Oliver Rist wrote a column in his blog titled “What about BizTalk?” Historically I haven’t responded to these types of articles, but that’s what blogging is supposed to be for – expressing your opinions and this seemed like a good article to respond to so here we are. Starting at the beginning – I never really like the Michael Vaughan character on Alias. He kind of reminded of a secret agent for a certain European country and a Greenpeace incident in NZ a while back so I was happy to see him being written out of the script (assuming he doesn’t reincarnate).

Oliver asserts that for the vast majority of its implementations BizTalk will require plenty of time and money. When I started in this business 5 years ago integration products were sold by sales folks who owned boats, fancy cars and the type of houses with those cute Victorian layouts and views of large lakes. Why? The software was super duper expensive. Microsoft has been singularly responsible for reducing the price-point of integration software by over 100 times. Indeed we are still the price-leader in the space and in several deals that come to mind our competitors have dropped their catalog prices by 40% just to be within the realm of our pricing when they hear that the competitor is BizTalk Server.  On the other hand, Oliver does have a point hooking up existing systems across multiple platforms is inherently a tricky proposition and for that reason BizTalk developers get paid more than Web developers and the projects tend to be more strategic to the very existence of enterprises.

Oliver talks about BizTalk Server being revved back – I’m not sure why.  BizTalk Server is not being revved back in the slightest way – that won’t make sense as the business is doing very well.  Indeed we have shipped more innovation more frequently than any other server product from Microsoft in the last 5 years, with 4 new versions, and that will continue.  We now have 5000 customers making us the #1 in our space in terms of customers and we are growing strongly as a business due to the value that our customers find in our product.  We are currently planning BizTalk Server vNext which will include Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation and lots of specific BizTalk innovations.

According to Oliver BizTalk is a proprietary platform which costs money. I guess I could argue this both ways. One way would be to define the term proprietary. If he means that it isn’t open-source and it is a for cost product then that’s absolutely true and is equally applicable to IBM Web Sphere, SAP, Oracle and all the players in the integration and business process space. Another might be that it is somehow closed in the sense that it only supports “Microsoft stuff”. BizTalk Server provides the largest level of interop of any Microsoft product to numerous platforms and recently we acquired 9 adapters to help our customers broaden that through connectivity to Oracle, Siebel, TIBCO and so on..

So what about BizTalk and Windows Workflow Foundation? Did you bet on the wrong horse by choosing BizTalk Server? No you didn’t. BizTalk Server is, was, and will be the right architecture for business process and integration on Windows. To properly serve the needs of business process and integration you need a “man in the middle” server that adapts, routes, tracks, manages, scales and has all the appropriate BPM capabilities such as BAM. Windows Workflow Foundation gives you none of that. On the other hand there are many scenarios that Windows Workflow Foundation is useful outside of business process and integration such include page-flow in ASP.NET web applications, workflow within line of business applications that ISVs build, workflow within Office. By targeting ISVs primarily the Windows Workflow Foundation technology can be embedded within these applications.

Put simply:

A. Workflow within applications = Windows Workflow Foundation

B. Workflow across applications = BizTalk Server

I love working with the press, but on one or two occasions some “selective editing” has provided some out of context quotes. Let me reverse the situation and end on my favorite part of Oliver’s article “In fact, the synergy of [Windows Workflow Foundation] and BizTalk will probably make you look like a visionary”. You bet we are working hard to make that 100% a reality.