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By David McCoy, Gartner Analyst
With the announcement of BizTalk Server 2000, Microsoft asserts that modeling and implementing complex business process flow is a core requirement for rich business-to-business integration.
Without the new business process management ("orchestration") software, Microsoft's entry in the integration broker market would have been an underpowered offering in a competitive market.
Many products already address complex process flow modeling. BizTalk Server benefits from the orchestration technology, but not without cost.
Originally announced in 1999, BizTalk Server will likely appear no earlier than late in the fourth quarter of 2000 as Microsoft addresses the missing pieces. Therefore, with all BizTalk Server's parts still not in beta release, Microsoft trails other vendors that have gained a significant understanding of business process modeling in live customer settings.
Microsoft has significantly improved the features of its unshipped integration broker, but the biggest challenge is getting BizTalk to market in 2000.
Many companies Microsoft considers to be competitors of BizTalk Server are buying, building or partnering to add business process support to their products.
Through a collision of workflow, integration middleware and business process modeling tools, many powerful vendors are in various stages of addressing business process management extended to the integration arena. Those vendors include BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Level 8 Systems, Oracle, Software Technologies, Tibco Software and Vitria Technology.
Microsoft's offering will use Visio for process modeling and a Microsoft-developed XML specification (based on pi calculus, a next-generation process model) that defines the flow between systems and applications.
Despite its late entry into the business-to-business integration market, Microsoft believes it has enough clout to make headway on its name alone.
The threatened breakup of Microsoft in the Department of Justice's antitrust case should not derail enterprise plans.
Few vendors can preannounce a new feature to an unshipped product and get major press play. Microsoft will very likely succeed in keeping a few enterprises from making decisions on business-to-business integration technology until its offering becomes available. However, this is new turf for Microsoft, and the e-business activities underway so far show that until Microsoft ships BizTalk, most enterprises will not delay application integration plans.
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