Microsoft Announces Availability of BizTalk Server 2009

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The platform adds support for EPCIS and several other EPC standards, and incorporates BizTalk RFID Mobile—which the company says will help encourage wider RFID adoption.

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Microsoft Corp. has announced that BizTalk Server 2009—the latest version of its software designed to enable companies to orchestrate business processes and exchange data between various business systems—includes a number of RFID features requested by users of the software’s last iteration, BizTalk Server 2006 R2. These features, the company reports, are aimed at making RFID technology more accessible to a broader range of end users.

Microsoft announced these upgrades, as well as the May 1 availability of the BizTalk Server 2009 platform, at RFID Journal LIVE!, being held this week in Orlando, Fla. The end users spoke, and Microsoft listened, says Darrell Cavens, the company’s director of product management for BizTalk Server and RFID.

At last year’s LIVE! event, Microsoft unveiled the beta version of BizTalk RFID Mobile software, designed to run on mobile RFID interrogators and support a variety of RFID-enabled applications. Since then, the firm’s partner companies have tested and deployed the software with a number of clients. For instance, S3Edge, a packaged-software provider of turnkey RFID solutions, created a mobile RFID system running on BizTalk that helped Indian drug retailer RiteCare significantly reduce inventory levels and improve inventory accuracy (see RiteCare Says RFID Helps Cure Its Warehouse Woes).

BizTalk RFID Mobile works on RFID-enabled handheld computers that run either the Windows Mobile or Windows CE operating system. The software employs EPCglobal‘s low-level reader protocol (LLRP) standard to enable the handheld computer to communicate with and control its built-in reader. In addition, BizTalk RFID Mobile offers users the ability to operate in an offline function when they work in an area lacking wireless connectivity to the server. With this feature, a handheld can collect RFID tag reads in the field, store them locally in BizTalk RFID Mobile and upload them to an enterprise server once the device is reconnected to the network.

While BizTalk RFID Mobile has been available to existing BizTalk users as a service pack release since late 2008, Cavens believes that by making the software part of the core BizTalk offering, more end users will begin seeing the possibilities mobile RFID applications represent for improving business processes. This, he says, should also encourage wider RFID adoption.

Another important upgrade to BizTalk Server 2009, Microsoft reports, is support for Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS)—a vital EPCglobal standard enabling various parties to share EPC data. EPCIS defines a common language for describing RFID-tagged products or other assets, and a standard method for supply chain partners to exchange and understand this information, even if they have deployed different hardware and software.

Companies employing BizTalk Server 2006 R2 can also share EPC data using the EPCIS protocol—but to do this, developers have had to utilize a specific set of instructions available at the BizTalk Server Development Center.

In addition to incorporating the EPCIS standard and LLRP, BizTalk Server 2009 supports the latest version of EPCglobal’s Tag Data Translation (TDT) standard, which defines how to generate tag data and interpret it using a common language.

Additionally, Microsoft has announced five new additions to its RFID solution partner network, a group of companies certified to provide RFID products and services based on the BizTalk platform. The new partners are Cognizant, Lowry, MPS Partners, RFIDGS and Ship2Save.

At a keynote presentation being made this evening at RFID Journal LIVE!, Sudhir Hasbe, Microsoft’s senior product manager, and Colin Masson, the company’s worldwide director of CRM, ERP and supply chain solutions, will discuss how businesses across a variety of industry verticals are employing Microsoft’s RFID platform to transform their business processes. During the presentation, Zander Livingston, American Apparel‘s director of RFID, Gokhan Sarpkaya, logistics project leader at Continental Automotive Systems US, and Robert Urwiler, Vail Resorts‘ CIO, will describe how their companies are benefiting from RFID-enabled solutions based on the Microsoft platform (see American Apparel Expands RFID to Additional Stores, Automotive Manufacturer Tracks Incoming Inventory and Vail Picks New Line With UHF RFID-Powered Passes).