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BizTalk

eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is the grown-up brother of HTML, the language used to create most of today's web pages. XML is the new, open standard and will find its way into most new web developments, offering higher levels of functionality, better control over layout and more flexibility.

Microsoft has been a keen supporter of its development and has used its knowledge of this development to create BizTalk - initially started by Microsoft but now a more general industry initiative supported by other vendors such as SAP and CommerceOne.

The initiative aims to build consistent ways of transferring business-related data between applications when undertaking a range of relatively simple transactions such as invoicing and delivery scheduling.

BizTalk compliant products are now becoming available and, not surprisingly, one of the first is the BizTalk Server 2000 from Microsoft. This is essentially a collection of tools for managing data traffic in XML format over the web, allowing businesses to share information and exchange documents like purchase orders electronically.

Because XML is an open standard, such transfers can be made between any compliant applications, even across different hardware platforms, avoiding the problem of incompatible email or word processing systems. As well as XML, BizTalk will handle established interchange formats such as Edifact.

The set of tools includes 'adapters' for linking BizTalk to existing back office products and third party organisations are using the BizTalk framework to build off-the-shelf solutions to common business sub-tasks such as taking data off web forms and feeding it into a structured database, ready for  data processing. The BizTalk Server can search online repositories of such 'functoids' (small bits of add-in functionality) to save users re-inventing wheels to support their own business processes.

BizTalk should accelerate the development of eCommerce by providing a common language between different systems and applications.

see http://www.biztalk.org/



The right chemistry!

Microsoft has now introduced a BizTalk integration software development kit, BizTalk Server 2000 CIDX specifically for the chemical industry. This uses the core XML protocols developed by the Chemical Industry Data Exchange (CIDX), a consortium of chemical suppliers. Slowly, it looks as though CIDX is becoming the lingua franca of the online chemicals industry.

September 2001

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