Microsoft has talked up the Australian prospects for BizTalk 2004, an integrated server management system the company claims marks a major step forward for its e-business solution development strategy.
BizTalk 2004 is claimed to enable connectivity between systems, people and trading partners through an easily integrated framework, building on the Microsoft Windows server system and the Microsoft .NET Framework.
The server management system also integrates the Microsoft Office system and Microsoft Visual Studio, creating a single set of tools to operate all functions of the platform.
Harley Sitner, Microsoft's US-based Windows Server System product manager, says Microsoft server products have matured greatly in the past ten years, creating a US$8 billion server tools business.
"Microsoft hasn't always been a credible enterprise server vendor, it was always catching up to a variety of players and in the past four years have made incredible strides and has become a significant server-software vendor," said Sitner.
He said part of the maturation process of Microsoft's enterprise software business was to bring all its server operating systems together into a new family known as the Windows server system.
"Customers no longer want to hear about a database or core operating system, the demand on the IT departments and CIOs to bring all those together is tremendous," said Sitner.
He added that integrated management would cut costs for enterprise IT departments by offering a unified organisation system that spans across historically-divided server departments, allowing customers to automate business processes through shared applications.
"Instead of spending all of this money knitting different server functions together ... we've looked across the database, the business process server, the operating system etc, and we've brought this portfolio of servers together under the Microsoft Visual Studio tool set so that it can deliver new business value while continuing to maintain costs," Sitner said.
Biztalk 2004 has been in development since early 2002, incorporating past system designs with customer input obtained via real-life business trials.
Sarah Bond, Microsoft Australia's eBusiness Servers product manager, says Microsoft is aiming to provide innovation in integrated management, specifically with the information worker in mind.
"Typically people are using BizTalk for application to application integration but when you start thinking about what else you can do, customers can build their own models of business processes that exploit the services of two applications as well as the data between those two things," Bond said.
Business Activity Monitoring is one of the promoted features of the new system, a function that Bond says allows the information worker to monitor business processes in real time using applications that they are presumably already familiar with.
"You can see real time data through tool sets that an information worker will commonly use like Microsoft Excel, the value is that it's integrating with tools that a business person will typically use every day, so extensive training is not needed," said Bond.
Initially part of the Jupiter e-business platform, BizTalk 2004 was disconnected from the server package; yet, Bond maintains that the Jupiter vision hasn't changed.
"The vision of Jupiter is about connecting data applications and people... The reason for having it [BizTalk] separate is because this is the way customers said they would rather purchase it," Bond said.
BizTalk is offered in four editions; Enterprise, Standard, Partner and Developer. Prices for these editions is on par with the 2002 version, starting at US$25,000 CPU for the Enterprise Edition, US$7,000 CPU for the Standard Edition, US$1,000 per CPU for the Partner Edition and US$750 per user for the Developer Edition, which can only be used for development and testing purposes.
"We have provided a way for organisations regardless of size to be able to achieve the results from integration," says Bond.
BizTalk 2004 is launched in the US on 2 March. The product will be available for purchase in Australia as of April.