While Microsoft is set to reveal its specific RTM (release-to-manufacturing) target dates for Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 at the conference, neither product is ready to roll yet. The dates wont be "Dec. 32," as one source close to Microsoft quipped. Instead, they will be sometime this fall, much earlier than the "end of year 2005" targets most company watchers have been projecting.
Microsoft also is expected to highlight new releases of its BizTalk Server integration product; its mainframe-connectivity-focused Host Integration Server; and its forthcoming Commerce Server updates, according to various Microsoft bloggers and other sources.
CTP (community technology preview) releases of all three products are likely to make their debut at next weeks show. CTPs are builds that dont qualify as full-fledged (and supported) betas, but are available to testers who are interested in evaluating new features and functionality.
A near-final CTP of BizTalk Server 2006 is expected to be unveiled at next weeks show. Sources said Microsoft is attempting to time the final release of BizTalk Server 2006 to coincide with the SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 releases later this fall.
The CTP of Commerce Server 2006 is due out next week, with a full-fledged beta slated to follow this fall. Commerce Server 2006 will be tightly integrated with BizTalk 2006, SQL Server Reporting Services and ASP.Net. Microsoft is pitching Commerce Server 2006 as one way to ensure "secure mechanisms for data interchange with business trading partners."
Also on the agenda for this weeks Tech Ed conference, being held in Orlando, Fla., is a "sneak preview" of new Commerce Server technologies due in 2007, including "integration with the next versions of SharePoint Portal Server/Content Management Server," according to the Tech Ed agenda.