REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 14, 2000 — With the rise of the digital economy and the advent of fantastic new technologies for sharing and processing information has come the promise of entirely new ways of doing business. The vision: seamless electronic networks that allow companies to manage the exchange of goods, services, and market intelligence automatically, not only within their own organization, but across their entire value chain of partners and suppliers. The result: a new kind of commerce characterized by once-unimaginable efficiency and transaction costs approaching zero.
So far at least, the reality has failed to live up to the promise. The combination of faster, more powerful computers and the Internet has, of course, led to new opportunities for business through increased efficiency, greater speed, and the possibility of global reach. But the new technology has also introduced unprecedented challenges. The complexity and cost of sharing data over proprietary and private networks and across often-incompatible applications has made the kind of friction-free commerce businesses have long envisioned almost unachievable.
That is about to change. A new product from Microsoft is about to deliver on this promise for companies of all sizes. Called Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000, and now available in beta release, it offers the tools and infrastructure needed to allow e-commerce business communities to integrate, manage, and automate business processes across boundaries that once seemed insurmountable.
“In the B2B economy, I want all of the resources that are important to my business–whether it’s my own employees, my suppliers, or my partners–tied into a single network that takes the cost and complexity out of the day-to-day job of running a business,”
says David Wascha, Microsoft’s Product Manager for BizTalk Server 2000.
“To attempt to do that today, you need a small army of high-priced developers and a lot of time, and there is no guarantee that when they are done you’ll have what you are aiming for. BizTalk Server 2000 is the first product that includes all of the functionality that businesses need to build dynamic business processes that are linked together seamlessly over the Internet.”
BizTalk Server 2000 is just one member of Microsoft’s comprehensive family of .NET Enterprise Servers. Designed for mission-critical performance, the .NET Enterprise Servers offer the reliability and manageability required for the global Web-enabled enterprise. With XML built in, the .NET Enterprise Servers attain high levels of integration and interoperability. With production-ready applications and the world’s largest partner base of developers and software vendors, .NET Enterprise Servers will deliver fast time-to-market for the Web-ready enterprise.
The .NET Enterprise Servers include SQL Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, Application Center 2000, Host Integration Server 2000, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, and Exchange Server 2000. The .NET Enterprise Servers will make it possible for organizations to build the secure, reliable, highly scalable commerce infrastructure required for business-to-consumer, business-to-business, and hosted Web applications.
Microsoft’s .NET Enterprise Servers, including BizTalk Server 2000, are already being deployed by leading companies to build comprehensive Web-based business networks. One example is Honeywell, which has worked closely with KPMG Consulting and Microsoft to create a series of e-business portals including MyAircraft, a joint venture with United Technologies Corporation and i2 Technologies, Inc. Honeywell utilized Dot.Ramp, a solution developed by Microsoft and KPMG to help buyers and sellers connect quickly to B2B marketplaces.
“The widespread use of the Internet is providing the opportunity for delivering high-value applications and solutions to the markets we serve,”
said Russel McMeekin, president of e-business at Honeywell.
“The Web is becoming a vital part of our day-to-day business strategy. We are pleased to see Microsoft and KPMG Consulting simplify the rapid implementation process of extending supplier business processes online. The solution this framework provides is invaluable for delivering the best customer experience through our sites every day.”
The Power of Any-to-Any
To build the kind of powerful e-business networks that pioneers like Honeywell are starting deploy, there are three essential business problems that have to be addressed. Step one, called Enterprise Application Integration, requires developing technology that integrates applications so that all types of data can be exchanged seamlessly. Step two, Business to Business Integration, involves creating the infrastructure that will allow companies to link their systems together no matter what hardware and software they are using. The final step is Business Orchestration, which allows companies to automate their processes and manage them dynamically.
BizTalk Server 2000 was built specifically to tackle these challenges.
“BizTalk Server 2000 solves these critical business problems and the results are quite profound,”
“Until now, companies have struggled to build comprehensive Internet solutions. With BizTalk Server 2000, businesses will have a single tool that will let them tie all the pieces together quickly and affordably.”
To facilitate the integration of applications and businesses, BizTalk Server 2000 includes a host of new features and technologies, such as intelligent document routing and fault-tolerant document delivery. An XLS Transformation engine allows BizTalk Server 2000 to convert data of all types into a single common format. BizTalk Server 2000’s application integration components make it easy for companies to integrate with a wide range of line-of-business applications. Because it works seamlessly with Microsoft Host Integration Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2000 even makes it possible to tie in with legacy systems such as mainframes and AS/400s. A pair of graphical tools called BizTalk Editor and BizTalk Mapper greatly simplifies the task of tying applications and systems together.
The result is something Wascha calls any-to-any integration.
“Let’s take a purchase order as an example,”
“Everyone has their own notion of how to represent the information that order contains–I might use XML, you might use EDI; you might call the thing being ordered one thing and I might call it another. With BizTalk Server 2000, data of any type is easily translated into a form that everyone can use and understand, no matter what system they are using. That’s a critical step, and until now it has been hugely expensive to achieve.”
A New Way to Think About Business Processes
Any-to-any integration opens the door to business process orchestration, a powerful new tool that allows businesses to digitally describe the way they conduct their day-to-day operations so that they can take place automatically over the Internet. This is an extremely complex task. Take Wascha’s purchase order as an example. Even with a mechanism that allows you to share the data in that document seamlessly and reliably, it is still a long way from friction-free electronic commerce. Once a purchase order is filled out, there is usually a complicated chain of events that has to occur, and each link in that chain may involve a different person or a separate application. How do you ensure that the document is routed correctly? How do you keep track of shipping, receiving, and payment? What about the review and approval process?
Increasing the complexity is the fact that business is extremely dynamic. In today’s business environment, business processes must be able to change almost instantly as new suppliers and partners are added to a value chain.
BizTalk Server 2000’s BizTalk Orchestration technology makes it possible for a developer to easily define a business process and then connect the applications, protocols, and transports that are needed to implement that process. Entirely flexible in the choice of hardware and software it allows, BizTalk Orchestration also makes it possible to modify and maintain a process without disrupting the underlying implementation, and it is designed to incorporate changes ranging from technology upgrades to the addition of new elements and participants in the process without having to throw away work that has already been done.
“BizTalk Orchestration is a technology for designing, building and executing dynamic business interactions that span organizations, platforms, applications and people,”
“Today you’d have to literally spend millions of dollars to accomplish this. With BizTalk Server 2000, we’re placing this power in the hands of businesses of all sizes.”
According to Wascha, this combination of integration and orchestration is an indication that Internet technology is moving into a new phase. The results will be revolutionary as companies forge entirely new ways to interact and do business.
“The Internet and technologies like XML are just reaching the point of maturity where companies are starting to say, ‘let’s connect all of our internal applications’ and ‘let’s use the Internet to start connecting with business partners.’ But what they are finding is that there is still this huge problem of orchestration,”
“BizTalk Server 2000 is coming out at exactly the time when people need this technology to solve this problem. The great thing is that it takes the pain out of tying together partners and implementing powerful, widely distributed business processes. That means people will be able to sit down and really figure out how to use the Internet to advance their businesses. So far, I think they’ve been so caught up in dealing with technology that they really haven’t had a chance to think it through.”