Microsoft calls for beta feedback

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The beta version of software that will form the first phase of a new e-business project code-named Jupiter has been released at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference in Dallas.

Release of the BizTalk Server 2004 beta is the first phase of the project. Designed for companies wanting to build e-business solutions, it's built on Microsoft's .NET framework and can be integrated into the vendor's Office System and Visual Studio .NET.

Steven Martin, product manager for BizTalk Server at Microsoft, said that it hoped to get a lot of customers signing on to the beta. The company expects to have at least 10,000 deployments within the next three months, according to Martin.

He said that it wanted to get feedback from both new and existing customers, and had also been targeting non-Microsoft users in this drive. Both news groups and e-mail aliases have been set up to gather this information, for example, bugs or functional enhancement requests users have found.

In addition to feedback from customers using the beta version of Jupiter, Martin said there were also a number of companies involved in its early adopter program who had been asked for their opinion about particular areas of the product. "We ask them to really drill down into more specific areas, depending upon how extensively they have been using that component," Martin said.

The general release date for the first phase has been tentatively set for the end of the calendar year, he said. Packaging and pricing hasn't been announced yet, with more information on this planned for closer to availability.

The first phase will include the core technologies such as process orchestration functionality, single sign-on and a business rules engine. "A lot of work has gone into the usability and performance of the engine itself," Martin said.

Other functions he highlighted included human-based workflow, used for tasks such as claims processing; Web services; and business activity monitoring.

Martin anticipates that BizTalk Server 2004 will appeal to mid to larger organisations, across all verticals including government, healthcare and financial services. He said the product had also been designed to be used by three distinct groups of users - information workers, such as business-level managers as well as IT professionals and developers.

The second phase of the launch is scheduled for the 2004/05 timeframe, and will include adding content management and commerce pieces directly to the platform. Rather than have one release that was years and years away, it had decided on a foundation release and then an additional release, Martin added.

Laws Clause: Vivienne Fisher travelled to Tech Ed 2003 courtesy of Microsoft.

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