Many companies that have until recently regarded e-business as a cool but bleeding-edge technology now embrace it as an integral and essential part of their operations. Recognizing this fundamental shift in the corporate landscape, Microsoft developed three server products aimed squarely at helping companies develop e-business solutions that are integrated with their internal networks and applications and that facilitate interaction with their business partners: Content Management Server, Commerce Server, and BizTalk Server. These servers represent a three-tiered strategy that addresses the different levels of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) integration.
At the most basic level, companies must establish a Web presence. Content Management Server helps with Web content creation and management. Commerce Server helps companies take the next step by letting them conduct business over the Web. Commerce Server provides the tools to build and integrate online order processing with a Web site so that customers can purchase items on the Web. BizTalk Server hits at the deepest level of e-business integration by providing the ability to seamlessly connect disparate internal business processes as well as enterprise-level B2B applications. BizTalk Server performs its integration by transferring documents between platforms that use XML as the common language or by acting as the hub in an XML message-brokering system.
The rising popularity of e-business and the Microsoft e-business servers has spawned a growing market of add-ons, utilities, and services. These tools extend the native capabilities of the servers by adding features that let you administer the servers more easily and work with them more productively.
Content Management Server 2002
Creating and maintaining Web content are probably the most important activities in enabling e-business, and Content Management Server 2002 helps perform these tasks. Content Management Server provides a rapid application development (RAD) environment that helps even nondevelopers create, deploy, and maintain content-rich Web sites. Figure 1, page 54, shows Content Management Server's Site Manager, which lets you work with Web sites.
Content Management Server's template-driven system doesn't require programming expertise to use, so you can keep Web content fresh without waiting around for developers. The templates also help you maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your Web site. This consistency can help to promote corporate branding throughout the site.
Content workflow features ensure that you properly review and approve all Web content before publication. A content-scheduling feature automates the timely publishing and archiving of Web content so that the content doesn't become outdated.
Running on the Windows Server 2003 servers, Windows 2000 Server, and Win2K Advanced Server, Content Management Server requires access to a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 system to store its Web site definitions. As you would expect from one of the Microsoft server line of products, you can use Content Management Server with other Microsoft servers. For example, Content Management Server supports XML Web services, so you can use BizTalk Server to connect with network applications and transform their content for sites that you use Content Management Server to build.
Extending Content Management Server's Development Capabilities
The biggest area of third-party tools for Content Management Server is that of extending the server's Web development capabilities. Altova's xmlspy 5 lets you edit and manage XML-based content in Content Management Server. Altova also provides the authentic 5 Browser Edition CMS 2002 Placeholder Control, which facilitates XML content editing and management from the Content Management Server development environment.
Chuckwalla ContentConnect uses the Windows .NET Framework to provide Content Management Server document and digital-asset management. Another company that provides digital-asset management is MediaBin, whose Content Management Server add-on MediaBin Asset Manager uses .NET and XML Web services to expose the digital-asset management server functionality. OpenNetwork Technologies' DirectorySmart provides identity management support for Content Management Server, ensuring that only the right people can access and modify Web content.
Other products extend Content Management Server's development environment in other areas. Equilibrium Technologies' MediaRich expands the Content Management Server templates feature to include image-processing functions. Metalogix Software's Migration Assistant lets you point and click legacy Web content to migrate it to Content Management Server. Teamplate for .NET extends Content Management Server's linear workflow model by enabling complex multiapproval, multiauthor, interenterprise collaborations.
Customizing the end-user experience is another important area of Content Management Server add-on products. Corechange's Coreport and Content Management Server let you develop intranet and extranet portals, based on roles, that your Web server can use to deliver targeted content to both desktop PCs and wireless devices. Another leading provider of portal integration with Content Management Server is Plumtree Software, whose Plumtree Content Server product lets business managers add dynamic content to the portal without help from IT.
Adding Search Functions to Content Management Server
Search functions are another area in which multiple vendors provide products that enrich Content Management Server's native capabilities. Fast Search & Transfer's (FAST's) FAST Data Search provides realtime incremental indexing of data to ensure that the data on the Web site is in sync with your data sources and offers a configurable results-ranking system for enhanced usability. Inktomi's Web Search integrates a powerful and flexible Web search interface with Content Management Server. Web Search also lets users refine their search queries with field-level and full-text searches.
iXmatch's iXfind enhances Content Management Server with navigation and search functionality that lets users search structured and unstructured data—including documents, catalogs, product details, and support information—across all areas of a Web site or network. Mondosoft's MondoSearch also provides an integrated Web site search solution for Content Management Server that combines search capabilities with behavior tracking for complete content management functionality.
Adding Multinational Support to Content Management Server
Tackling the problems inherent in multinational Web sites is another area in which multiple vendors offer products to enhance Content Management Server. Ektron's eWebEditPro is a browser-based, multilingual editor that delivers comprehensive content authoring functionality to business users. Along with support for an advanced style sheet control with style class selectors, for managing images and editing tables, and for Extensible HTML (XHTML)compliant output, eWebEditPro supports content authoring with spell checking in any Windows-supported language.
SDL International's SDLWorkFlow uses XML to quickly deploy content to local language sites in a controlled manner. Another company offering multilingual enhancements to Content Management Server is TRADOS. Its TRADOS GXT product integrates with Content Management Server to automate the business processes required to quickly and efficiently localize, deploy, and maintain multilingual Web content.
Commerce Server 2002
Microsoft designed Commerce Server 2002 to take the next e-business integration step beyond the basic Web content authoring that Content Management Server 2002 enables. To complement Content Management Server's content authoring, Web site deployment, and site management capabilities, Commerce Server includes an application framework that simplifies the development of shopping-cart functionality, sophisticated feedback mechanisms, and analytical capabilities that let you add order processing and online sales to your Web sites. Figure 2 shows a list of Commerce Server reports that you can run. To facilitate building e-commerce applications, Commerce Server provides prebuilt business components and tools that support both the legacy COM framework as well as the newer .NET Framework. Commerce Server's visual pipeline-style editor lets you create sophisticated transaction processing logic without having to do custom programming.
Commerce Server supports rules-based sales promotions and marketing campaigns, so you can target users by market or by spending patterns. Commerce Server also lets you generate directed ads, email messages, and discount promotions. As you'd expect, Commerce Server provides built-in support for multiple tax rates, shipping options, and currencies. By taking advantage of SQL Server's OLAP Analysis Services, Commerce Server provides more than 100 business intelligence (BI) reports out of the box and the ability to create your own custom BI reports. Commerce Server 2002 runs on the Windows 2003 servers and Win2K Server or Win2K AS with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Security Rollup Package 1 (SRP1). Commerce Server 2002 also requires SQL Server 2000 with Analysis Services and SP2.
Enhancing Commerce Server's Transaction Services
One of the most important areas for Commerce Server add-ons is facilitating and securing transaction management. One company that works to enable secure payment processing with Commerce Server is ClearCommerce. The ClearCommerce Suite provides Internet fraud protection and enables full automation of the online sale process. The CyberSource Commerce Component lets you implement a suite of e-commerce transaction services, including global payment processing, fraud screening, tax calculation, gift certificates, delivery address verification, fulfillment messaging, and digital delivery. Cactus Communications Internet's Acuraci Logistics Enabler is a front-end solution that acts as both a point of purchase and as a logistics parser that extracts data from electronic purchase orders and invoices.
Extending Commerce Server Search Capabilities
Another area in which third-party offerings add value to Commerce Server is in extending the product's native search capabilities. The products that offer integrated search capabilities for Commerce Server are much the same as those for Content Management Server. FAST Data Search provides realtime incremental indexing. Inktomi's Web Search enables full-text search on natural language search terms and has a customizable UI. Mondosoft's MondoSearch integrates search capabilities with behavior tracking.
BizTalk Server 2002
Tackling the deepest e-business level, Microsoft designed BizTalk Server 2002 expressly to enable enterprise application and B2B integration. Using XML as the common data conduit, BizTalk Server enables application integration by providing document transport and routing, data transformation, and process automation. BizTalk Server provides a built-in BizTalk Mapper that maps your business documents to a business partner's documents or to documents that other applications in your organization use. For instance, you can use BizTalk Server to map your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system's purchase orders, invoices, and shipping manifests to the format that your business partner's ERP system requires. BizTalk Server's Orchestration Designer lets you build sophisticated document workflow based on Microsoft's XLANG standard without custom programming. Figure 3 shows BizTalk Server's Application Designer, which lets you define and build distributed business processes.
Microsoft offers four BizTalk Server 2002 versions: BizTalk Server 2002 Enterprise Edition, BizTalk Server 2002 Standard Edition, BizTalk Server 2002 Developer Edition, and BizTalk Server 2002 Partner Edition. The Enterprise Edition is targeted at large organizations and supports integrating unlimited internal applications with unlimited trading partners over the Internet. The Enterprise Edition also supports multiple processors and clustered deployments. The Standard Edition is designed for small and midsized organizations and supports integrating a maximum of 5 internal applications with as many as 10 trading partners. The Developer Edition offers the same features as the Enterprise Edition, but you can use it only for development—you can't deploy it in a production environment. The Partner Edition supports integrating as many as 2 internal applications with a maximum of 2 trading partners.
BizTalk Server 2002 runs on the Windows 2003 servers, Win2K Server SP2, or Win2K AS SP2. The Enterprise, Standard, and Developer Editions of BizTalk Server 2002 also require access to a SQL Server 2000 or SQL Server 7.0 system. The Partner Edition ships with a bundled version of Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), obviating the need for an existing SQL Server installation.
The increasing number of BizTalk Server installations has also fueled growth in the BizTalk adapter market. BizTalk adapters are software components that let BizTalk Server integrate with third-party applications. Microsoft and its business partners provide adapters that facilitate integration with software from SAP, J.D. Edwards, Siebel Systems, Onyx Software, and other vendors. In total, more than 300 third-party adapters are available to plug in and add functionality to BizTalk Server. You can find the complete list at http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/evaluation/adapters/adapterslist.asp.
Extending BizTalk Server's Document Parsing
One of the more important capabilities that third-party products can add to BizTalk Server is extended document parsing and transformation. For example, Datawatch's VorteXML is a powerful custom parser that transforms formatted text such as that found in invoices, purchase orders, shipping documents, and HTML pages into valid XML documents without programming. FormScape Enterprise Plus can also receive a document from a source system such as an ERP system and transform it into a different format (e.g., XML), then pass the results to BizTalk Server for routing and tracking.
ItemField's ContentMaster for BizTalk provides data-extraction and -conversion software solutions for transforming unstructured data formats into XML without the need for programming. Web2XML's Web Integration Engine (WIE) integrates existing Web sites into the BizTalk Server framework, letting BizTalk Server users access data from sites which aren't BizTalk Serverenabled.
Extending BizTalk Server to incorporate EDI documents and standards is another important front in which third-party products add value. Edifecs' SpecBuilder helps you create, edit, and publish document specifications and provides an extensive library of EDI standards, including X12 and EDIFACT.
Facilitating BizTalk Server's Interoperability
BizTalk Server uses XML as the common communications medium to interact with many OSs or applications or both. However, not all OSs and applications are XML-enabled. In addition, moving documents between different platforms can present challenges. One vendor that's extending BizTalk Server's host-integration capabilities is HostBridge Technology. HostBridge XML-enables existing CICS Basic Mapping Support (BMS) transactions so that they can integrate with BizTalk Server.
Another product that facilitates BizTalk Server's platform interoperability is Xceed Software's Xceed FTP Library for BizTalk Server. This BizTalk Server Application Integration Component (AIC) integrates with the BizTalk Messaging Pipeline and uses FTP as a messaging transport. Syntrex extends BizTalk Server's file-transfer capabilities with Syntrex Business Data Exchange (BDE), which combines the fast performance of FTP with digital signatures, encryption, and nonrepudiation to ensure the secure exchange of data between different platforms.
Improving BizTalk Server's Document Routing and Management
Improved document management and application availability are additional benefits that third-party vendors can bring to BizTalk Server. Sagestone Consulting's AdaptKit provides document notification and error-log management through a configurable Web-based management console. The AdaptKit User Manager lets you route XML documents to specific groups or roles based on content criteria. Another product that enhances BizTalk Server's document management capabilities is Xtremesoft's AppMetrics for BizTalk Server. AppMetrics provides an early warning and response system, automated error and event management, and a business-process management center for managing BizTalk Server documents and maximizing the availability of BizTalk Server applications.
The Microsoft e-business servers provide a feature-filled platform capable of addressing all three levels of e-business integration. A strong third-party add-on market makes the three servers even more effective by helping them address a wider range of business problems. The third-party products help increase the Return on Investment (ROI) for each of the e-business servers by extending their capabilities, making them easier to manage, and integrating them more effectively with other products and business processes.
|Contact the Vendors|
xmlspy 5, authentic 5 Browser Edition
CMS 2002 Placeholder Control
CACTUS COMMUNICATIONS INTERNET
Acuraci Logistics Enabler
CyberSource Commerce Component
FAST SEARCH & TRANSFER
FAST Data Search
FormScape Enterprise Plus
ContentMaster for BizTalk
MediaBin Asset Manager
Plumtree Content Server
Syntrex Business Data
Teamplate for .NET
Web Integration Engine (WIE)
Xceed FTP Library for
AppMetrics for BizTalk Server