Microsoft Pushes BizTalk Into SOA World


Beyond BizTalk Server 2006 Release 2, promised for the first half of next year, BizTalk will evolve to more of a unified process server, said Oliver Sharp, general manager for BizTalk, at Microsoft's Tech Ed 2006 conference in Boston last week.

"There is an opportunity for a unified offering, a comprehensive middle-tier server with business processes as the orienting paradigm," he said.

As another interim step, the Redmond, Wash.-based company plans an adapter framework to ease development of linkages to all sorts of back-office applications. This framework will build atop Microsoft's Windows Communication Foundation.

"If you want to connect to Dynamics or SQL [Server] or BizTalk, all those adapters will be built the same," said Steve Sloan, Microsoft's product manager for BizTalk.

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With that framework, solution providers could build their own links to one-off systems in a uniform way, Sloan said.

"Moving out further, we're beginning to think of things we can deliver not only in the platform, but also [about a] model-driven approach to business process management and next-gen app development," Sloan said. The goal is to line up more with SOAs, something "we'll talk about more in the fall."

BizTalk is Microsoft's EAI platform that competes with pricier and, some say, more functional offerings from BEA Systems, WebMethods and other vendors. Burley Kawasaki, group product manager at Microsoft, said process servers will follow in the footsteps of databases to become a recognized part of the infrastructure.

"As the market evolves, you model the process via BPEL, and it'll become as mature as SQL is today, and there will be a uniform way to do analytics, access and management. In short, they won't be just for integration anymore, but more of a general-purpose foundation," Kawasaki said.

"Let me translate," said one partner. "They're pushing more of BizTalk's guts—workflow, etc.—down into the operating system. But as they do that, the BizTalk team is also moving up the stack," he said.

BizTalk is not Microsoft's only morphing server. Sources said there are no plans for a follow-on product after Microsoft Commerce Server 2007 ships this summer.

Instead, they said, bits and pieces of the server will flow into other products, including BizTalk.

All Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's general manager for application and platform development marketing, would say is, "We will continue to invest in this space and continue to get feedback."