Microsoft Details Investments in Business Process Management Functionality

Manufacturing, retail customers to benefit from extended supply chain functionality via RFID, EDI capabilities in upcoming release

Manufacturing, retail customers to benefit from extended supply chain functionality via RFID, EDI capabilities in upcoming release

Nashville — June 13, 2006 — At the U Connect Conference for supply-chain management, Microsoft Corp. announced deeper investments in business process management by disclosing plans to ship Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2.

Microsoft said the capabilities in the new release of BizTalk Server should enable customers to extend the reach of their business processes. Scheduled to be available to customers in the first half of 2007, BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will add native support for electronic data interchange (EDI) and AS2, as well as a new set of services for developing and managing radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions.

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will broaden its support for platform technologies such as the 2007 Microsoft Office system and Windows Vista, including core WinFX technologies such as Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation.

Furthermore, BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will provide an adapter framework on top of Windows Communication Foundation to help customers build customized adapters to better support interoperability between applications. Together, the new capabilities are expected to enable customers to increase the reach of their existing business processes to address a host of current and emerging business problems, particularly in the area of end-to-end supply chain and retail operations.

"Our customers are increasingly innovating with processes that reach well outside typical business applications — whether connecting processes with a key supply chain partner or integrating real-time events from a manufacturing device on a plant floor," said Burley Kawasaki, group product manager for BizTalk Server. "In each of these cases, extending core processes outside of the organization is often too costly and too hard to realize, leading to missed opportunities due to a lack of real-time awareness into the processes. The new capabilities in BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will further empower customers to drive innovation by extending their business process management solutions to the right device, the right information and the right trading partner."

Kawasaki said the new supply chain capabilities in BizTalk Server 2006 R2 are designed to drive greater efficiencies in connecting a company's core business processes to those of its external supply chains. In addition to the existing XML-based business-to-business support in BizTalk Server 2006, native support for EDI and the AS2 protocol in BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will enable users to connect their supply chains to key suppliers and trading partners.

Ken Vollmer, principal analyst in the Application Development and Infrastructure research group at Forrester Research Inc., commented, "For many years, larger firms in the retail, manufacturing, healthcare, insurance and other sectors have been able to take advantage of the productivity improvements that the automated exchange of EDI transactions provides, and usage continues to expand among these organizations as they reach out to more trading partners and use an expanded list of EDI transaction sets. Many tier-two and tier-three companies have realized that they can achieve the same benefits of improved value chain coordination that their larger trading partners have, and they are establishing their own hubs for exchanging EDI transactions with their downstream trading partners."*

Microsoft said BizTalk Server 2006 R2 includes new features that provide native support for messaging protocols such as EDIFACT and X12 and the secure communication protocol, EDIINT AS2. Microsoft is encouraging broader partner and customer feedback through participation in the BizTalk Server 2006 R2 technology adoption program (TAP).

"Enterprises today continue to use EDI as a means to more securely and reliably connect partners to critical supply chain business processes. These investments are fundamental to how they do business," said Jean-Yves Martineau, chief technology officer and co-founder of Cactus Commerce. "By building our Trading Partner Integration and Global Data Synchronization Solutions on top of the supply chain capabilities in BizTalk Server 2006 R2, we will help customers connect more efficiently with their partners and supply chains through the use of EDI and AS2 and emerging technologies such as RFID."

BizTalk RFID is a set of technologies with open APIs and tools to build vertical solutions and configure intelligent RFID-driven processes. It includes the following:

— Device abstraction and management capabilities to help customers manage and monitor devices in a uniform manner. This "plug and play" architecture allows customers to leverage the investments in standard or nonstandard devices by providing a uniform way of managing their device infrastructure.

— An event processes engine that enables customers to create business rules and manage the choreography of event pipelines for RFID events.

— Tight integration with Microsoft Visual Studio and open APIs that allows developers to quickly integrate RFID events with existing business applications, or create their own custom solutions.

— Support for industry standards and an extensible architecture with advanced deployment and monitoring tools that IT professionals can use to meet service-level commitments and reduce long-term costs.

* Trends 2006: Electronic Data Interchange, Forrester Research Inc., October 2005