Q&A: Helping Customers Accelerate Their Business with Microsoft’s Application Platform

REDMOND, WASH., March 27, 2006 – November 7 marked the beginning of the worldwide launch of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006 – one of the most significant product launches in the history of Microsoft’s server and tools business – with 320 worldwide events and over 225,000 attendees. Today’s release to manufacturing of BizTalk Server 2006 underscores the latest product momentum and the broad customer availability for all three products in the marketplace since the November 7 launch.

What’s the significance? PressPass sat down with Steve Guggenheimer, general manager for Application Platform and Developer Marketing at Microsoft, to find out more.

PressPass: What was the real significance behind the launch on November 7?

Guggenheimer: Our launch events around the world, gave us a great way to say thank you to our customers and partners who made significant contributions to the direction we took with these products. Empowering people is at the heart of our product strategy, to that end, it’s important to recognize the amount of customer and partner input that we received in the course of building these products.

PressPass: Can you sum up the value that each of the core components of the application platform – Microsoft SQL Server, Visual Studio and BizTalk Server – provide to customers?

Guggenheimer: Let’s start with BizTalk Server 2006, which is being released to manufacturing today. BizTalk Server provides customers with business process management tools that help customers automate and optimize business processes and integrate applications and trading partners. Our goal with this product is to lower the complexity and barriers to adoption when compared to traditional competitive offerings in this space.

SQL Server 2005 is our most notable database release to date. We’ve worked hard to make SQL Server a first-class player in terms of enterprise scale and availability. It helps increase developer and DBA productivity, accelerating the delivery of data-driving applications and reducing application backlogs, as well as enabling customers to deliver BI capabilities broadly in their organization which helps folks make better business decisions.

Visual Studio 2005 is also a very significant release. Not only does it offer greater productivity enhancements for traditional application and Web developers, this product marks Microsoft’s entry into the application lifecycle space. With Visual Studio Team System our goal is to empower other technical members of the software development team — architects, testers, project managers and so on – to be part of the software development process.

What’s super important is the role these products play as core components of the broader Microsoft Application Platform and how they empower people to make better decisions and accelerate business solutions for competitive advantage.

PressPass: What types of capabilities is Microsoft trying to help customers get a handle on through the application platform?

Steve Guggenheimer, General Manager, Microsoft Application Platform and Developer Marketing

Guggenheimer: That’s a great question, as the products we build stand for a strong set of capabilities we’re enabling for customers. They include: data and business intelligence; business process management and software development. These capabilities are critical to ensuring that the IT organization becomes a trusted partner to the business by driving better decisions and faster results.

SQL Server 2005, BizTalk Server 2006 and Visual Studio 2005 go a long way in advancing these capabilities for customers. At the same time, they are integrated with other core technology assets across the platform. For example SQL Server, BizTalk Server and Microsoft Office are part of a broader business intelligence offering across the Microsoft Application Platform.

In the business process management arena, BizTalk Server for example, is aligned with innovations in SharePoint enabling desktop level integration with back-end processes.

Visual Studio Team System aligns business managers, software development and operations teams to ensure that software initiatives meet the needs of the business and work predictably well in the production environment. Team System is linked to our investments in Enterprise Project Server and the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) with the goal of furthering development capability as a strategic discipline for customers and enabling collaboration across different teams involved in the process to achieve the highest level of development capability.

PressPass: What’s the interest been like from customers?

Guggenheimer: It’s interesting to see the types of customers implementing the latest in Microsoft technology, as they cover such a wide range of industries. Customers like Barnes & Noble, HMV, Siemens, Mediterranean Shipping Company. Companies need to get fast results through innovative software that can evolve as business needs change. These customers and many more like them are enabling people to make better decisions because their software easily integrates and connects them to the precise information and processes they need. They are also enabling people to make better decision because their software is familiar and easy to use and it gives people confidence to trust the integrity of their systems, with the most widely used and strongest partner support in the industry.

Customer interest in the products has been tremendous – we’ve had 10 million downloads of the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 in just three short months and the SQL Server team showed over 20-percent year-over-year revenue growth in the most recent quarter. And interest in BizTalk Server continues to grow. Today there’s an installed base of over 6,000 customers and we have over 1100 systems integrators and 20 ISVs building solutions and software on top of BizTalk Server 2006. We’ve also had over 10,000 downloads of the BizTalk Server 2006 beta, a tremendous number for a server product in this category.

PressPass: What’s been happening in the application platform world since the Nov. 7 launch? Start with BizTalk Server 2006, since it RTMs today. What problem is BizTalk Server trying to solve for customers?

Guggenheimer: Companies continue to have a significant amount of business processes that are either manual or hard-coded, and therefore highly rigid, which results in inefficiencies and increased operational costs. BizTalk Server 2006 enables companies to develop, automate and optimize their core business processes and abstract their business logic to ensure much greater agility.

The solution Siemens developed using BizTalk Server 2006 is a great example of this trend. In short, Siemens developed a BizTalk Server 2006-based process management solution to streamline their new employee on-boarding process. With 450,000 employees, this is a fairly critical process, one that touches a variety of applications, such as payroll and HR, legacy systems, and information workers. After optimizing this process internally, Siemens’ Services unit has begun to sell the solution to third party customers. This is really a great example of the strategic importance of business process management and a technology like BizTalk Server – helping businesses gain competitive advantage and grow.

BizTalk Server 2006 is designed to help customers easily and efficiently automate their business processes and integrate them with existing applications and trading partners. We have added some new capabilities to enable customers to better manage and optimize their BizTalk-based solutions. One objective was to improve the overall experience for IT pro, so we included a new management console and made the upgrade from 2004 to 2006 really seamless. Another goal was to further empower the business user because we kept hearing that they wanted more real-time visibility into their high-value processes. So BizTalk Server 2006 includes a new, out-of-the-box portal for the business activity monitoring (BAM) technology and support for real-time alerting. This gives business users a dashboard to monitor their core processes and the ability to be alerted when a process performs outside of the norm.

PressPass: On March 17, Microsoft delivered Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server. What does that mean for customers?

Guggenheimer: With the delivery of Team Foundation Server, development teams now have powerful, server-based team collaboration tools that enable them to effortlessly manage and track the progress and health of projects. Team Foundation Server is the cornerstone of Visual Studio 2005 Team System.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System offers businesses tightly integrated and extensible lifecycle tools to increase the predictability of their software development process. It facilitates communication between members of the development team and reduces the complexity of the application development lifecycle. Microsoft is moving the bar in making software development a strategic enabler of business value, reducing risk and costs while advancing business opportunity through accelerated time-to-market, quality and differentiated user experiences.

More importantly, Team Foundation Server is at the heart of our approach to ensuring software initiatives drive business value. It is a critical piece of the puzzle in enabling software development to become a true competence inside of organizations.

It not only automates the workflow, instantiating the software development process in a friction free way, it also uniquely collects real-time data intelligence on project history, differing from the approaches that rely on industry-benchmark data. If you like, TFS serves as a data warehouse that critically links the various roles in the software development lifecycle, from the individual developer to architects and testers and system administrators, all the way to the CIO and project management office. The systems definition model is a tangible result of the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) providing a common language between development and operations; also, early integration of TFS with Enterprise Project Server for project portfolio management, helps drive better capacity planning, resource management, impact and risk analysis, so that the right software projects may be focused on for the best ROI.

We discovered that the complexities in the software-development process weren’t software problems, they were people problems. And Team Foundation Server is designed to tackle those people problems head-on by ensuring that collaboration is key.  Collaboration is so important in an era of outsourcing and geographically dispersed teams. Team Foundation Server is also a key link that enables us to bring more and more roles to the table in the software development process. For example, creative designers are not often considered part of software development, yet they are an extremely vital part. With Team Foundation Server, the professional and creative designer becomes a first class citizen able to engage in the development of software that differentiates businesses through user experience. Stored in TFS, the designs become an artifact that may be shared with development teams.

PressPass: Microsoft talked a lot about customer collaboration when it released its Community Technology Preview of Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2005. Is this customer collaboration a new way of doing things?

Guggenheimer: I would say this is an expansion of our efforts around listening to customers and building customer feedback into our products. At Microsoft we truly believe that customer feedback is essential to shipping quality products. Back in 2004 we launched the MSDN Product Feedback Center which enables customers to provide feedback and actually track the progress of their feedback. Closing this customer feedback loop was important to us and we wanted to be as transparent as possible during the development of our products. The customer collaboration model provides more consistent feature and security updates to customers and increases opportunities for customers to provide feedback, ensuring higher quality and more timely releases from Microsoft. Our Community Technology Preview (CTP) model is one example of how we are collaborating with customers in an early and often way. CTPs are smaller releases intended to deliver more regular product updates to customers. In turn, the process allows customers to provide ongoing feedback about their experience, ensuring a product release that better addresses customer needs.

PressPass: So what’s next?

Guggenheimer: We will continue to drive stronger partnership with our customers and partners as we look to the next iteration of these products and others across the Microsoft Application Platform. We are also seeing a proliferation of new partners come to the table as part of our expanded ecosystem. What makes this possible is the continued effort we are making around transparency to incorporate feedback more early and often from customers and partners. The work we do on SQL Server, BizTalk Server and Visual Studio, as part of the broader application platform will also lead the way in steering the broader vision around Data and business intelligence, business process management and software development in their own right.

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