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Microsoft Releases BizTalk Server 2010 to Manufacturers

Microsoft this week released BizTalk Server 2010 to its hardware manufacturing partners, which means that products will ship to customers soon.

Those products likely will be on the market starting Oct. 1, 2010, according to Microsoft's announcement. BizTalk Server 2010 carries the "2010" brand common to many Microsoft server products released this year. It has been updated to support "Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2, .NET Framework 4 and Visual Studio 2010," Microsoft's announcement explained.

However, the product actually is a renamed version of "BizTalk Server 2009 R2," which was never released as a commercial product. Microsoft announced the renaming to reflect 2010 branding back in March.

BizTalk Server 2010 is Microsoft's "flagship integration product" for business systems, allowing organizations "to maximize the value of existing Line of Business (LOB) systems by integrating and automating their business processes, and putting real-time, end-to-end enterprise integration within reach of every customer," according to the announcement.

The product falls into the enterprise service bus category, a form of middleware used to help enable service-oriented architectures (SOAs) in heterogeneous computing environments. In theory, with SOA systems, business processes can be service enabled and delivered to end users as applications, regardless of the underlying software technologies used and the potential incompatibility of those technologies.

While that's a goal of SOA, Microsoft emphasized the integration of BizTalk Server 2010 with other Microsoft server products. The company's announcement particularly called out the product's integration with SharePoint Server 2010, System Center, and Windows Server AppFabric.

Windows Server AppFabric makes it easier for developers to integrate services into so-called "composite applications," or applications that may pull a number of Web services together for the end user. Microsoft described Windows Server AppFabric, which was released in June for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, as a collection of workflow and caching technologies that support .NET applications.

Microsoft explained in another blog post that Windows Server AppFabric will make it easier for .NET developers to connect line-of-business systems via a new mapping application in BizTalk.

Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, explained that Microsoft has a number of similarly named "AppFabric" technologies. For instance, Windows Azure AppFabric is part of Microsoft's cloud computing platform, while Windows Server AppFabric is a free extension to Windows Server 2008 (and R2) that is "based on the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) messaging and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) workflow platforms."

The two technologies don't talk to each other yet, but that's the general goal.

"In their current releases, Windows Azure AppFabric is a different technology and provides different capabilities than Windows Server AppFabric," Sanfillipo stated by e-mail. "The two AppFabric technologies are expected to converge in future releases, offering services and tools to simplify application deployment on Microsoft's on-premises and cloud-based platforms."

Microsoft also has another Windows Azure "fabric" extension, but that's for datacenters.

"A third Microsoft technology, Windows Azure Fabric, is unrelated to Windows Server AppFabric or Windows Azure AppFabric," Sanfillipo explained. "Windows Azure Fabric runs in Azure datacenters and is responsible for provisioning base software and customer applications onto physical hardware."

Microsoft described a few other improvements to come in BizTalk Server 2010. Performance-tuning functions have been consolidated within a single dashboard, which is called "the management console." The System Center Operations Manager Pack can be used to help monitor general problems in BizTalk Server 2010. Microsoft also enhanced trader partner management capabilities in the product, allowing organizations to better oversee their business-to-business interactions. Users also get support for radiofrequency identification (RFID) applications.

"[BizTalk Server 2010] offers a solution for connecting business applications to RFID devices such as tag readers, which is useful in scenarios such as tracking inventory in distribution centers," Sanfillipo explained.

It's not clear if products such as BizTalk Server 2010 will help IT organizations more readily move to the cloud, a prime business focus for Microsoft. SOA has generally faded from the foreground of IT concerns, largely owing to its complexity and the general economic downturn. However, Ronald Schmelzer, a managing partner at ZapThink LLC., wrote an editorial this week that the march to the cloud as a form of outsourcing is a looming trend. It may represent a potential "crisis point" for IT organizations trying to come to grips with this coming trend.

In addition, Schmelzer described the current IT spending milieu as being on the conservative side.

"I can say that in general the pace of spending for middleware apps in the enterprise is slowing considerably. Simply put, many enterprises already have much of the functionality they need--often times, too much," he explained by e-mail. "We see enterprises focusing less on new middleware investment and more on reuse/shared services and cloud activities that aim to lessen their infrastructure spending, shift costs to third-parties, and remove unneeded complexity."

BizTalk Server 2010 could help with the complexity part, but it's not the best of economic times for acquiring new SOA products.

"Yes, things are more complex than they need to be and maybe BizTalk Server 2010 will simplify this, but in general, we see companies spending less on infrastructure, not more," Schmelzer said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.