Microsoft touts new edition of BizTalk as low-cost solution for linking global supply chains

CHEP, a $3-billion-a-year global company, manages the movement of  more than 280 million pallets and containers for 300,000 customers in 44 countries. The RFID capabilities embedded in BizTalk Server improved CHEP’s ability to analyze its customers’ supply chains.
By Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor September 17, 2007

Microsoft executives are conducting a world tour to officially unveil the latest version of BizTalk Server , the company’s platform for automating and managing business processes that involve connections between disparate applications and technologies. But when it comes to touting the business benefits of BizTalk 2006 R2, as the new release is called, Microsoft might be better served by putting some of the platform’s early adopters on stage.
Hewlett-Packard and CHEP , the world’s leading provider of services for managing the movement of industrial pallets and shipping containers, are among the companies claiming to have boosted business productivity through the use of tools that are now standard

Don Ferguson, Microsoft technical fellow in platforms and strategy, outlined the virtues of the new BizTalk platform for audiences in Taipei, Taiwan and Sydney, Australia earlier this month.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner is slated to handle the U.S. launch on Oct 2, during EPC Connection 2007 , an RFID industry event taking place in Chicago. Turner, a former Wal-Mart CIO, is expected to talk about how RFID functionality—a key component of the new BizTalk release—can help companies create a competitive edge.

Brian Beattie, senior VP of marketing for CHEP,

CHEP, a $3-billion-a-year global company with U.S. headquarters in Orlando, Fla., issues, collects, conditions, and reissues more than 280 million pallets and containers for 300,000 customers in 44 countries. It moves more than 2.5 million items every day.

“By installing RFID in our customers’ facilities, we now have real-time visibility into their supply chains,” Beattie says. “And we are able to use that information to improve the speed and flexibility of those supply chains.”

Burley Kawasaki, a director in Microsoft’s Connected Systems Division, says CHEP got this ability not only from installing RFID equipment in customer sites, but also from using Microsoft’s RFID software to make sense of the data the equipment collects.

It’s a small world

“We can connect BizTalk to virtually any type of RFID equipment,” Kawasaki says, “but we also offer the ability to filter out extraneous information that may come in from RFID readers and let customers pass only relevant business information to their backend systems.”

Kawasaki says CHEP’s use of BizTalk’s RFID capabilities highlights “the central theme of the BizTalk R2 release—which is how we connect this world that has become smaller.

CHEP, a $3-billion-a-year global company , manages the movement of

“The ability to extend supply chains across oceans has become essential,” Kawasaki adds. “We believe BizTalk R2 delivers on the promise of helping companies create what we are calling the extended connected enterprise.”

In addition to the embedded RFID functionality, Kawasaki says the new platform EDI and service-oriented architectures (SOA).

Support for SOA comes largely in the form of an ESB Guidance Package , which offers
Hewlett-Packard, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology giant, was an early adopter of Microsoft SOA tools, using them to streamline the management of numerous Web storefronts .

Support for EDI, including industry-specific standards such as RosettaNet , which is widely used in the high-tech industry, are now part of the core BizTalk engine. Kawasaki says the EDI capability—and a separate version of BizTalk called the Branch Edition—“can bring smaller suppliers—the tier 2 and tier 3 companies into the EDI realm.”

In fact, Kawasaki