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RTM for BizTalk Server 2004

Microsoft on Tuesday said BizTalk Server 2004 is released to manufacturing and will be generally available by April 1. BizTalk Server 2004 is the third release of Microsoft's enterprise integration tool for connecting internal applications or trading partners.

While Microsoft normally announces pricing for its products at RTM, the company unveiled pricing information for BizTalk Server 2004 back in December. Prices for three of the editions are mostly unchanged from the 2002 version: Enterprise Edition is $25,000 per CPU, Standard Edition is $7,000 per CPU and the Partner Edition is $1,000. Microsoft did increase the price of its Developer Edition from $500 to $750, but the new edition now includes a copy of Visual Studio.

Like previous versions of BizTalk, the 2004 server consists of a core engine, development tools, adapters and vertical accelerators to integrate and automate business processes. The new version, which was tested by about 250 of Microsoft's 3,000 BizTalk customers, includes the usual scalability and performance improvements.

But some functionality is new to BizTalk Server 2004. There is a new messaging and orchestration engine for business process management with built-in support for Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which Microsoft calls an emerging standard for linking business processes. Health Activity Tracking is designed to allow administrators to monitor and manage business processes within BizTalk Server environments. Meanwhile, Business Activity Monitoring is supposed to give information workers the ability to monitor business processes from within Excel or SharePoint Portal Server 2003.

A streamlined sign-on process is supposed to improve the verification process for non-Windows users. The new version also boasts improved integration with Visual Studio for developers integrating applications, with Visio for mapping out business processes and with InfoPath 2003, the XML client that is the latest member of the Office suite.

Tyson Hartman, .NET practice director at Avanade, a systems integration and consulting company with broad BizTalk experience, sees the biggest value in work that's been done by Microsoft under the hood of BizTalk Server 2004 to make it a more Web services-oriented product. Avanade, a joint venture of Microsoft and Accenture, is currently involved in eight projects involving pre-release versions of BizTalk Server 2004, and the company has done 75-100 integration projects over the last three years involving the 2000 and 2002 BizTalk versions, according to Hartman.

"I think BizTalk 2004 provides for Microsoft a game-changing capability where we can do a lot more particularly with how BizTalk supports Web services. That inherently opens us up to greater types of solutions than just point-to-point," Hartman says. "The support for exposing and consuming Web services is now completely built into the product. Just as it's all .NET now, back in 2000 no one was doing Web services."

Microsoft's plans call for nine versions of BizTalk Server 2004 in different languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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