Thursday, March 15, 2007

Know BizTalk

Know BizTalk...

BizTalk is an industry initiative headed by Microsoft to promote Extensible Markup Language (XML) as the common data exchange language for e-commerce and application integration on the Internet. While not a standards body per se, the group is fostering a common XML message-passing architecture to tie systems together. BizTalk says that the growth of e-commerce requires businesses using different computer technologies to have a means to share data. Accepting XML as a platform-neutral way to represent data transmitted between computers, the BizTalk group provides guidelines, referred to as the BizTalk Framework, for how to publish schema (standard data structures) in XML and how to use XML messages to integrate software programs.

What is BizTalk?

BizTalk is a business process management (BPM) server that enables companies to automate and optimize business processes. This includes powerful, familiar tools to design, develop, deploy, and manage those processes.
Everything you need for easy installation is included—integrated management tools, support for Web services, and a new business activity monitoring (BAM) portal. In addition, BizTalk Server 2006 includes 23 application and technology adapters in the box for connecting to legacy systems (mainframe and mid-range) and line-of-business applications (SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft, Oracle, and JD Edwards).

Q.What is BizTalk Server?
A. BizTalk is a Business Process Management Server designed to connect the people, processes and information that you need to effectively manage and grow your business. By connecting applications within and between organizations, and providing the tools to let business staff define, create and modify the business processes that depend on that software, BizTalk Server provides real-time visibility into critical business functioning, maximizing your organizational agility. BizTalk Server 2006 is the fourth major release of the product, and offers dependable, scalable and enterprise-ready business process management.

Q.What does Business Process Management (BPM) mean?
A. Business process management refers to the automation of manual processes and the subsequent optimization of those processes. The goal of management is to improve the flow of business processes such that efficiencies are improved, risks are lessened and costs are lower.Components of Microsoft’s Business Process Management Solutions Business Process Management Tools and technologies to manage business processes that span applications and organizational boundaries.Application Integration Internal application integration within an enterprise using either standard or proprietary communication protocolsBusiness-to-Business Integration External integration with trading partners, customers or suppliers using either standard or proprietary communication protocols

Q.What is Microsoft’s business process management strategy?
A. Early business process automation approaches were comprised of many independent technologies that separately met needs for business process management and integration, but together were expensive and hard to manage. Microsoft’s strategy has been to align these technologies, enabling organizations to more readily automate and optimize processes, thereby improving efficiencies, decreasing costs and improving business value.

Q.Our company isn’t a large enterprise. Why would it be important for us to automate and manage our businesses processes?
A. More and more large customers and suppliers are demanding that the businesses in their supply chain automate in order to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce costs. While these mandates and government regulations impose a burden on small and midsize companies, achieving compliance (with Sarbanes-Oxley Act, for example) promotes business process transparency and better process controls, both of which can greatly benefit the organization. If a business analyst needs to exchange information with a trading partner, or needs to obtain information that resides within the company but on different computer systems, applications, or in different parts of the organization, then business process automation and management—both between and within businesses—can provide the solution.

Q.What business advantages can BizTalk Server offer midsize companies?
A. BizTalk Server provides a single solution for business process management, enabling companies to effectively communicate both within organizations and between trading partners. BizTalk Server not only connects legacy systems and applications together, it also lets you define your organizational business processes, connect the process to the people and systems, and manage the events and key performance indicators within each process in order to ensure that the business is running effectively and efficiently.

Q.What IT benefits can we realize from installing BizTalk Server?
A. Automating and managing your connections with trading partner applications and applications within your organization is a time consuming process, and BizTalk Server’s reusable integration services speeds deployment time, helping reduce IT administrative effort. Once these connections are made, BizTalk Server provides a single tool to create business processes and monitor them in real time, as well as to extract business intelligence, simplifying both IT workloads and reducing management overhead. And because BizTalk Server uses standards like XML and web services, IT administration is less complex.

Q.Why should we choose a Microsoft business process management solution?
A. Microsoft’s BizTalk Server offers great economics in business process management technologies, enabling midsize companies to install, configure and customize their BPM solution easily and affordably. Developers who are familiar with Microsoft tools will quickly become productive. And by using a common set of reusable services, organizations can reduce the costs and time to value of business process automation, while at the same time simplifying management and maintenance costs. In addition, by using BizTalk Server to provide BPM within your organization and between your trading partners, you also benefit from the long list of partners that have helped to make Microsoft’s solution one of the most versatile in the industry. Thousands of systems and devices are supported on the Microsoft platform, as well as over 2500 applications. Microsoft’s strong relationships with leading global and regional systems integrators has allowed us to deliver tailored solutions for every industry in every geography.

Q.We are looking for a business process management solution that our key business personnel can readily use. Does BizTalk Server provide easy-to-obtain and readily useable business intelligence?
A. BizTalk Server makes it easy to bridge the gap between what business users need to know and the underlying technology that IT staff orchestrate to make the software give you what you need. BizTalk Server allows you to map out business processes in a graphical format, making it straightforward for business personnel to understand, analyze and adjust business processes throughout the organization. Behind the scenes, IT staff map the graphical representation of each business process into simple XML schemas that make the integration process work. Once the business processes are set up, users can readily monitor business activities to obtain real-time information about the status of any business process, as well as receive notifications about any event or milestones of interest. Such output can easily be integrated with SharePoint and Excel (using a wizard), to provide graphical data output as well.

Q.What is the difference between accelerators and adapters, and how do we know if our company needs them?
A. BizTalk adapters extend the functionality of BizTalk Server, enabling it to connect to other servers, applications and Web services. Specifically, they remove the need to develop infrastructure components such as network protocol support and translation, data conversion, data transformation, in the development of business process automation solutions. BizTalk Server adapters are "no-code" connectivity solutions, and are provided in-box with BizTalk Server 2006.BizTalk accelerators provide developers with tools, data schemas, and processes to help significantly reduce the time required to develop a custom business solution in specific industries, such as health care, financial services, and supply-chain management. If you are required to comply with specific industry standards, you will likely require an accelerator.

Q.We are doing a lot of work with external partners, and we want a solution that will enable us to manage access to our corporate information simply but securely. How does BizTalk Server handle this?
A. Like the Windows Server operating system, BizTalk Server is more secure by design—a critical attribute, since the server acts as a gateway through which to send and receive documents within and between organizations. That said, the security requirements of your BizTalk Server deployment are highly dependent on factors unique to your organization, including your particular business needs, partners, company size, and so on. Every application for BizTalk Server is likely to have its own unique set of security requirements; and performance, availability, and cost considerations further influence these requirements. BizTalk Server 2006 provides robust support for securing data, such as encryption and digital signatures. Additionally, BizTalk Server 2006 offers single sign-on for users requiring authentication across multiple systems.

Q.Where will Microsoft go next with BizTalk Server?
A. BizTalk Server was one of the first products in the space to make a big bet on XML and Web Services. We will continue to embrace emerging technologies that help customers decrease the cost associated with automating and managing business processes. We will remain very focused on building software that delivers our vision of revolutionizing the manner in which organizations conduct business by coordinating the activities of their business applications, their people and their partners.

Q.A. Integration with Microsoft OfficeQ.How does BizTalk Server work with Office System products like SharePoint and InfoPath?
A. In combination with InfoPath, developers can design structured workflows including form-based information. BizTalk Server has native support for InfoPath enabling users to:• Submit InfoPath documents to BizTalk Server through web services• Submit and receive InfoPath documents through SharePoint Form Libraries• Manipulate the InfoPath form contents to create new forms• Update information in an existing form within BizTalk Server.With BizTalk Server 2006, customers can tap into SharePoint Portal Server to share BAM reports, manage trading partner relationships, and enhance human-based workflow capabilities within specific business process automation scenarios

Q.A. Integration with Microsoft DynamicsQ.How does BizTalk Server Integrate with Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions?
A. Microsoft Dynamics, the next generation enterprise resource planning, brings the ERP suite of products onto the .Net platform, along with BizTalk Server, and brings roles-based user interfaces to the products that BizTalk integrates with, including Office, SharePoint and others.

Q.A. Integration with Visual StudioQ.I’ve heard of using Visual Studio for application integration. Does that undercut BizTalk Server?
A. Visual Studio and BizTalk Server are very complimentary technologies. Visual Studio is the premiere development environment for building XML Web Services and BizTalk Server 2006 is the premiere development environment for orchestrating Web Services into business processes. With BizTalk Server 2006, customers will find tight integration with Visual Studio, giving developers a familiar, unified development environment. The combination of Visual Studio and BizTalk Server will give developers a significant advantage as they build application integration and business process management solutions.

Q.A. Product Release InformationQ.What advantages does BizTalk Server 2006 offer over the 2004 release?
A. BizTalk 2006 offers a simplified installation and configuration process, and offers the IT administrator a more productive management and deployment process. Additionally, business user capabilities are extended, providing real-time support for business activities and alerts.

Q.How easy is it to upgrade from BizTalk Server 2004 to the latest release?
A. The upgrade from BizTalk 2004 to 2006 is seamless, reducing the time and costs associated with upgrading to new technologies.

Q.What platforms does BizTalk Server support?
A. Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, .NET Framework 2.0. In addition, BizTalk Server offers 64-bit run time support. BizTalk Server also supports interoperability with non-Microsoft platforms, and with its robust adapter framework, BizTalk can quickly connect to proprietary systems.

Q.What Microsoft products does BizTalk Server provide integration for?
A. BizTalk Server integrates directly with SQL Server, Visual Studio, InfoPath, SharePoint and Microsoft Office. In addition, Microsoft is committed to providing adapters for the most commonly used line-of-business applications and technologies.

Q.Our company is going through a grow phase. Will BizTalk Server be able to grow with us?
A. BizTalk Server offers enterprise level scalability and performance. The 2006 Enterprise edition offers x64 capabilities, and when paired with Intel or AMD-based servers, solutions can easily be scaled up—in low cost increments—over time. The Enterprise edition also provides simple hardware scale-out capabilities and has built-in load balancing.

Q.What services and support do you offer for BizTalk Server?
A. Microsoft offers a range of support options, whether you require on-site or phone-based support. New to Microsoft are technology centers which provide the facility and resources to determine whether the BizTalk integration solution will work for you. For ongoing information, join the BizTalk Community to share great new ideas. For more information on support and services, go to BizTalk Support.

Q.Our organizations require solutions that support load balancing and clustering. Does BizTalk support these solutions?
A. BizTalk Server 2006 Enterprise Edition provides built-in support for load balancing, helping organizations to deliver 24/7 availability for their mission critical solutions across their enterprise. Additionally, BizTalk is engineered to be fault-tolerant, and employs easily-configured and manageable SQL Server clustering to ensure no single point of failure.

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