IT channel takeaway: Get an overview of Microsoft's three main strategic areas for enterprise integration.
With Kent Brown, manager of Enterprise Integration Practice for 26NY, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.
Question: As a consultant who deals with Microsoft on a regular basis, could you tell us from your point of view about Microsoft's strategy for enterprise integration? What's the big picture?
Brown: There are three mains areas. One is Web services. Microsoft's been a leader in helping to drive those standards and helping to build some of the first implementations, and so in that area, through .NET, they have one of the strongest toolsets for supporting that. And there's the future with Indigo -- what they call Windows Communication Foundation -- that's going to give them strength. And they're supporting some of the more recent standards in security and routing, and transactions are a lot more advanced. That's the Web services side.
BizTalk, which is my primary focus, is a product that does software services but it also can talk to the older legacy systems that aren't yet talking to Web services. It can read an EDI or flat file or pretty much any format that you receive. It's very good at orchestrating Web services if you're ready for that.
The third area is on the front end. They've done a lot with Office 2003 to provide some client ways to consume, so if you do have Web services you can make Excel and Word and Infopath pretty much communicate directly with these Web services.
Question: Going a little bit more into using Office, what is the advantage of having a Windows-oriented front end to, say, an SAP application? SAP surely has its own front end.
Brown: Yes. I want to be careful not to malign SAP. I'm honestly not that versed in it. But I have seen pretty common situations where their interfaces appear to be lacking or not very convenient to use, or there may be certain processes that aren't yet in that interface, whereas in the back end SAP is very strong running the core business. So you do see common scenarios where processes need to be automated back into SAP and where it's very convenient to use Office as the front end. For example, we did a project last year using Infopath as the forms module to do a request for security rights, because the administrative person wasn't an SAP admin. BizTalk coordinated the process of approvals, and once there was an approval it was forwarded in an automated fashion to the Web services that SAP supported.
Question: What are the uses and limits of BizTalk's single sign-on?
Brown: I believe Microsoft has big plans to extend that product in the future. Currently its primary role is to map between the Microsoft environment and credentials on the mainframe.
This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.