Microsoft has announced the availability of the first beta version of BizTalk Server 2004.
BizTalk Server 2004 will form the foundation for Jupiter, a project announced last year, which will unify BizTalk with two of Microsoft's other E-Business Server products, Commerce Server and Content Management Server, said David Wascha, group product manager for E-Business Servers at Microsoft.
One of Microsoft's goals with Jupiter is to reduce the complexity of business integration software, something that both Microsoft and its rivals have been lax at in the past, according to Wascha.
BizTalk Server 2004, the upgrade to BizTalk Server 2002, is designed to integrate disparate applications in an enterprise. It will compete with products from suppliers including IBM, webMethods, Tibco Software, SeeBeyond Technology and BEA Systems.
Among the enhancements in BizTalk Server 2004 will be support for the BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services) and a developers' tool that will work inside Microsoft's overarching developer environment, Visual Studio .net.
Also featured in BizTalk Server 2004 is integration with InfoPath and Excel, data gathering and spreadsheet products, respectively, that are part of Microsoft's Office System. Users will be able to get easier access to back-end data sources from within those applications.
Other features in BizTalk Server 2004 include single sign-on, a workflow engine and a business rules engine. These features will be used by the other pieces of Jupiter that will be delivered later.
Research firm Gartner estimated the integration software market was worth around $1.7bn (£1bn) in licence revenue last year and will grow between 6% and 8% in 2003. Microsoft claims to have about 2,300 customers for BizTalk Server worldwide.