BizTalk, Microsoft's enterprise integration and messaging server, used to be on a fairly well-defined path. But that roadmap has gotten a lot more vague since Microsoft shipped BizTalk Server 2010 last fall.
According to Microsoft, there are more than 10,000 BizTalk Server customers out there, using the product to integrate Microsoft's business processes with those from other vendors including IBM, Oracle, Siebel, SAP, JD Edwards, etc.
At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles this week, Microsoft offered a session on BizTalk futures. I didn't have a chance to make it, but Richard Seroter, a BizTalk Most Valuable Professional (MVP) provided a nice summary from that session.
Until this week, I was under the impression that there was a BizTalk v.Next in the pipeline. Now, I'm not entirely sure if there will be yet another release of the on-premises version of the BizTalk product. If there is one, it could be two or three years out, Seroter told me, possibly something like a BizTalk Server 2013 which could run on top of SQL Server "Denali" and Windows Server 8.
"They were pretty convincing that there will be maintenance releases moving forward, but not to expect feature releases" beyond that, Seroter said.
From Seroter's write-up:
With BizTalk, "Microsoft is 'only building one thing.' They are taking a cloud first model and then enabling same capabilities for an on premises server. They are going to keep maintaining the current BizTalk Server (for years, potentially) until new on-premises server is available. But it’s going to take a while for the vision to turn into products."
The "they" in BizTalk's case is the Azure AppFabric team. Seroter notes that there's no official statement from Microsoft as to whether the on-premises Windows Server AppFabric technology will be the on-premises server host, meaning the future of that product also is pretty cloudy.
Seroter's conclusion: "Is BizTalk dead? No. But, the product named BizTalk Server is likely not going to be available for sale in 5-10 years."
Microsoft's cloud-first approach with BizTalk going forward isn't unique. The company is doing the same with its CRM product, as well as the Microsoft-hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Lync products, going forward. New features will be pioneered in the cloud versions of each of these before they likely show up in their on-premises complements.