Although Microsoft "launched" BizTalk Server 2006 on Monday, the business process-management software itself may not be finally ready until the middle of next year.
Traditionally, the launch event is the denouement of Microsoft's product development cycle. There are beta versions, then release candidates, and at some point Microsoft gives it the final stamp of approval and it goes "gold master" and is released to manufacturing. Such was the case with both SQL Server and Visual Studio, which also were touted on Monday.
But despite being launched today, the new version of BizTalk won't even hit the Beta 2 stage until later this year.
"Because all these products have been developed together... It made sense from our point of view to launch them together," said Robert Wahbe, general manager of the connected systems division that includes BizTalk.
Final release of BizTalk, originally slated for the first quarter of next year, is now slated for some time in the first half of the year.
Now, in fairness, while it has taken five years for Microsoft to update SQL Server, the current release of BizTalk is fairly recent, having come out last year.
Customers who want to peek at the new product can certainly download a prerelease "community technology preview" version. However, for customers who are considering BizTalk, Wahbe suggests they move to the current version, BizTalk 2004.
Unlike past versions, in which it was hard to move older BizTalk projects onto a new version of the server software, the new software will accommodate older projects without a hitch, Wahbe promised.
One of the other changes Microsoft is making is that it is bundling in the "adaptors" necessary for BizTalk to talk to other enterprise software, such as SAP. Typically such products have been paid add-ons.
"It really simplifies the licensing of the product," Wahbe said. Earlier this year, Microsoft bought eight such adapters from iWay, one of its partners.