The latest beta version of BizTalk 2006 R2 is quite stable so Microsoft should meet its target release date later this summer. This upgrade has some pretty cool new functionality that make BizTalk an even more complete and compelling solution for the Enterprise. Amongst these new features are a more complete set of functionality to support EDI and AS2. While EDI is now an ancient technology, it is still very popular for large companies that need to exchange orders and such. However, they are gradually moving their EDI infrastructure off of the archaic VAN networks and unto the Internet. This is where support for the AS2 standard comes in handy. Note that BizTalk will not support VANs out of the box, but I don't see that as a big limitation.
Another interesting new set of functionality is brought about by the inclusion of Microsoft's RFID infrastructure. RFID is finally coming of age and it will be a huge force in the market for the foreseeable future. The fact that BizTalk will provide complete support for designing high performance RFID systems bodes really well for the future of the product.
Another major change in R2 is the introduction of a new adapter framework built on top of Windows Communication Foundation. This is pretty exciting news for two reasons. First, it means a new and much more powerful and flexible way to build adapters for BizTalk. But the second reason actually has nothing to do with BizTalk: the new adapter framework and the adapters that will be built for it are going to be reusable outside of the BizTalk platform. So other products like MOSS and K2 will be able to leverage these adapters. I also think that we will see an explosion in the number and quality of adapters becoming available, along with lower prices.
Ala-in-all, even though R2 doesn't get a full version name upgrade, I do believe that it is a very significant update, and it should accelerate the adoption of BizTalk in the Enterprise.
OK, it's finally available for download (beta participants only). I should be able to have it up and running over the weekend.
Originally, this release was supposed to occur on March 21st, than as I indicated in my post last week, it was delayed to March 26th. Now they are telling us it should be out by March 30th. Let’s hope that last date is the real one!
On Mach 26th, SourceCode Technology Holdings will release the Beta 1 Technical Refresh 2 of their upcoming K2 product code-named “BlackPearl”. If you’ve never heard of SourceCode they are best known for their workflow product called K2.NET. The new product is currently branded K2 “blackpearl” but there is no word yet on what the final name will be. I will just call it K2 from here on. You can get a preview of K2 at this teaser site.
I spent some time at SourceCode’s North American head quarters in Redmond last week for some in-depth demos, and I was really impressed with what I saw. While the old K2.Net product was pretty nifty and quite successful (I blogged about it here), this new product is going to make K2 a world-class player in the workflow and Business Process Management (BPM) arena. In fact, this new product is so rich in functionality it defies description, and I think it breaks new ground that no competitors are covering yet, on any platform. As I was going through a demo of the new functionality my mind was racing, thinking of all the new possibilities this technology brings to the table. I was also struggling to come up with a concise way of describing it. After much reflection I came up with “Business Process Oriented Development Platform”. Here’s why…
K2 is still a workflow product (now built on top of Microsoft’s Workflow Foundation), but it also becomes a true BPM platform, something the old version was not. K2 is also strong as an Enterprise Application Integration platform (leveraging the new BizTalk/.NET Adapter Framework built on Windows Communication Framework). Last but not least, K2 is also an Application Server with strong support for rapid application development (leveraging SOA standards and principles, SQL Server, the .Net Framework, Visual Studio, and the Office Platform). So it is a complete application server and development platform with a strong workflow engine at its core, and a very flexible integration platform built-in. There is way too much new functionality to do it justice in a single blog post so I will post a series of articles as I take the latest beta version through its paces.
I spent most of the week at the MVP Global Summit in Redmond, where 1700 of my fellow geeks from all over the world met with Microsoft’s product teams to discuss upcoming technologies.
The keynote by Bill Gates was rather underwhelming. Gates used to make some pretty passionate speeches about new technology, but this time he looked tired and bored. I think he’s already checked-out as he prepares for retirement and managing his foundation full time. However, after his speech he sat down for a Q&A session which turned out to be rather interesting. One guy showed up with a copy of Microsoft’s first product, and the first basic compiler for the Altair 8800 computer. Bill wrote this software along with Paul Allen while they were in College. The guy who brought it read a quote from the instruction manual where it said to call Bill or Paul for technical support and even gave their phone numbers. Bill was gracious enough to autograph the manual; I’m sure it would fetch a pretty sum on eBay.
The only time that Bill’s face really lit up though was when someone asked him about his charitable foundation and the work it is doing. Bill is obviously very passionate about his charity work and this is where his energy will be spent going forward. It is nice to see the richest man in the world really care about the people of this world who are in dire need of assistance. When asked what he thought of MIT’s Laptop for Everyone project he said it was a good idea and that Microsoft was also doing work to bring cheap computing to the developing nations. But he also qualified his remark by correctly pointing out that for millions of people, they will first need food, water, shelter, health care, and education before having access to a laptop will do them any good.
The rest of the conference was OK and I spent most of my time with the Connected Systems Division (CSD), where they discussed the upcoming version of BizTalk Server, the .NET Framework 3.5, and the work they are doing around Communications Framework and Workflow Foundation. They have some pretty interesting developer platform technologies coming down the pipe, and it looks like the BizTalk brand (if not the server) is becoming the core of CSD.
Microsoft Canada is getting ready for the official launch of Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 and they have put together this blog to help keep you abreasts of all the events happening around that launch. Check it out!
I just ran into this interesting blog entry by Jevdemon entitled The 4 Tenets of Workflow
. I think it is more of a description of workflow then a set of tenets, but nonetheless, it's an intersting read.
I have a new personal blog at www.duford.com. I decided to creat that blog as there are a lot of things I like to discuss and share that are not related to work and Microsoft technology, and I felt uncomfortable talking about those subjects on this Microsoft provided blog.
That blog will talk mostly about photography, travel, science, politics, and jazz.
Interesting article in eWeek today...
"Microsoft is addressing the applications integration issue with a strategy that goes beyond the ESB standard, according to a paper the company has posted."
I've always thought that the "Enterprise Service Bus" was more marketing then practical reality, I guess Microsoft agrees with that!
If you are into digital photography and use a Nikon or Canon dSLR, Microsoft quietly released a Windows XP powertoy a few weeks ago that adds the capability to handle RAW files to your Windows Explorer. After installing this, you can view thumbnails of your RAW files and also preview the files. It does not however support preview in the "film strip" mode. A worthwhile download, and it is written in .NET!
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