Microsoft to Support AS2, EDI, and RFID with BizTalk Server
Published: June 7, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft this week promised a slew of supply chain enhancements to BizTalk Server 2006, including native support for the EDI and AS2 communication protocols, and a new set of services supporting RFID technology. Microsoft plans to make the new enhancements available in BizTalk Server 2006 Release 2 (R2), which it expects to ship in the first half of 2007.
Microsoft's BizTalk Server has traditionally filled the role of application integration middleware, providing a way for planning the orchestration of integration among various disparate databases and transactional systems that customers may have, via visual mapping tools like Visio, and also executing the integration on a server.
The most recent release of the product, BizTalk Server 2006, which Microsof released to manufacturing in April, contained numerous ERP and database adapters that Microsoft purchased last fall from iWay Software. Now, with BizTalk Server 2006 R2, Microsoft is further evolving the product into areas traditionally served by business partners.
Instead of purchasing a separate product from developers of EDI translation software, such as Inovis, Sterling Commerce, Extol, nuBridges, and a dozen others, Windows shops will be able to obtain that functionality with the BizTalk Server integration software.
Microsoft plans to support the EDIFACT and X12 EDI standards with the new release. It also plans to support Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), the protocol used for securely transmitting EDI transactions over HTTP, with BizTalk Server 2006 R2. Both of these protocols are widely used in a variety of industries; AS2 is predominantly used in the consumer processed goods supply chain, thanks in large part to a technology mandate set by Wal-Mart several years ago.
Microsoft also plans to support another technology made popular mostly due to a Wal-Mart mandate on its suppliers: radio frequency identification (RFID). Microsoft says the new RFID services capability in BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will serve to "reduce the complexity associated with the management of intelligent RFID device hardware by connecting real-time RFID events to relevant supply-chain processes and back-end business applications."
The RFID services will utilize a set of open APIs that Microsoft business partners, such as Unisys, can use to create an end-to-end solution for customers. "With BizTalk Server 2006 R2 and Unisys' Global Visible Commerce solutions, organizations will be able to make better decisions by knowing exactly what goods and assets are where, and do so with a low-cost, scalable solution for managing data, devices, and integration," says Peter Regen, vice president of Global Visible Commerce for Unisys.
Whether BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will be a "low-cost" solution remains to be seen, as Microsoft says it's waiting for feedback from customers and partners before it sets a price for the product. The original release of BizTalk Server 2006 costs $30,000 per processor, a $5,000 per processor increase from the previous release.
BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will also support the new WinFX programming model that Microsoft is building into Windows Vista and the next release of Windows Server, codenamed "Longhorn." The new release will also bring a new adapter framework built on the Windows Communication Foundation component of the WinFX model that makes it easier for users to build custom adapters.
Microsoft is accepting applications from prospective R2 beta testers for its Technology Adoption Program (TAP) at connect.microsoft.com.