The software giant bolsters BizTalk Server 2004 with data integration abilities, but its enterprise features still do not stack up to its rivals.
With the third edition of its online application server, released Tuesday
, Microsoft has substantially strengthened the business-to-business, e-business and data integration features of BizTalk Server 2004. But the package still has a long way to go before it has the broad enterprise-scale features of its key competitors, IBMs WebSphere and BEA Systems WebLogic.
The key new features in BizTalk Server 2004 include business process management, which allows the server to orchestrate and execute complex instructions to monitor multiple data systems, gather data from multiple sources, and exchange data between trading partners. This includes support for Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which is a proposed industry standard for programming business processes that can exchange data among trading partners, applications and business users.
Click here for eWEEK Labs early look at BizTalk Server 2004.
The business process management capability is backed by an enhanced business rules engine designed to enable developers to create more flexible and sophisticated rules that guide the operation of e-business applications.
The new edition also improves support for an enterprise single sign-on capability, which provides a common sign-on routine for Windows and non-Windows users who are accessing business applications that link up multiple trading partners or sites.
Microsoft has even included a Health Activity Tracking feature that enables the applications to monitor and report on whether business processes are performing accurately and reliably. Furthermore, Business Activity Monitoring provides real-time reports of business process performance through Excel spreadsheets or through the Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003.
Another key goal of BizTalks designers was to make it easier for business managers and analysts to work with developers to define business processes and create applications that link desktops to back-end data stores. As a result, the server package is integrated with Microsoft Office Visio 2003, to give business analysts and managers diagramming and data visualization tools to help them work with developers to shape application design.
It is features like this that will make the package productive and attractive to business managers, said Ted Kummert, Microsofts recently appointed corporate vice president of the E-Business Servers Group. Tools like the diagramming and business process management features give customers "rapid time to value advantages that are a substantial differentiator" from competing servers, Kummert said.
The BizTalk Server announcement marks the first major launch event that Kummert has participated since he took the helm of the E-Business Servers Group in early January.
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