WinOE To Make Beta Play

According to sources, the workflow code, currently dubbed WinOE (Windows orchestration engine), is a set of XML schemas, APIs and workflow components for Visual Studio 2005 that will enable more business-process automation on the Microsoft platform.

Built from the ground up by Microsoft's BizTalk team, WinOE is expected to be generally available in mid-2006 first as an add-on for the .Net framework and the Whidbey version of Visual Studio. Microsoft plans to offer later in the year an enhanced version of WinOE as an add-on service for Windows XP, 2000 and the next generation of Windows, code-named Longhorn. The Redmond, Wash.-based vendor plans to make its future applications—including Office 12, SharePoint Portal Server, Content Management Server, CRM, Microsoft Business Solutions and BizTalk 2006—"WinOE-aware," sources said.

"WinOE is the next evolution of orchestration that will work across all Microsoft products," one partner said. BizTalk 2006, code-named Pathfinder and slated for beta-testing by year's end, will use the existing workflow orchestration engine based on Visio. Its successor, due in 2008, will use the new WinOE, sources said.

One potential upside of a consistent framework would ease workflow between the disconnected parts of Microsoft's portfolio, they said. "It is easier for me now to connect J.D. Edwards to MS-CRM than it is for me to do the same with Great Plains and MS-CRM," said one source in the Northwest.

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A workflow ISV said WinOE will provide about 50 percent of the functionality needed. "They're providing a lot of APIs and assemblies and putting it out there raw," said Scott Tattrie, research director at Captaris, Bellevue, Wash. "We'll take advantage of the underlying workflow capabilities of Microsoft."

One solution provider said it will enable business-process automation. "A Microsoft Workflow engine that would work with all of the servers and clients and business applications would be a great product," said Andy Vabulas, CEO of IBIS, a Microsoft partner in Norcross, Ga.