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BizTalk 2006 Availability Set for May 1

Microsoft officially launched BizTalk Server 2006, the latest version of its integration and business process automation server, for the second time this week.

The product was first formally launched with SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 in November, although it was far from ready. Microsoft wanted to underscore the integration of the three products– a development tier in Visual Studio 2005, a data tier in SQL Server 2005 and a business process tier in BizTalk Server 2006.

BizTalk also got an awareness bump by association with its much, much bigger cousins. BizTalk has about 6,000 customers, a significant number for its market but a number SQL Server and Visual Studio attract in the early hours of a beta release.

This time around the code is in hand, with a release to manufacturing last Thursday, and general availability planned for May 1.

Unlike BizTalk Server 2004, the 2006 version isn’t a major code overhaul, according to Steve Martin, director of product management for BizTalk Server. Instead it’s a 24-month “turn of the crank,” Martin said. In its fourth version, BizTalk Server releases have come every two years starting in 2000.

Specific enhancements this time focus on management and monitoring, the business-user experience and support for 64-bit extensions, virtualization and the most recent versions of other Microsoft stack components such as SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005.

Pricing is going up about 20 percent in most cases, but so is the value of the underlying components.

At $30,000 per processor, the Enterprise Edition is 20 percent more expensive than BizTalk Server 2004 Enterprise Edition. The Standard Edition, at $8,500, is a little more than 20 percent more expensive than the original. However, both editions benefit from Microsoft’s acquisition in August of several of the BizTalk adapters created by Microsoft partner iWay Software. Those adapters, which connect BizTalk Server to popular applications from SAP, Oracle and others, previously retailed for $7,500 to $30,000 each. Now all are bundled in the cost of the BizTalk product.

While iWay and other vendors continue to make adapters, and will remain an important partner on the BizTalk product, Martin said Microsoft purchased and bundled the overwhelming majority of adapters that are commonly in use.

“It’s in the box,” Martin said. “You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule? We used the 95/5 rule with the iWay adapters. We bought the ones that supported 95 percent of the use cases.”

Another way Microsoft will add more for the money is by including the Enterprise Edition of Host Integration Server in all editions of BizTalk Server 2006. Purchased standalone, the HIS Enterprise Edition costs $10,000 pet processor. While BizTalk Server is about service-oriented architectures, the HIS inclusion is a nod to the reality that companies have critical data in mainframes and AS/400s that isn’t readily converted into Web services.

The BizTalk Server Standard Edition also now allows two-processor configurations, up from a one-processor ceiling in previous versions. The option could lower the price for running BizTalk on a two-processor system to about a third what it would have been in the BizTalk Server 2004 generation.

The Developer Edition is $500, a cut from the $750 price tag of the Developer Edition of the 2004 version. The edition is included in an MSDN subscription.

There is a severe price increase in one circumstance, however. Customers running the Partner Edition, which formerly could be had for just $1,000 per CPU, are looking at a huge increase. That edition is discontinued and they now must buy the $8,500 per processor Standard Edition to keep current. According to Microsoft, very few customers purchased Partner Edition due to scalability limitations.

The price changes will be relatively transparent to the majority of BizTalk Server customers. About 70 percent of them, or 4,200, are on Software Assurance contracts, guaranteeing them upgrade rights. The high rate of Software Assurance isn’t surprising given the degree of dependency BizTalk Server has on other elements of the Microsoft software stack. Anyone using BizTalk is likely to have a substantial investment in Microsoft technologies even though the product helps connect heterogeneous systems.

In addition to running on Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, the software requires SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 2005. The development tools reside in Visual Studio, and optional features leverage Windows SharePoint Services and Office InfoPath 2003.

About the Author

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

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