Microsoft issues BizTalk server beta

Microsoft announces the release of the beta version of its Biztalk server which is designed to make it quick and easy for companies to integrate computer systems for B2B e-commerce.

Microsoft Corp. today is releasing the beta version of its long-awaited BizTalk Server, the product the software giant hopes will become the way companies integrate applications and conduct business over the Internet.

Starting today, companies can go to www.microsoft.com/biztalk and download the BizTalk Server applications.

"They can download the product, check it out, play with it, start building with it," said David Wascha, product manger for BizTalk Server, who added that the server is scheduled to launch by the end of the year.

The BizTalk initiative, the key to Microsoft's e-commerce strategy, was announced in March of 1999. Initially, company officials expected the server to enter beta testing in the second half of 1999, but it was delayed until this year.

The orchestrator

The BizTalk Server is designed to make it quick and easy for companies to integrate computer systems for B2B e-commerce. Beyond integration, it also "orchestrates" business processes without the recoding of the underlying applications.

"Once you have integrated to everything else, you need to be able to tell [the B2B system] what to do, tell it what to do when something goes wrong and change what you're telling it," Wascha said.

Tools inside the server do such jobs as build XML (extensible markup language) schema, transform data from various protocols like EDI (electronic data interchange) into XML and track data.

The technology behind the server is the BizTalk Framework, which uses XML to define the way computer systems at different companies talk to each other. The framework, developed in conjunction with such e-business companies as SAP AG, Commerce One and Boeing Co., is currently in the draft 2.0 version and available for review on the Microsoft Web site.

Microsoft hopes the XML used in the BizTalk Framework will be adopted by companies as the standard in B2B e-commerce for how developers use XML to transport data and get applications to work together.

At the moment, there are several other initiatives under way to develop an XML standard, including one by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards and Schema.net.

When the BizTalk Framework was announced, some vendors worried that Microsoft was trying to grab control of the development of an XML standard from OASIS and other standard-setting bodies. Other developers argued that a standard is needed and that Microsoft is as good an entity as anyone to establish that standard.

Microsoft is at www.microsoft.com.