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Microsoft Business Network Gets Shut Down

Microsoft is pulling the plug on its Microsoft Business Network, but plans to roll its EDI-like functionality into business applications, the company confirmed Thursday.
Microsoft is pulling the plug on its Microsoft Business Network (MBN) but plans to roll its EDI-like functionality into business applications, the company confirmed Thursday.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant last month had announced its plan to shut down MBN on the network's newsgroup site. Though MBN will cease to operate, the company insisted that it's not dead. Instead, Microsoft aims to expand the network's functionality into future versions of its business management applications, including Axapta 4.0.

"Our customers and partners have indicated that they want more capabilities than what they are receiving today from MBN as a stand-alone application," Microsoft said in a statement released Thursday to CRN. "From a partner perspective, Microsoft will reach out to all partners that we have actively engaged with to determine a plan of action for their MBN customers and educate our partners on the appropriate next steps for any MBN leads in the channel."

A company spokeswoman couldn't specify when Microsoft will cease sales of the MBN online subscription service but said the timetable would be based on the "logistics" of pulling it from the channel.

MBN allows small and midsize businesses to automate the exchange of electronic documents such as purchase orders and quotes between trading partners using XML process templates. The service, first highlighted at Microsoft Business Solutions' North American customer conference in 2003, offers integration with Outlook 2003, Excel 2003 and Microsoft Great Plains.

Microsoft said the collaboration scenarios that MBN enables are "back-office system integration intensive," and the current version of the network doesn't allow Axapta users, for example, to electronically receive a sales order from a customer into their purchase order system and then send the followup documentation. Integrating those capabilities, as well as Web services and XML support in Microsoft Business Solutions applications, will provide better, more seamless business-to-business transactions, according to Microsoft.

One Microsoft partner, who requested anonymity, said he doesn't think the end of MBN is a big deal, since the functionality will be integrated into Microsoft Business Solutions applications. "It was kind of weird. They made a big deal out of it, and then it just disappeared. But this stuff really does need to belong more around BizTalk or with the other MBS apps, because it's really just EDI on steroids," said the partner, a Mid-Atlantic solution provider. "They probably figured out they screwed up and are trying to recover."