Yesterday, Microsoft announced the forthcoming release of BizTalk Server 2010 R2 on the BizTalk Server blog site. This is advanced notice, given that this new version will ship six months after the release of Windows 8, expected in the second half of next year. On this basis, we can expect the new version of BizTalk Server to arrive in 2013. Given the BizTalk team’s previous record of name changes, I wonder if this will eventually be released as BizTalk Server 2013.

Microsoft has been refreshingly open in recent months about their future plans for BizTalk Server. This strategy has not been without its dangers with some commentators refusing to accept Microsoft’s statements at face value. However, yesterday’s announcement is entirely in line with everything Microsoft has been saying, both publically and privately, for some time now. Since the release of BizTalk Server 2004, Microsoft has made little change to the core technology with, of course, the exception of a much re-vamped application packaging approach in BizTalk Server 2006. Instead, Microsoft chose to put investment into a number of important ’satellite’ technologies such as EDIFACT/X12/AS2 support, RFID Server, etc. Maintaining the stability of the core platform has allowed BizTalk Server to emerge as a mature and trusted workhorse in the enterprise integration space with widely available skills in the marketplace.

In terms of its major investments, Microsoft’s focus has long shifted to the cloud. Microsoft has candidly communicated that, given this focus, they have no current plans to add major new technologies to the BizTalk platform. In addition, they absolutely have no intention of re-engineering the core BizTalk platform. In my direct experience in recent months, this last point plays very well to prospective and existing enterprise customers. It takes us straight to the heart of what most organisations want from an integration server: a ’known quantity’ with a good track record for dependability, scalability and stability and a significant pool of available technical resource.

The announcement of BizTalk Server 2010 R2 illustrates and illuminates Microsoft’s stated future strategy for the product. An important part of Microsoft’s platform for enterprise computing, it will continue to be enhanced and extended. It will match future developments in the Windows platform and new versions of Visual Studio. However, we should not expect to see any dramatic new developments in the world of BizTalk Server. Instead, the BizTalk platform will continue to steadily mature further as the world’s best-selling integration server.

One of the big messages of yesterday’s announcement is that BizTalk Server will increasingly support its emerging role in building hybrid solutions that encompass systems and services that reside both on-premises and in the cloud. At


, we are increasingly focused on the design and implementation of cloud-based and hybrid integration solutions. Integration is challenging, and Azure is a young, fast evolving platform. Microsoft has discussed at length their vision of Azure within a wider ’hybrid’ context. The availability of a tried and tested, mature, on-premises integration server is a vitally important enabler in building hybrid solutions. Better than that, the announcement makes it clear that, as well as new support for the Azure service bus, BizTalk Server 2010 R2 licensing will be revised to open up new opportunities for hosting the server in the cloud. This ties in with the push in Azure to embrace more fully the IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) model and, perhaps most importantly in the BizTalk space, to reduce or eliminate existing barriers between the on-premises and off-premises worlds. BizTalk Server and Azure belong together.