In the shadow of Win2K comes BizTalk

Even though Microsoft Corp. officials say business-to-business benefits will be a key selling point of Windows 2000, which at press time was due out in the third week of February, the company is not banking its entire business-to-business strategy on one product alone.

Later this year, the company will deliver a core component of its Windows DNA 2000 architecture, the BizTalk Server, which is central to Microsoft’s efforts to embrace the burgeoning adoption of XML as a key to providing the communications link between trading partners.

But beyond simply embracing XML, said Charles Fitzgerald, director of business development for Microsoft’s developers group, is a desire to leverage the Internet as the tie that binds trading partners.

“The Internet was a competitive advantage a few years ago, but now everybody has a Web site,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re going to use the Internet as a communications fabric.”

Why companies would choose to communicate via the Internet rather than other options, such as the loosely coupled, asynchronous messaging technologies found in such products as IBM’s MQ Series or the use of large-scale distributed objects such as DCOM and CORBA, is simple, according to Fitzgerald.

Object systems, which still have a place in tying together large-scale systems, will not be used for communications between disparate systems, Fitzgerald said.

Messaging technologies such as MQ Series are too expensive and proprietary to serve the purpose, Fitzgerald said. That, in turn, leaves the Internet as the optimal choice, and Microsoft wants to take advantage of that with its Windows DNA architecture and BizTalk in the center.

Of course, BizTalk itself has not been without its critics, as IBM Corp. and another key Microsoft rival, Sun Microsystems Inc., have stepped up in recent months to decry the initiative as proprietary and self-serving.

Microsoft, however, notes that it is simply providing a framework and a repository that can serve as the basis for XML development and in turn simpler business-to-business communication.

“We see Sun and IBM attacking BizTalk, but they never can explain why we’re proprietary,” Fitzgerald said. “IBM is further along than Sun, but IBM has been throwing out random specifications left and right, and they have no products or partners.”

Microsoft itself has yet to deliver on its full plans, to date only offering a software developer’s kit for BizTalk and the first-generation BizTalk tools. But that soon will change. Later in 2000 Microsoft will deliver the second generation of its BizTalk tools as well as the BizTalk Server.