MicrosoftÒ BizTalk™:

Enabling applications to talk the language of business

 

 


Executive Summary............................................................................................................ 1

A Common Challenge......................................................................................................... 2

How BizTalk can help......................................................................................................... 3

Microsoft’s BizTalk Strategy.............................................................................................. 4

BizTalk Framework Initiatives..................................................................................... 4

BizTalk Examples.......................................................................................................... 5

Summary............................................................................................................................ 7


Executive Summary

 

Microsoft® BizTalk is a framework based on new Extensible Markup Language (XML) schemas and industry standards for sharing information.  It will enable businesses to integrate their systems and processes by freeing business data from application infrastructure.  This data-focused approach will allow businesses to easily interchange BizTalk documents with online trading partner regardless of the platform, operating system or underlying technology of their existing systems.  Examples of BizTalk documents include product catalogs, purchase orders, and product and promotional information.  Microsoft will work collaboratively with customer, partners and industry consortia to define BizTalk schema and to accelerate the adoption of industry standards.  The company also will incorporate BizTalk schema into the Microsoft® commerce platform, the Microsoft Network (MSN™) s hopping services and future versions of Office, BackOffice®, and Windows® products.

 

The remainder of this document describes BizTalk at a high level and highlights the advantages of adopting BizTalk as part of a long-term business strategy.

 


A Common Challenge

 

Up until now it has been incredibly difficult for companies to easily conduct business over the Internet due to the lack of a single technical vocabulary for describing business data and processes.  This challenge exists both across and within industries because no two businesses use the same applications in exactly the same way.  Whether the differences stem from diverse operating systems or software created by different companies, getting different applications to ‘talk’ to each other clearly is a significant technical challenge.  Longer-term difficulties can arise when these information exchanges become too complex, fragile, or burdensome.

 

Shared database design was a popular approach used by many businesses several years ago.  Its promise for straightforward and simple information exchange depended on all applications sharing low-level definitions for information common to all businesses.  This approach fell short because no two database designers think exactly alike, and the resulting database structures lacked the flexibility to change to meet new business challenges.

 

More recently, many businesses have taken an approach to solving application integration that depends on object models.  Unfortunately this approach has shortcomings, as well:

·         Object models tightly couple business processes and supporting data into an inseparable package, which makes application integration complex.  When processes change, supporting data structures must also be changed.

·         They constrain interoperability because they require any two systems to be designed with the other in mind, ahead of time, to be able to interoperate.

·         These ahead-of-time design requirements create system fragility, as multiple systems are interlinked.

 

A universal programming language will not solve the application interoperability problem either.  Like the object model approach, it does not eliminate the need for each set of partners to negotiate its own set of integration-specific protocols.  The universal language model also requires every business system to be rewritten or later redeveloped when yet another universal language gains favour.

 

 

 

 


How BizTalk can help

 

The explosive growth in use of the Internet to conduct business online has further heightened the need to address the challenges described above.  Businesses must be able to use their existing systems to find customers and partners on the Internet, to sell them goods, and to establish longer-term trading relationships.

 

BizTalk simplifies the application integration businesses need to do business on the Internet by assuming that application services and data are loosely coupled – that is, they are distinct and separate.  This assumption allows BizTalk systems to focus on data interchange instead of infrastructure compatibility.

 

The basis for BizTalk data interchanges is XML-based vocabulary describing business process information.  These description, or schema, can be based on existing industry standards, such as those for corporate purchasing product information, traditional data forms like EDI, or on emerging descriptions for product catalogues, offers, promotional campaigns, and other data.  BizTalk schema provide a common ground for businesses and partners to share information and engage in 3-comerce in meaningful ways.

 

Any businesses that use forms of any sort already have schema supporting business processes.  To communicate with other businesses, the data in these existing schema (say an inventory form) may need to be mapped to another schema (such as a shipping form).  For information systems, this data transformation is much simpler and easier to implement than the models for process integration described above.

 

After receiving a BizTalk document, a business will need to act on the information it contains.  Many industry standards not only describe data, but also describe how data should be handled.  BizTalk supports these standards by providing a framework for describing data handling rules.  Businesses implement these handling systems locally, which greatly reduces testing requirements.  Business integration models that share logic along with data require significantly greater development and testing for each trading relationship.

 

Thus, BizTalk’s vocabulary and loosely coupled communications are highly complementary.  The former provides easier data interchange and the latter eases business process integration.  Together, they enable software to speak the language of business in a consistent way.

 

 

 


Microsoft’s BizTalk Strategy

 

BizTalk Framework Initiatives

Microsoft is investing in a broad strategy that will result in a strong set of products and services that implement the BizTalk framework.  BizTalk itself is an extension to our existing Windows Distributed interNet Applications (DNA) architecture that helps businesses integrate applications.  We are supporting the BizTalk framework through a series of product and collaborative initiatives with partners, customers and industry consortia.  Our initial focus is on five core initiatives to support the BizTalk framework for e-commerce and application integrations.  These are:

 

Support for Industry-standard XML Schemas: BizTalk document-handling schema will be based on industry standards such as electronic data interchange (EDI), borrow from object-based industry initiatives such as the Open Application Group (OAG) in manufacturing, and will be defined in concert with ISVs, customers and industry consortia. As new XML standards emerge, contributors to the BizTalk framework will evaluate and support standards that deliver value to customers.

 

Microsoft Industry Initiatives: Microsoft, its ISV partners and industry-standards bodies are working to extend existing Windows DNA industry initiatives with BizTalk to ensure application integration within and between organisations and across industries. These industry initiatives include ActiveStore™ for retail in-store systems, Windows DNA for Financial Services (Windows DNAfs), ActiveX® for Healthcare, Windows DNA for Manufacturing and the Value Chain Initiative (VCI) for supply-chain management.

 

BizTalk For Products And Offers: BizTalk will become the product, service and promotions content framework for supporting the evolution of MSN as an open marketplace. BizTalk will include rich support for document formats that make it easy for manufacturers and merchants to increase their market presence by promoting business, product and promotional information directly to MSN and other consumer sites on the Web.

 

Microsoft BizTalk Server: Microsoft BizTalk Server is new technology that will make it easier for companies to take advantage of BizTalk. By supporting BizTalk and underlying XML technology, it will enable companies to exchange data and integrate applications over the Internet. The server extends Microsoft's Commerce Interchange Pipeline features found in Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition with scalable and reliable interchange and data transformation capabilities as well as enhanced trading partner management tools.


BizTalk Support In The Microsoft Product Line: The BizTalk services architecture will be supported natively in Microsoft products and tools. The Microsoft Commerce Platform, Office, BackOffice and Windows will use BizTalk XML schemas to store additional information about documents and to integrate BackOffice- and Windows-based applications. The next major release of the Microsoft productivity suite, Microsoft Office 2000, elevates HTML to a companion file format and uses XML to store additional document information. The next version of Microsoft SQL Server™ will incorporate native support of BizTalk through its ability to read, write and store XML documents, as well as offer full integration with SQL Server Data Transformation Services.

 

BizTalk Examples

Let’s take a look at some fictitious examples that illustrate the benefits of using BizTalk enabled applications.  We’ll examine some trading situations between business systems that work within and across different industries.

 

Duluth Mutual Life establishes a company supplier

Duluth Mutual Life Company is a major insurer whose agents operate on a highly autonomous basis.  Employee self-service is a top priority for Duluth’s business processes.  Megan, a purchasing agent for Duluth has been tasked to find a suitable camera for Duluth’s claims adjusters to use in the field and to make that camera available on Duluth’s intranet-based corporate purchasing system.

 

Megan has selected a Digital Camera from Fabrikam, Inc., a supplier of high-quality, high-resolution digital cameras.  Fabrikam has decided to accelerate corporate sales by providing online access to their ordering systems to business customers.  Because Fabrikam has adopted the BizTalk manufacturing schema as their standard way to exchange purchase order, pricing and inventory information with their trading partners, they have instantly increased their access to a large customer base that also uses the BizTalk framework.

 

Because Duluth is one of those BizTalk customers, Megan can easily integrate Fabrikam’s product information into Duluth’s PeopleSoft Business Network (PSBN) corporate purchasing system.  Fabrikam uses BizTalk documents to publish and update their latest product information in Duluth’s purchasing system.  PSBN is also able to accurately reflect Fabrikam’s digital camera availability, so adjusters aren’t held up by delays in camera fulfillment.

 

The end result is improved employee self-service and more integrated, efficient business process.  When a Duluth claims adjuster needs a new camera, she accesses PSBN, selects the camera and submits her order.  PSBN submits a BizTalk purchase order to Fabrikam’s online order processing system.

 


West Coast Sales reaches qualified customers

West Coast Sales is a consumer electronic reseller that has recently launched an online retail site to complement its mail order and brick and mortar distribution channels.  To broaden the reach of its product and promotional offers, West Coast Sales participates in MSN.  West Coast Sales subscribes to MSN by providing them BizTalk-based product, promotional, and company information.

 

Ken is an online consumer looking for a cool gift for his son’s birthday, which is two months away.  His son is interested in computers ad photography, so Ken thinks a digital camera might be a nice present.  MSN presents a Buyer’s Guide that uses BizTalk-derived information to enable shoppers like Ken to directly compare a wide set of features across a similar set of products.  BizTalk has helped Ken’s shopping experience by reducing the number of web sites he has to visit to get complete product information.  It has also helped suppliers by increasing the probability that any single shopper will be exposed to their products and promotions.  After thorough research, Ken decides he likes the Fabrikam digital camera.

 

Unfortunately, the camera costs too much money.  Because the birthday is still several weeks away, Ken signs up on the MSN Market Monitor to be notified of any changes in Fabrikam digital camera information.  Fortunately for Ken, the BizTalk schema supports promotional information.  A few weeks later, West Coast Sales decides to bundle expanded memory cards with its digital cameras, and notifies MSN of the promotions using BizTalk documents.  MSN, in turn, notifies Ken via e-mail.  Attracted by the camera’s enhanced capabilities, Ken decides the camera is worth the existing price.  Directly from the e-mail, he visits the West Coast Sales web site and buys his son a new digital camera with lots of memory.

 

In this entire sales cycle, both consumer and supplier benefit from BizTalk.  The BizTalk schema has increased consumer ability to find products, to compare them, and to stay abreast of updates to product information.  Suppliers are given a more reliable way of reaching customers and maintaining a relationship with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Summary

 

BizTalk will provide a framework for combining information from different systems and processes into a unified business process.  The benefits derived are a result of truly aligning technology with the language of business in a consistent way.  This is accomplished through the BizTalk framework that consists of the following distinct layers:

 

Common Business Document Descriptions:  The core of BizTalk is a set of common business data descriptions – or schema – that serve as the basis for information interchange between applications.  These descriptions are published in the form of XML documents.  Using these schemas, software developers can take advantage of a common vocabulary that supports specific business information and processes.

 

Industry Standards For Handling Documents:  In addition to data description, BizTalk also includes rules for the handling of BizTalk data.  These handling rules follow industry standards and can be modified by software developers to implement customer BizTalk applications to support specific business needs.

 

We will be investing in a broad strategy around the BizTalk framework that encompasses:

 

·         Industry Standard XML schemas

·         Microsoft Industry Initiatives

·         BizTalk for Products and Offers

·         Microsoft BizTalk Server

·         BizTalk support in Microsoft Products

 

In support of this broad strategy, we will host a design review of new BizTalk schema with customers, standards bodies and industry vendors in the second half of 1999.  The design review will be an open forum for providing input on the BizTalk framework and will result in the publishing of all BizTalk protocols.  BizTalk documents, message handling protocols and service descriptions will be maintained on the Microsoft web site as a public resource.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

The information contained in this document represents the current view of Microsoft Corp. on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Microsoft, and Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.

 

This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS DOCUMENT.

 

The example companies, organisations, products, people and events depicted herein are fictitious. No association with any real company, organisation, product, person or event is intended or should be inferred.

 

© 1999 Microsoft Corp. All rights reserved.

Microsoft, MSN, BackOffice, Windows, ActiveStore and ActiveX are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners