Microsoft's BizTalk opens a channel for doing business

Microsoft's BizTalk opens a channel for doing business

Many vendors have aligned with the ebXML consortium'the initials stand for electronic business Extensible Markup Language'to standardize an XML transaction infrastructure. In the meantime, Microsoft Corp. is attempting to win over early adopters with its own XML transaction technology, called BizTalk.

BizTalk Server is designed to allow organizations to create one-to-one trading relationships over the Internet, connecting enterprise resource planning and other enterprise software systems via XML documents that can be understood at both ends.

BizTalk is intended for application-to-application communication without Web browsing. It uses XML envelopes of data to pass transactions across the Internet or other routed networks for processing by another organization's e-business applications.

For example, BizTalk could directly tie your agency's purchasing systems to a vendor's purchase-order handling system, automatically converting a request to the appropriate format.

Using a series of graphical interfaces, a BizTalk administrator can build sets of buyer and seller relationships with other organizations and automated processes driven by schedules written in XLANG, an XML-derivative language.

Few, if any, administrators will actually write XLANG scripts'most XLANG scripts will be generated using graphical tools such as the BizTalk Messaging Services Manager and the Microsoft Visio Enterprise Edition drawing tool. Analysts can create diagrams of processes, which are converted into XLANG and loaded into BizTalk Server. BizTalk will then interpret the rules and incorporate them into the process of generating a transaction.

Once you've established a relationship with a vendor or buyer, BizTalk acts like an EDI pipeline between your enterprise applications and theirs. BizTalk message envelopes can be transmitted via a variety of protocols, including EDI formats such as the American National Standards Institute's X12 and EDIFACT, as well as Hypertext Transfer Protocol, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol or even networked file shares.

BizTalk Server 2000, the current version of BizTalk, comes in three configurations: Standard, which is designed for small organizations requiring connections to five or fewer trading partners and is priced at $4,999 for each CPU running the software; Enterprise Edition, designed for much larger sets of trading relationships and priced at $24,999 per CPU; and Developer Edition, designed for building and testing BizTalk applications, priced at $499.

'Kevin Jonah


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