Described by Microsoft as the first major milestone in "delivering an integrated, interoperable, modularized, extensible, and secure e-business solution that enables companies to connect information, systems, people and processes," BizTalk Server 2004 represents the first phase of the 'Jupiter' code project, which until now has been known as 'Voyager.'
New features in the beta include:
* Business Activity Monitoring, which gives information workers a real-time view of running business processes with the Microsoft Office tools they already know, such as Microsoft Excel
* Real-time Tracking, which allows users to follow the real-time progress of documents and processes in BizTalk Server applications
* The Microsoft Visual Studio .NET Development Environment
* Microsoft Office InfoPath integration, providing a familiar front-end (Office) to BizTalk Server 2004 for entering XML and consuming Web services
* Single Sign-on, providing unified authentication between heterogeneous systems and applications (Windows and non-Windows)
* Human-based Workflow, allowing the integration of people and processes with a single orchestration engine
* Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), currently undergoing the standards process through the OASIS standards consortium, BPEL is intended to simplify cross-platform interoperability for process orchestration
* XML Web Services, providing ground-up support for XML Web services standards such as Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI)
* Business Rules, for dynamically change business processes as the organization evolves
* Enhanced Scalability through a scale-out architecture designed for "massively scalable" messaging and orchestration-based applications.
Despite reports that BizTalk Server 2004 may not be ready by the end of the year, Microsoft Monday reiterated its target of making the product available at the end of 2003, though it has not yet determined pricing and licensing.
Phase II of the Jupiter project, currently known as 'Discovery,' will build on phase I with Web site analytics, customer personalization options, e-commerce services and content management tools. Discovery is planned for release in 2004.
Microsoft first unveiled the Jupiter project in October 2002, with the intention of addressing the problems created by legacy and proprietary e-business applications.
"The challenge with today's legacy e-business software is that much of it can be characterized as proprietary, disconnected and overly complex," Microsoft's David Kiker, general manager of E-Business Servers, said at the time. "The 'Jupiter' project is focused squarely on addressing these issues. In unifying our best-of-breed applications, we are both simplifying the complexity of our customers' infrastructure and providing them with a comprehensive standards-based solution to connect, analyze and react to the information, people and processes that make up the extended enterprise."