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Microsoft BizTalk Talks To More Applications, Servers With Upgrade

The Branch Edition adds support for SWIFT financial transactions, HL7 and HIPAA health information, and AS2 insurance information.

Microsoft's main middleware for building services-oriented architecture, BizTalk Server 2006, has been upgraded to process RFID data and electronic data interchange communications.

At an unveiling in Taiwan, meant to emphasize the supply chain features of BizTalk, Microsoft on Tuesday announced a Branch Edition of the product that allows branch offices to be tied into central BizTalk-based processes.

It's added support for SWIFT financial transactions, HL7 and HIPAA health information, and AS2 insurance information, in addition to RFID and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) processing capabilities.

Release 2 is also accompanied by guidance on how BizTalk can be implemented to function as an enterprise service bus, or ESB. High end service-oriented architectures often add an ESB as a separate piece of middleware on top of their existing messaging systems, such as Java Messaging Service, Microsoft MQ, or IBM WebSphere MQ, the former MQ Series. The ESB translates between different messaging systems, transforms data from one application to another in transit and chooses a rout for the messages to take.

"It's time for Microsoft to articulate the best way to implement an ESB that's both easy and fiscally responsible," said Steven Martin, director of Connected Systems product management. BizTalk support existing messaging transports, such as FTP, SOAP and WebSphere MQ.

The improvements are part of BizTalk Server 2006, Release 2, which became available earlier this week. A Developer edition is priced at $499; the Branch edition, priced at $1,799 per processor, works in a hub and spoke architecture with the Enterprise edition, priced at $34,999 per processor. A Standard edition is priced at $8,499 per processor.

In addition, Microsoft has released as beta code a new set of adapters that connect BizTalk to major ERP applications, such as SAP's or Oracle's Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft applications. They are planned to become generally available in the first half of 2008 and will work with SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as well as BizTalk.

The additions are meant to allow BizTalk to serve as an integrator not only of applications within a company but sources outside the company in the supply chain. "Contrary to popular belief, we do a great job of integrating across platforms," said Martin. New protocols for connecting to IBM's AS/400 servers and mainframes are included in Release 2.

BizTalk users include CHEP, a Brambles company that is the leading leaser of pallets. CHEP tracks its assets using BizTalk. Microsoft says four of the five largest railroads and nine of the 10 largest aerospace companies use BizTalk.

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