On Tuesday April 24th, Microsoft will extend the incubation of BizTalk Services to developers outside of Microsoft. For those who know Microsoft terminology, we think about this release as a CTP (Community Technology Preview) which is a way for us to release technology very early in the process (well prior to the final release) for potential users to provide feedback and help us shape the release. We'll manage the infrastructure on a best-efforts basis with the goal being to ignite community use and dialogue around the services. This is not for high-availability production applications but rather to allow for measured experimentation

While the Internet and Enterprise have collided in the past, we see the types of applications that both Enterprise Developers and Web developers build continuing to converge. If you would have asked a web developer two years ago about the role Pub Sub played in their application, they would have likely laughed or just been completely confused. Today, developers in both camps are thinking about building applications at Internet scope. In aggregate, we see the services we are providing as an ISB (Internet Service Bus). More information on the ISB concept here. While it has some of the characteristics you might see in a traditional ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) the scope is very different. Today, an ESB stops at the firewall while the next generation of applications clearly do not. Developers need workflow, identity and access management and the ability to easily move data between end points regardless of the location of the firewall. Each of these services builds on the pioneering work Microsoft has done with Web Services / Windows Communication Foundation over the last several years.

We think this will be very interesting for developers, but in the greater context of what this will be, this gets really exciting. Our vision is to empower customers to turn smart decisions into a technical reality with the use of software and services where they each make the most sense. Customers consistently tell us that the one size fits all approach is costly. They want flexibility in software and services. More importantly, we want to protect customers from the Tyranny of "Or". It's the coupling of software and services that is really powerful. Corporate strategy, regulations, etc will always make it desirable for organizations to maintain data / process within their firewall. Our goal is to make services + software seamless. While "Or" sounds like a choice, we see it as more of an ultimatum. Customers want and deserve real choice here, and they want to be able to change their mind as their needs change without reinventing their architecture.

It may be useful to describe where these services fit in the broader Services context. Those using BizTalk Services won't see any similarity to SaaS applications as they are building block services rather than finished applications. There are three categories of services we are thinking about as a company:

  • Building Block – The raw building block capabilities to enable developers to build interesting services (or composite apps) e.g. BizTalk Services
  • Attached – Services that feed into the premise software e.g. Exchange Hosted Services (security, anti-spam, archiving), Windows Live Update
  • Finished – Services built for delivery over the internet. e.g. Dynamics CRM Live, Salesforce.com

What does this mean for our 7000+ BizTalk Server customers? We see BizTalk Services as a complement to "traditional" BizTalk Server uses on premise. As you need to coordinate SOA on a broader scale beyond the organization, we see the introduction of hosted services as one way to help support federation of business process, messaging, and identity across boundaries. Over time, we want to ensure that BizTalk Server customers will be able to easily use the cloud services in conjunction with their premise technology.

External incubation means a couple of things for BizTalk Services.  As mentioned in the beginning we will manage the infrastructure on a best-efforts basis. Again, this is not for high SLA production applications. Also, given the early stage we are going to make these services available for free.  That may change down the road, but for now we want to ensure that there aren't any use blockers.  We also may consider expanding the hosting options in the future to empower partners / hosting providers to extend the services.

For more information on the services, please go here and let us know what you think!