Microsoft outlines plans for 'integration as a service' on Azure

Microsoft outlines plans for 'integration as a service' on Azure

Summary: Microsoft officials have been talking up plans for the successor to the company's BizTalk Server 2010 product for a while now. It wasn't until last week's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), however, that the cloud angle of Microsoft's plans for its BizTalk integration server became clearer.

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Microsoft officials have been talking up plans for the successor to the company's BizTalk Server 2010 product for a while now. It wasn't until last week's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), however, that the cloud angle of Microsoft's plans for its BizTalk integration server became clearer.

Based on an October 28 post to the BizTalk Server Team blog, it sounds as though Microsoft is thinking about BizTalk vNext evolving into something like a "BizTalk Azure" offering (akin, at least in concept, to Windows Azure and SQL Azure).

From the blog post:

"Our plans to deliver a true Integration service – a multi-tenant, highly scalable cloud service built on AppFabric and running on Windows Azure – will be an important and game changing step for BizTalk Server, giving customers a way to consume integration easily without having to deploy extensive infrastructure and systems integration."

Microsoft's goal is to deliver a preview release of (what I'm going to be calling from now on out) BizTalk Azure in calendar year 2011 and deliver updates every six months. (There's no word in the post as to the final release target.) There's also no word as to whether there will be both a server and a service version of BizTalk vNext -- which seemed to be the plan in 2009 when Microsoft shared some very early roadmap information about its BizTalk plans. I've asked Microsoft for clarification on this point.

Update: There is, indeed, going to be an on-prem version of BizTalk vNext, too. And the final version is due out in 2012. From a Microsoft spokesperson:

“We will deliver new cloud-based integration capabilities both on Windows Azure (as outlined in the blog) as well as continuing to deliver the same capability on-premises. This leverages our AppFabric strategy of providing a consistent underlying architecture foundation across both services and server.  This will be available to customers in the 2 year cadence that is consistent with previous major releases of BizTalk Server and other Microsoft enterprise server products.”

Microsoft released to manufacturing the latest on-premises-software version of BizTalk (BizTalk Server 2010) in September 2010. BizTalk Server 2010 is a minor release of Microsoft’s integration server that supports Visual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2, Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft officials are being careful in how they are positioning BizTalk Azure, as there are currently more than 10,000 BizTalk Server customers out there (who pay a pretty penny for the product). The Softies were careful to note that Microsoft will insure that existing customers can move to the Azure version "only at their own pace and on their own terms." To make sure apps don't break, Microsoft plans to provide side-by-side support for BizTalk Server 2010 and BizTalk Azure, officials said, as well as to provide "enhanced integration" between BizTalk and AppFabric (both Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabric).

Microsoft rolled out last week the first CTP (Community Technology Preview) of the Patterns and Practices Composite Application Guidance for using BizTalk Server 2010, Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabric together as part of an overall composite application solution. Microsoft also previewed a number of coming enhancements to Windows Azure AppFabric at last week's confab.

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles the positioning of BizTalk vs. AppFabric, going forward, as well. As Daniel Probert, a consultant and blogger, noted in a recent post, while AppFabric won't be replacing BizTalk, BizTalk will become part of AppFabric. Probert blogged, "A reasonable question to ask would be: why can't I write an AppFabric application today which effectively replaces what BizTalk does? The answer is: you can. Sort of."

Any BizTalk customers out there who have thoughts to share on the viability of BizTalk in the cloud?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Microsoft, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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