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Microsoft BizTalk: Connecting Customers, Suppliers and Partner

-- Anjana Srikanth

An interconnected economy defines no boundaries between the way customers, suppliers and partners use information. Studies reveal that a reasonably substantial section of this economy belongs to small businesses. And, they have increasingly demonstrated their willingness to conduct commerce over the Internet.

Technology driven products and services improve core operations and customer services in a small business enterprise as the Internet proves to be a strategic tool for easy networking, enhanced customer support, procurement supply chain management and productive communication.

BizTalk Server is a strategic tool that deploys the infrastructure provided by the Internet for easy networking, enhanced customer support, supply chain management, productive communication and other e-business applications.

Information technology does improve speed, accessibility and timeliness of the already existing information, but, in order to create new information and use the existing information in newer and more innovative ways there is a need for the appropriate tools that are able to evaluate information in novel ways. BizTalk Server is one such tool. Calling it a mere tool would be an understatement! In this article we will explain this new software keeping in mind the benefits that a small and medium enterprise (SME) can gain by deploying it effectively.

E-business implementers, Web Service Developers, business analysts, technology planners, project managers, application designers and executives would find BizTalk Server workable software. It empowers you to use the infrastructure provided and build successful e-commerce communities.

To fully appreciate what this next generation software is all about, let us maunder for a moment and discuss the powerhouse of markup languages - XML. Exchanging information and data over the Internet can become complex and burdensome, more so, when applications from different companies are written in special unique formats that are difficult to exchange. A lack of a single "technical vocabulary" for describing business data and processes can result in fragile interconnectivity thereby motivating the need for a meta language like XML that specifies a common code/meaning of all the data that can be exchanged world wide.

Organizations, applications and individuals can communicate far more effectively if they agree on the structure and meaning of information. XML was specifically designed to facilitate such communication and BizTalk Server provides a solid foundation necessary to wield XML as a strategic tool. Now, before you draw your own conclusions, let me clarify that you don't need to understand XML in order to implement BizTalk Server. A simple knowledge of HTML and relational databases, and a little effort in understanding the product enables easy data integration, workflow and knowledge management.

Microsoft built BizTalk Server as a part of their enterprise application integration in the .NET server family (www.microsoft.com) that constitutes a suite of tools and services like management, administration, mapping and tracking.

It includes the following:

  • BizTalk Server Orchestration Designer: A design tool that enables business analysts, developers and IT professionals to interact on a common platform.
  • BizTalk Editor: Creates and edits XML documents.
  • BizTalk Mapper: Transforms one XML document into another XML schema.(Schemas are different ways that an XML document can be structured and predefined in order to simplify data exchange).
  • BizTalk Messaging Manger: Allows the exchange of information and applications with minimal programming.
  • BizTalk Framework: Enables routing, tracking and analyzing sent and received data.
  • BizTalk Administration Tool: Allows end-to-end integration and easy online analytical processing of user-specific information.
  • Pipeline Editor: Tracks document processing from start to finish.

BizTalk Server supports standard Internet Technologies like EDI (Electronic Data Interaction), multiple transports and protocols (HTTP, SMTP), custom and flat file formats.

With the BizTalk Server you can do the following:

  • Simplify data exchange - without editing or understanding XML you can create impressive documents and modify them using any text editor.
  • Document translation, filtering and routing based on content.
  • Conduct on-line transactions easily and cheaply along with the delivery of sound and video.
  • Integration of typewritten user interface on Web browsers and backend databases thereby orchestrating purchasing and order processing systems.
  • Create applications that can mediate between two or more heterogeneous databases and intelligently apply information that is tailor made to individual users.
  • Point by point tracking of data thereupon establishing reliability among clients.
  • Establish secure communications that support public key encryption, digital signatures and encryption along with multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME).
  • Seamless links with customers, suppliers and partners.
  • Integrate wholly unrelated functions like human resources and finances.

To summarize, BizTalk Server is a technology solution that improves efficiency and reinvents business ideas and strategies. It boosts the features of e-commerce independent of an operating system and programming language.

Useful Links

The Home Page of Microsoft's BizTalk Server that takes you through the entire product, describes and evaluates it and also tells you how to use it. Downloads of trial versions available.

The Home Page of Microsoft's .NET Server listing and completely describing all their products.

Tells you how to get started with BizTalkServer and also offers an online tutorial.

A site devoted to XML and related stuff. A must for all!

BizTalk Server Reviews

Reviews BizTalk Server detailing the pros and cons of the product.

We offer services like Business Process Engineering, Porting Legacy applications to the web and Enterprise Application Integration. Please contact us here for more details.



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