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Introducing BizTalk Server, Host Integration Server and Commerce Server
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by Joydip Kanjilal
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Introduction                  

Microsoft has come up with a range of servers that are targeted at building "an integrated and flexible business infrastructure." This is simply an introductory article that targets at providing an overview of BizTalk Server, Commerce Server and the Host Integration Servers and their benefits and applicability in the world of distributed, scalable, flexible computing. There are a lot of features and benefits provided by each of these servers and if they are covered in their entirety, this article would run into a huge number of pages. Keeping this in mind, I have provided a briefing on the most important of these features so as to provide the reader a ready guide to the concepts, features and benefits of each of these servers.

The following sections discuss the Microsoft BizTalk, Host Integration and Commerce Servers, their applicability, features and benefits.

Microsoft BizTalk Server

Prior to an understanding on what actually BizTalk Server is and how it fits in an enterprise, we should have a proper understanding of business processes. The Workflow Management Coalition (WFMC) defines a business process as "a set of one or more linked procedures or activities which collectively realize a business objective or policy goal, normally within the context of an organizational structure defining functional roles and relationships." It is a sequence of one or more related, structured activities that has a clearly stated objective and a deliverable or outcome. Business Processes, Workflow and Business Process Management are related. Workflow and Business Process Management address the need of automation of business processes. The Workflow Management Coalition defines workflow as "the automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information, or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules." With BPM, you can bridge the gap between business and technology. It is a new concept that merges, or rather, integrates business and Information Technology. Read more on this topic at my article on Business Process Management here.

BizTalk Server, product from Microsoft is targeted at the medium to large enterprises and facilitates a seamless integration of business processes within an enterprise. It allows you to exchange documents within the enterprise and facilitates unification of business systems within an organizational unit.

The following are the major features in BizTalk Server.

·         Support for application integration through the use of messaging

·         Support for automation of business processes through the usage of workflows

·         Business Rules Modeling Engine

·         Business Activity Monitoring

·         Support for Web Services

·         Administration Dashboard

·         Seamless integration with business applications

Microsoft Host Integration Server

Microsoft Host Integration Server facilitates rapid and flexible deployment, simplified integration of applications, data, and network. You can use the Host Integration Server to enable data retrieval from a wide range of database servers, ranging from Microsoft SQL Server to DB2 in Windows NT, 2000, UNIX, AS400 Servers. Further, you can use the Host Integration Server to integrate the legacy host systems with the information networks that can either be client-server based or web based. Actually, "Host Integration Server is a follow-up release of Microsoft’s SNA Server. It comprises a wide range of tools and services that gives clients transparent access to data on mainframes, AS/400, UNIX, Windows 2000, and Windows NT servers. This means you can continue to use your back-end servers and applications but provide access to them in new ways, including Web-based interfaces."

According to Microsoft, "Microsoft Host Integration Server 2006 offers key enabling technologies that allow enterprise organizations to integrate their mission-critical host applications, data sources and security systems with new solutions developed using the Microsoft Windows platform. Host Integration Server 2006 features and technologies, including network integration, host access with enhanced security, data and application integration, enable Windows developers to publish business processes in IBM mainframe and AS/400 data and applications as XML Web Services, which brings their Host applications and processes into a Services Oriented Environment."

The major features provided by the Host Integration Server include:

·         Identity Management

·         Data Integration

·         Application Integration

·         Network integration

Microsoft Commerce Server

The Commerce Server, a product from software giant Microsoft, is targeted at reducing complexity and building scalable Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Commerce (B2C) applications. Using Commerce Server, you can develop and deploy enterprise level e-commerce applications efficiently and manage transactional and backend data for such applications seamlessly. Microsoft Commerce Server is a scalable platform for developing, deploying, monitoring and even upgrading e-commerce applications seamlessly. MSDN states, "this extensible platform enables you to build solutions that scale with business needs and integrate with existing systems and data."

The following are some of the basic features provided by Microsoft Commerce Server.

·         Provides a scalable, extensible data warehouse and its management and configuration tools.

·         Provides a scalable, flexible, dynamic profiling system.

·         Provides event logging, performance monitoring and single sign on support.

·         Provides a flexible, extensible content selection framework and support for multilingualism.

·         Provides powerful user and catalog management systems.

You can use the Commerce Server for a "seamless connection to internal and partner applications and systems such as Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, JD Edwards, and others through Microsoft BizTalk Server adapters." According to Microsoft, "Commerce Server enables you to create full-featured Web business applications and extend your business across networks, while allowing you to integrate e-commerce solutions within your existing infrastructure." There is an excellent article from Microsoft that discusses the architecture of Commerce Server in its entirety. You can find this article at Commerce Server Architecture.

References
Conclusion

This article has looked at the concepts related to Microsoft BizTalk, Commerce and Host Integration Servers. The objective of this article was to provide the users a brief overview of each of these servers. I would follow this up with some articles on the deployment and implementation issues related to these servers.


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