Microsoft announced yesterday that the first public beta of BizTalk Server 2009 is available for download. The announcement was made at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit, and included the news that BizTalk RFID Mobile and the BizTalk RFID Standards Pack are generally available.

“Our customers are looking for additional ways to extend and connect their existing applications, and to deliver new projects more rapidly,” said Oliver Sharp, general manager of the Connected Systems Division at Microsoft. “The BizTalk product family delivers a tremendous set of enterprise connectivity capabilities ‘in the box’ for heterogeneous environments at a fraction of the price of any comparable solution in the market today.”

BizTalk RFID Mobile extends BizTalk Server RFID to mobile devices running Windows Mobile and Windows CE. According to the Microsoft press release, customers are already seeing benefits from deploying mobile radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions on the new platform. The release cites the example of Rite Care Pharmacy Inc., a growing retail chain and one of 8,200 BizTalk customers worldwide, which worked with Microsoft partner S3Edge Software to cut its order fulfillment time and inventory space requirements in its warehouses in half. “With BizTalk RFID Mobile, we can quickly decide where a product needs to go as soon as we receive it, removing several steps in the inventory stocking process,” said Seshu Guddanti, managing director at Rite Care Pharmacy. “This helped us to reduce our turnaround time from four days to two days.”

Ken Vollmer, principal analyst with Forrester Research, comments that "the big impact here is the enablement of RFID capability on a wider range of mobile devices through the availability of full RFID features on Windows Mobile and Windows CE. This will open up opportunities to use RFID in a wider range of business scenarios."

According to Burley Kawasaki, director of product management at Microsoft, BizTalk Server 2009 supports Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SP1, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. Burley noted that BizTalk Server 2009 also delivers expanded new connectivity options including new integration with Oracle Corp.’s E-Business Suite, as well as updated platform support for the most recent versions of IBM Corp.’s Customer Information Control System (CICS), Information Management System (IMS), DB2, DB2/400, DB2 Universal Database and WebSphere MQ.

Burley explained that BizTalk Server 2009 also delivers improved scalability and reliability through support for SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V virtualization and enhanced failover clustering. Forrester analyst Vollmer comments that "BizTalk will be able to take more advantage of the virtualization features in conjunction with Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008. This will enable consolidation opportunities for projects using these tools. BizTalk Server 2009 will have some enhancements from a usability perspective, particularly in the area of application life cycle management."

Concerning RFID, Burley noted that customers and partners can now expedite development of RFID applications in heterogeneous environments with BizTalk Server support for RFID standards, Tag Data Translation (TDT) and Low Level Reader Protocol (LLRP). Microsoft also released a community technology preview(CTP) of the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Guidance 2.0, which delivers updated prescriptive guidance for applying ESB usage patterns with improved itinerary processing, itinerary modeling using a visual domain-specific language (DSL) tools approach, a pluggable resolver-adapter pack and an enhanced ESB management portal, according to the press release.

The press release also states that BizTalk RFID Mobile is available at no cost to BizTalk Server customers with Microsoft Software Assurance as well as new BizTalk Server customers who purchase an edition of BizTalk with Software Assurance.

For more information go to the download site.