Server 2006 R2 to Launch in September

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 to include tooling for radio frequency identification technology.

Microsoft in July announced plans to ship BizTalk Server 2006 R2 next month and to bundle the product into a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) software pack that Redmond bills as a complete SOA deployment kit.

BizTalk Server is a central pillar of Redmond's offerings for building SOAs, where it can serve as an enterprise service bus (ESB). The company recently launched a counterpart effort, BizTalk Services, which aims to apply the ESB model in the cloud.

New features in the R2 release include functionality and tooling for working with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Other improvements include improved tooling for Web services-based messaging, support for Availability Statement 2 and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) data, according to Microsoft.

Built for Branches
Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with the SOA consulting firm ZapThink LLC, says the 2006 R2 release "adds a number of significant features with regards to loosely coupled styles of interaction [and] greater capabilities with regards to BizTalk Services, the hosted version, and a number of features that aid in process-driven service creation."

Redmond is also set to offer a "Branch Edition" of BizTalk, which includes the RFID technology. Microsoft is pushing the edition at companies facing hub-and-spoke style connectivity issues, such as retail chains. However, customers must purchase at least one copy of the Enterprise Edition.

"People are certainly investing in SOA for their back-office systems. But what's driving a lot of business is what's happening out at the edge, whether that's a branch, divisional unit or a warehouse, where real-time processes occur," says Burley Kawasaki, director of product management with Microsoft's Connected Systems Division. "Often things that occur out there are out of synch with the core ERP systems in terms of working with the same data and processes."

SOA Stacks Up
Microsoft has also assembled what amounts to the company's first packaged SOA stack. The Service-Oriented Architecture & Business Process pack contains a phalanx of the company's core development tools and back-end components, along with guidance materials.

The bundle includes -- at a 10 percent discounted price -- BizTalk Server 2006 R2, SharePoint Server 2007, Visual Studio Team System, SQL Server 2005, the .NET Framework and four Office Business Applications Reference Application Packs, which are Microsoft guidelines for developing programs on top of Office 2007.

"We're trying to codify our experience and create an integrated licensing offering so you can buy a single SKU and have all the software you need," Kawasaki says. "We think this pack can be a platform for building Office-based composite apps on top of a SOA infrastructure including SharePoint, and use Visual Studio tools for modifying and building Office applications."

Burley Kawasaki
"People are certainly investing in SOA for their back-office systems. But what's driving a lot of business is what's happening out at the edge."

Burley Kawasaki, Director of Product Management, Connected Systems Division, Microsoft

A Question of Value
Schmelzer offers a measured view of the bundle's value. "Well, they call it a SOA pack, but it's really an infrastructure pack that can just as easily help people build composite services that are service-oriented as well as integrated applications and portals that aren't," he argues. "Basically, they're just riding the SOA bandwagon with this one. That's not to say that it doesn't deliver SOA or help with BPM, but not necessarily so. Basically, if you buy this, it's still an exercise for the customer to figure out how to make it service-oriented, process-driven, or what have you."

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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