Microsofts reported plans to package and integrate its various e-business applications together is drawing both praise and skepticism from its customers and implementation partners.
Published reports indicate that Microsoft plans to package together its BizTalk application integration server and SharePoint Portal Server in a pre-integrated package with its Commerce Server, Content Management Server and Host Integration Server products in a bundle called Jupiter.
Integration with Microsoft Great Plains business applications and a .Net developers toolkit are also expected as part of Jupiter.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., through a spokeswoman refused to comment on the report, saying the company was still focusing on existing versions of those products. Microsoft did announce earlier this month an integration pack joining SharePoint Portal Server and Content Management Server.
"You can expect … that Microsoft will continue to deliver integrated software, documentation, service and support offerings in conjunction with partners based on requirements that customers convey," the spokeswoman said.
While Microsoft is saying little about its plans, some partners are already applauding the strategy.
"Theyre not just bundling the products, theyre creating integrated pieces between the product sets," said William Dunn, president of Dunn Solutions Group, a Microsoft partner in Skokie, Ill. "Theyre creating a complete solution if the customer chooses to use them together."
Dunn said he didnt know when Jupiter would be complete, though he noted that the integration has already begun, since Commerce Server and Content Management Server are well integrated now. He said Jupiter would give Microsoft a competitive offering against other companies like IBM, WebLogic and BroadVision, though likely at a more attractive price point.
"I really dont see a lot of negatives to this," said Dunn. "Theyre not forcing anyone to buy the bundles, you can buy just the products you need.
"This is part of Microsofts strategy to go upstream to the enterprise market and sell more packaged solutions. Well be able to go into a large mid-market company and offer them a complete end-to-end solution thats integrated."
Still, some raised questions about Microsofts strategy.
"At some point, combining all of these applications adds too much complexity when you consider that many companies have separate IT personnel for sales, marketing, and fulfillment," said Dalton Franklin, CEO of Simplicity Technology Corp. a PC reseller in Nashville, Tenn., and a Commerce Server customer.
Dave Gipp, solution developer at Roganstreet Inc., a Web design firm in Bozeman, Mont., and a Commerce Server 2000 customer, said Microsofts plans, while making it more of an enterprise player, could take it out of the mid-market.
"I think the new practice will serve to widen the gap between medium and large e-commerce customers," Gipp said. "Microsoft will lose many mid-size businesses that have grown from the original BackOffice suite, and fewer beginning customers will get drawn into the MS e-commerce world.
"I was on the edge with CS2K, this would definitely push me to a cheaper—and easier to implement—solution, a trade Id make for a slightly less industrial level of robustness."