The Community Technology Preview for BizTalk 2006 R2 just came out and Beta 2 is coming soon.

In parallel with the R2 RTM, we will also be releasing a new version of the Accelerator for HL7, the successor to the v1.3 release currently available and dubbed v2.0.

This is a good time to start talking about the new features and enhancements that will be included in this new release based on the feedback we got from customers and partners.

The first new feature I want to talk about is the Schema Generation Tool. This tool will be available as an MSDN download. This is the same tool that we used internally to generate the schemas that ship with the current version of the Accelerator. The tool takes the HL7 message definition from the database that HL7 publishes on their web site  and generates schemas in a format that the BizTalk HL7 parser can understand. These schemas are used by the parser in the process of translating from the flat file format of HL7 v2.x to XML.

The HL7 message definitions are stored in a Microsoft Access database and include definitions for all the approved versions (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.3.1, 2.4 and 2.5). You can have a peek at what's in the database here. The HL7 message definition database will not ship with the Accelerator or the Schema Generation Tool as it is part of the HL7 standard and has to be acquired directly from HL7.org.

By customizing the database and the generated schema namespace, you will be able to create your own library of message definitions for your own integration purposes or for versions of HL7 that we do not ship schemas for (e.g. the Dutch localization of HL7, the Australian localization...).

The Schema Generation Tool will also come with full source code as a shared source project. That way it can be adapted to generate the schemas from *any* repository or from tools such as the HL7 Messaging Workbench.

The objective of the Schema Generation Tool is to make it easier to manage libraries of HL7 message definitions by working at the model level instead of dealing with schema customization. Every time you need to generated a custom message or segment, you can modify the repository (or a copy of it) and generate new schemas.

That's all for today. I'll be back soon discussing other new features and changes in the upcoming BizTalk Accelerator for HL7 v2.0.

Update: the Schema Generation Tool as well as BizTalk 2006 R2 Beta 2 and the Accelerator for HL7 v2 Beta 2 *are not available yet*. Once we release them, you'll be the first to know. Consider this a teaser :-)