Microsoft orchestrates an enterprise-ready BizTalk RFID platform
The next version of Microsoft BizTalk Server business process management software will have RFID capabilities that Microsoft positions as a more enterprise-ready approach to RFID than that offered by traditional RFID middleware. Steve Sloan, senior product manager for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, says the RFID capabilities are a major area of focus for the next version of BizTalk, kn...
The next version of Microsoft BizTalk Server business process management software will have RFID capabilities that Microsoft positions as a more enterprise-ready approach to RFID than that offered by traditional RFID middleware.
Steve Sloan, senior product manager for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, says the RFID capabilities are a major area of focus for the next version of BizTalk, known as BizTalk Server 2006 R2. The R2 version is slated for availability in third quarter 2007, but in early May, Microsoft announced public availability of R2 Beta 2. This beta version includes BizTalk RFID, which Sloan says will use BizTalk's integration capabilities to connect significant RFID events to line-of-business applications.
"This means users will not just have RFID events that are captured at the edge, in isolation—they will have them happen within the context of their business processes," says Sloan. "It's this more holistic approach to RFID that is going to be different for us."
Anush Kumar, product manager for BizTalk RFID, says it addresses three key technical areas: plug-and-play device management, event-processing services, and a layer of tools and programming interfaces for partners and end users.
The event processing services are what filter out significant events and tie them into BizTalk's orchestration engine to communicate with back-end systems, says Kumar. "[BizTalk RFID] provides the ability to infer intelligence from a stream of RFID data and transform it into meaningful information for applications to act upon to drive business decisions," he says.
Kumar and Sloan believe an important aspect of Microsoft's approach is its close work with hardware and software partners to create low-cost solutions on top of BizTalk RFID. Sloan says there are 100 partners in an early adopter program, and eight customers for solutions—two of which are in production. "We've begun to build out the RFID ecosystem," says Sloan.
The software partners include Xterprise , which offers an asset tracking application; as well as Cactus Commerce , which offers a track-and-trace solution. On the hardware side, partners include Alien Technology , a vendor of tags and readers; and Intel Corp. , with collaboration focused on Intel's R1000 reader chip.
Microsoft, however, isn't the only vendor in the market claiming to have an approach that can parse RFID events for meaning and connect to business systems. Venkat Krishnamurthy, chief technology officer with RFID solutions vendor OATSystems , says the company's OATxpress software also handles RFID event processing and transformation, but works with multiple business process management packages, including BizTalk and competing products from IBM, Oracle, and others to link significant events with business systems.
OATSystems' overall focus, Krishnamurthy adds, is RFID-based solutions such as asset tracking or promotions management built on top of OATxpress. In this sense, he says, it competes more closely with software partners developing solutions on top of BizTalk RFID, rather than BizTalk RFID itself.