Microsoft Hones BizTalks Vertical Teeth

With this week's release of an upgraded RosettaNet add-on, Microsoft's BizTalk Server 2004 now works with supply chain solutions in the electronics and chemical industries, as well as finance, health, and retail. But Java lurks as a fierce competitor.

Microsoft Corp. marked BizTalk Servers fourth anniversary this week by releasing an upgrade to Accelerator for RosettaNet, one of a series of software accelerators thats been helping to widen BizTalks reach across multiple vertical supply chain markets.

Like previous editions of the same product, the new BizTalk Server 2004 Accelerator for RosettaNet is aimed at letting users in the electronics and chemical industries outfit BizTalk Server as a gateway to trading partners.

Yet in the same two verticals, Microsoft faces fierce competition from vendors who are instead using Java to support the XML-based standards defined by the RosettaNet electronic business consortium.

Microsoft is itself a member of RosettaNet, along with longtime rivals such as IBM and Oracle Corp., and more than 450 other firms. Established in 1998, RosettaNet is now a subsidiary of the UCC (Uniform Code Council), an organization that develops standards for the retail supply chain.

Microsoft also produces about 10 other BizTalk accelerators. Some of these are tailored to vertical market supply chain applications such as finance and health care, said Scott Woodgate, group product manager in Microsofts business process and integration division.

The most recent predecessor to Microsofts latest RosettaNet accelerator, known as BizTalk Accelerator for RosettaNet 2, wouldnt support the BizTalk 2004 platform without the addition of custom code, said Rob Helm, an industry analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

"I think the release of the new [RosettaNet] accelerator is a good thing, because it allows customers [in the electronics and chemical fields] to benefit from the advantages of BizTalk 2004," Helm said.

In Helms view, key advantages of BizTalk 2004 include a more scalable messaging system; the ability to customize through .Net programming languages such as Visual Basic and C#; and improved performance for BizTalk Orchestration, Microsofts BPM (business process management) engine.

Moreover, Microsoft is giving BizTalk a degree of vertical market support thats rare among Microsoft products, Helm said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about the upcoming BizTalk Server 2006.

"The BizTalk Server 2004 Accelerator for RosettaNet is the final release in the BizTalk Server 2004 product wave. Microsoft has already released accelerators this year for HL7 [Health Level Seven] and HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] in the health care industry and SWIFT in financial services," Microsofts Woodgate told

In addition, a GDS (global data synchronization) accelerator for BizTalk Server 2004—which provides connectivity to the UCCnet retail trade exchange—is available through Cactus Commerce, a Microsoft ISV partner.

Inotera Memories Inc., which uses the BizTalk Server 2004 Accelerator for RosettaNet, managed to reduce processing time by 90 percent by switching from another platform, according to Woodgate.

"[This] also helped [Inotera] to drive up customer and partner satisfaction, while driving down the costs of integrating new systems or applications," Woodgate said.

But on the non .Net side, competitors in the RosettaNet arena range from giants such as Oracle—which now provides RosettaNet adapters for Oracle Application Server—to smaller specialists in Java technology such as GridNode, a veteran solutions provider for RosettaNet.

Jasmin Young, strategic operations director for GridNode, said that although her companys products also support Windows, GridNodes customers generally prefer operating environments such as Linux and Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X.

"For whatever reasons—often religious—companies either want to use .Net, or they dont want to use .Net," Young said.

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