Although Microsoft Corp.s launch event this week for SQL Server 2005, Visual Basic 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 is a developer-focused event, users will find enhancements to BizTalk that show the integration server being prepped for a bigger role in Microsofts process development and integration strategy.
The upgrade of BizTalk, due in the first half of next year, will bring new capabilities for business intelligence and BAM (business activity monitoring). New BI capabilities will provide the ability for users to aggregate information to get a historical look at process performance. BAM capabilities in BizTalk Server 2006, on the other hand, will provide proactive notification on the health of a running process.
The upgrades are a big plus for Javier Mariscal, president of IT consultancy Two Connect Inc. and a BizTalk developer.
"Now there is no real view into processes," said Mariscal in Miami. "Youre going to be able to develop applications where one order is followed from end to end, as a process, and there is an instance and a view. At any point in time, you can get a graphical view of the process. Tie that in to BAM, and everything that is happening in real time can be reported in a BAM portal. Its a whole new way of looking at development."
BizTalk 2006 also adds the capability for developers to aggregate all the moving parts of process automation— business rules, data translation maps and workflow orchestrations—and deploy them as an application.
"So with what we think of as a business process server, were going to give developers the ability to build and deploy a process, much the same way we do an application," said Steven Martin, director of the BizTalk Server group at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. "There are lots of components that go into building a process, and this pulls it all together."
Microsoft also has winnowed eight separate management consoles down to three: BizTalk Administration Console, Microsoft Operations Manager, and Health and Activity Tracking.
This weeks launch event brings together SQL Server, Visual Basic and BizTalk for a reason, said Martin. "The underlying development execution environment is the same, so that when a developer sits down to work on custom code in SQL, the environment is the same in BizTalk. Thats leveraged by Visual Studio," he said.
The 2006 version of BizTalk is being designed around the current version of .Net, which is being upgraded to its second generation, to provide a smoother upgrade from BizTalk to the next version of .Net. At the same time, BizTalk 2006 will provide a bridge to the upcoming Windows Workflow Foundation, common workflow that will be deployed across Microsofts stack.
"The idea is that in a future version of BizTalk, it will essentially take on this new Windows Foundation internally as the foundation for doing process orchestration," said Charles Young, principal consultant with Solidsoft Ltd., in Basingstoke, England.