At least one Microsoft customer is puzzled by the math behind the company’s decision to dismantle its BizTalk, Content Management and Commerce server bundle.

BizTalk Server 2004, which launched March 2, will be sold as a separate product. The server application will include business activity

monitoring tools, which will allow a user to track a business process through integration with Microsoft’s Office 2003 suite. The product will also include support for Business Process Execution Language, which will route data using an XML standard. Microsoft’s original plan, announced at the Tech-Ed conference in 2003, was to sell its e-business server products as one suite under the name Jupiter.

The Toronto office of CCL Industries Inc., a consumer manufacturing conglomerate, uses earlier versions of BizTalk Server and Commerce Server. “”If one ends up using a bit here and a bit there anyway, in my mind, it’s better to have a complete bundled solution,”” said CCL’s vice-president of IT and CIO, Akhil Bhandari. “”That way one has everything one needs to get started on an e-commerce project, as opposed to worrying about ‘What else should I have?'””

Bhandari said he has no plans to move up to BizTalk 2004 when it becomes available, but expressed interest in the product’s enhanced XML-based routing since he’s looking for a better way to exchange XML data between his departments.

BizTalk is beginning to overshadow the Content Management and Commerce Server products, said IDC Canada Ltd. analyst Warren Shiau, which may be one of the reasons Microsoft has opted it to sell it alone.

“”For Microsoft, BizTalk Server is probably the most important of these product lines in terms of where it gets them with users,”” he said. “”Biztalk is really an integral part of their integration message. Content Management Server and Commerce Server are important too, but they’re not so key to that integration and architecture message.””

Avanade Canada, a system integrator that specializes in Microsoft-related IT projects, is establishing a centre of excellence in Ottawa to work on enterprise integration issues involving BizTalk. The facility will be close to government customers Avanade Canada is eager to work with, said enterprise integration practice lead Sylvain Duford.

Microsoft and consulting firm Accenture founded Avanade as a joint venture about four years ago. Duford said Avanade has been working since last fall with one federal government customer to help link the IT systems of various departments with a Siebel customer relationship management product.

“”They were originally going to just rewrite it in C# by hand,”” said Duford, who would not name the government agency. “”We said it would make more sense to use BizTalk, because then they’d have the ability to add, move or change things without changing the core application.””

Duford said BizTalk’s business activity monitoring tools will be useful to Avanade’s customers, especially its public sector client.

“”They need to be able to audit every message they send to the RCMP,”” he said. “”They want to keep an eye on what transactions are getting blocked and why.””

—with files from Shane Schick

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