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BizTalk Server 2009 Beta Advances SOA

Microsoft releases the first public beta of BizTalk Server 2009, its integration platform based on service-oriented architecture.

An upgrade of Microsoft's BizTalk Server -- the integration platform that's based on service-oriented architecture (SOA) and set for release this year -- is now available for beta testing. Microsoft last month released the first public beta of BizTalk Server 2009, along with documentation and tooling to simplify the development and deployment of enterprise service bus (ESB) connectors.

The live version of BizTalk Server 2009 is still on pace to ship in the first half of this year, says Burley Kawasaki, a director with Microsoft's Connected Systems Division. "It's a feature complete release," Kawasaki says of the beta.

There are no major surprises in the beta, says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ken Vollmer, but it's an important upgrade to the current release: BizTalk Server 2006 R2. "BizTalk has been widely used for low-end B2B connectivity, but it's gradually maturing and growing into a much more capable product in the enterprise-integration space," Vollmer says.

BizTalk Server is a key component of Microsoft's SOA strategy, and as reported last month it arrives as shops will be under increased scrutiny to justify their SOA investments (see "Will SOA Fly in 2009?" Dec. 15, 2008).

Giving Guidance
Along with the beta, Microsoft released a community technology preview (CTP) of what it calls version 2 of its enterprise service bus guidance, or ESB 2.0. In addition to documentation of best practices for creating connectors using BizTalk Server, ESB 2.0 includes pre-built components and models, Kawasaki says.

With the new guidance, Microsoft is taking advantage of the latest capabilities in Visual Studio 2008 and adding new visual tooling to allow developers to define and update their ESB topologies inside Visual Studio. "People are looking to get up and running faster on SOA in general, but ESB types of patterns in particular," Kawasaki says.

As part of the effort, Microsoft has also added a new Web-based portal that lets developers add new publishers or subscribers onto the bus without any development work, he adds.

"It's a self-service model," he says. "Rather than having to call up a corporate IT director who knows how to modify or extend the bus, I can now just self-service and add an onramp to the bus itself. It will help reduce the amount of effort and cost."

Anush Kumar, CTO and Director of Business Development, S3Edge Inc. "The RFID space has relied heavily on custom integration code. Our platform completely lowers the need to do that."
Anush Kumar, CTO and Dir.of Business Dev. S3Edge Inc.

Connections
BizTalk Server 2009 supports the latest versions of Microsoft's .NET platform, notably the Windows Communications Foundation component of .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 (SP1). With that comes support for Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and the latest releases of SQL Server and Windows Server. It also will support native Hyper-V, improved clustering, improved failover clustering and added adaptors and host integration interfaces. It has a new registry based on the UDDI 3.0 specifications.

For development organizations, BizTalk Server 2009's new application lifecycle management capability includes support for Microsoft's Team Foundation Server, which the company says lets teams leverage integrated source code, track bugs and integrate with Project Server. It also supports the automation of builds via the company's MSBuild platform.

Developers performing custom .NET development can now connect to BizTalk and map any artifacts that BizTalk manages into their applications, according to Kawasaki. "Those can now be managed just like you would source code," he says.

BizTalk Server Drives RFID

In its push to position its BizTalk Server for applications based on radio frequency identification (RFID), Microsoft released the BizTalk RFID Standards Pack and RFID Mobile.

The former is a BizTalk server module that supports key RFID standards, including Tag Data Translation and Low-Level Reader Protocol. The standards provide compatibility among the various tags and readers used in RFID implementations.

RFID Mobile runs on Windows Mobile and Windows CE-based devices, and provides a common API for all device types running the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework and remote management of those devices.

"It gives you an object model to write rich applications on top of," says Anush Kumar, CTO and director of business development at Portland, Ore.-based S3Edge Inc., a Microsoft business partner that's building out RFID implementations using BizTalk Server.

RFID uses RF-based tags and readers, and is commonly used in the retail sector to track the movement of inventory. Because of its cost, it's typically used in supply chains and for the tracking of high-value inventory, not commodity items. The use of RFID is also growing in other key verticals including health care, military and transportation, among others, says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ken Vollmer. "The usage will become more commonplace as it matures," Vollmer says.

Until April of last year, SG3 Edge's Kumar was one of the original members of the RFID development team in Microsoft's Connected Systems Division. He and several other team members left Microsoft to join S3 Edge, a start-up that sees a growing market for mobile warehouse-management systems that use RFID to track items. S3 Edge is looking to use the new Microsoft modules and BizTalk Server to grow the number of RFID implementations it can develop.

"The RFID space has relied heavily on custom integration code," Kumar says. "Our platform completely lowers the need to do that. We're building those templates that let customers configure and deploy in a rapid amount of time."
-- J.S.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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