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BizTalk Server R2 Ships With SOA Flavor

Branch offices are part of the focus in the latest version of BizTalk Server from Microsoft , which began shipping Release 2 of the business process management product.

The new release, dubbed BizTalk Server 2006 Release 2 (R2), adds native support for electronic data interchange (EDI) and radio frequency identification (RFID) . The idea with the release is to connect RFID-enabled devices to business processes.

But R2 is also seen as an emerging key to Microsoft's "software plus services" strategy -- otherwise known as its computing in the cloud strategy, as well as a messaging infrastructure for service oriented architecture .

Microsoft said R2 adds integration with Microsoft's Windows Communications Foundation (WCF), the messaging infrastructure technology provided in both Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows Server 2008.

"[With R2], BizTalk becomes the anchor product for Microsoft's service-oriented architecture offerings," Steven Martin, director of connected systems product management, told Internetnews.com.

The Branch Edition version, which is also shipping, is designed for "connecting intra-organization hub-and-spoke supply-chain processes."

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 was initially scheduled to ship in the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is shipping beta 2 of its BizTalk Adapter Pack. Final release of the Adapter Pack, which provides integration support for an array of enterprise applications such as SAP and Siebel, is set for the first half of 2008.

"[For instance], a SharePoint developer might use the adapters to get information directly out of Siebel … or a .NET developer would use them to get data in and out of back-end systems," Martin said.

The goal, he added, is to make BizTalk Server "a single platform for application integration, supply chain integration, and process integration, which is what customers have been asking for, for a long time."

Support for WCF is key to the company's longer-term vision, according to one analyst who tracks Microsoft.

"R2 is strategically interesting because it shows how Microsoft plans to hook WCF and the Windows Workflow Foundation to existing applications like Siebel or SAP," Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft, told Internetnews.com. "It's Microsoft's move to support a messaging infrastructure for service-oriented architectures."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told Internetnews.com that BizTalk Server 2006 R2 also plays a role in Microsoft's emerging "cloud" computing initiative. "It's one of the core engines behind 'software plus services,' plus it's a proof of concept for SOA," Enderle said.