Just about a year ago, after a lengthy silence, the Microsoft BizTalk team shared a brief update on its next release. This week, Microsoft made a beta of the next on-premises version of Microsoft's enterprise-integration server.
The next release of BizTalk is not going to be called BizTalk Server 2010 R2. Instead, it's going to be BizTalk Server 2013. It still is on track to support Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 and to integrate with Visual Studio 2012.
Last we heard, the new BizTalk was due out six months after Windows 8 -- which could have meant February 2013 if Microsoft is counting from the release-to-manufacturing date, or April 2013 if the Softies were measuring from general availability. Microsoft's official word, via a spokesperson, is there will be a Release Candidate for BizTalk Server 2013 in "early 2013" and the RTM will be avilable in the second half of calendar 2013.
Based on clues dropped by the Redmondians a year-plus ago, BizTalk Server 2013 could be the last on-premises version of BizTalk. Going forward, Microsoft is adopting a cloud-first model for BizTalk, company officials have said. BizTalk can run in the persistent virtual machine on Windows Azure. "It will also have new adapters to the Windows Azure Service Bus Queues and Topics for building hybrid cloud applications," the spokesperson said.
Update: Maybe this isn't the last release of on-premises BizTalk after all. Could "user feedback" have led to a change in plans? A reader sent in this TechEd session link, in which Microsoft officials said this year that there would be future releases of BizTalk for some years to come.
What specifically is part of the BizTalk 2013 beta beyond those out-of-the-box cloud services adapters? Here's Microsoft's short list:
• RESTful services – BizTalk Server 2013 Beta provides adapters to invoke REST endpoints as well as expose BizTalk Server artifacts as a RESTful service.
• Enhanced SharePoint adapter, allowing SharePoint-BizTalk integration wtih a file share. "We have removed the need for dependency on SharePoint farms, while still providing backward compatibility," Microsoft's site says.
• Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Toolkit integration.
As of 2011, according to Microsoft, there were more than 10,000 BizTalk Server customers using the product to integrate Microsoft's business processes with those from other vendors including IBM, Oracle, Siebel, SAP, JD Edwards, etc.
The beta of BizTalk Server 2013 is available for public download from Microsoft's Download Center.