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BizTalk Framework Overview

The BizTalk™ Framework is an XML framework for application integration and electronic commerce. It includes a design framework for implementing an XML schema and a set of XML tags used in messages sent between applications. Microsoft, other software companies, and industry standards bodies will use the BizTalk Framework to produce XML schemas in a consistent manner.

The BizTalk Framework itself is not a standard. XML is the standard. The goal of the BizTalk Framework is to accelerate the rapid adoption of XML.

BizTalk Framework schemas – business documents and messages expressed in XML -- will be registered and stored on www.BizTalk.org. Any individual or organization can download the framework and use it to implement and submit XML schemas to the website. As long as the schemas pass a verification test, they are valid BizTalk Framework schemas. The www.BizTalk.org website will provide an automated submission and validation process. Any individual or organization can freely use XML schemas from the BizTalk website within their applications, as long as the schema is published for public use. Businesses will also have the option of publishing their schemas on the BizTalk website in a secure area for private use between trading partners. A steering committee composed of software companies, end-users and industry standards bodies will provide guidance on how the BizTalk website is organized and managed.

The BizTalk Framework schema design will be based on W3C standards for XML schema as these standards are adopted.

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The BizTalk Framework provides the following benefits:

Roadmap for consistent XML implementations

Many companies report a strong interest in XML. XML however, is so flexible that this is similar to expressing a strong interest in ASCII characters. Despite the advances that XML affords, they are hard to achieve without a consistent framework for XML implementations. The BizTalk Framework implements a set of rules that make it possible for a broad audience to adopt a common approach to using XML. Further, as companies move beyond data modeling using XML and start automating business processes, BizTalk Framework message elements define a core set of XML elements, attributes and tags that allow rich message passing technology to develop that is optimized to understand the BizTalk Framework. This is important since XML forms the basis for an on-the wire contract that binds systems rather than having to find a common API or implementation platform.

Easier mapping across schemas
By formalizing the process of expressing business process interchanges in a consistent and extensible format, the BizTalk Framework makes it easier for independent software vendors (ISVs) and developers to map from one business process to another, enabling faster adoption of electronic interchange in a wide variety of industries using open standards like XML.

Design target for software vendors
By establishing a critical mass of schemas implemented in a consistent format, the BizTalk Framework provides a clear design target for tools and infrastructure ISVs building the next generation of electronic commerce and application integration products.

Framework for standards bodies
The BizTalk Framework provides a platform for migrating an existing set of industry interchange standards to XML. This is especially useful for the EDI community.

Repository for BizTalk schemas
The BizTalk Framework website will be an interactive place where industry groups and developers can publish their schemas. The website will allow public and private publication based on the decision of the publishing organization. The repository will – once a BizTalk Framework schema is accepted and published – provide versioning and specialization support for BizTalk Framework schema adoption and alteration. The repository will support dynamic detection of schemas, processes and visualization maps connected to any given version of a BizTalk Framework schema.

Showcases for best practices in developing XML interchanges
Many organizations involved in the standardization of business interchanges are more skilled in business process modeling than in systems programming and XML. These groups can turn to the BizTalk Framework website to discover best practices for implementing their own schema or discover pre-existing XML schemas they can use in their applications.

Microsoft will natively support the BizTalk Framework in its product line and will publish XML schemas to the BizTalk website for public use. Other software vendors supporting the BizTalk Framework have also made this commitment.

BizTalk and Standards Bodies

Dozens of industry organizations and standards bodies are actively engaged in the definition of XML schemas for application integration. These groups include electronic commerce consortia like RosettaNet and Commerce.Net, software industry groups like the Open Applications Group, Inc. (OAG) and Object Management Group, Inc. (OMG), vertical industry standards bodies like Acord (insurance) and HL7 (healthcare), and individual software companies like Ariba Inc. and Commerce One, Inc. Each one of these efforts has the goal of defining a standard set of XML documents used in an interchange between applications or between companies.

Any effort to get these different standards bodies to adopt a consistent set of semantics across their existing set of XML schemas will be difficult. For example, to get the OAG, Acord, and Commerce One to adopt a consistent use of an address element across their respective XML schemas would require two committee votes and a modification to a shipping software application. Past industry efforts to get different standards bodies to consolidate around a consistent set of business objects were unsuccessful for these reasons.

The W3C has indicated it does not want to define specific XML schemas as part of the XML standards process.

If the industry cannot implement a common set of semantics across different XML schemas, we can at least define a consistent syntax for the different schemas being developed. A consistent syntax will make mapping across schemas easier, including the conversion of an existing application supporting one type of BizTalk schema to another type.

For example, if there are two competing standards in the energy industry, then we will encourage the two separate energy standards bodies to publish their schemas using the BizTalk Framework on the BizTalk website.

Developers implementing electronic commerce or application interchanges that require a published energy schema will select the BizTalk Framework energy schema they want to use. When developers need to integrate an application supporting one type of BizTalk schema to an application supporting another type of BizTalk schema, they will have to map the two schemas together using the BizTalk Framework’s implementation of XSL.

We will encourage developers, ISVs, and standards bodies to publish their XSL schema maps to the BizTalk website.

As a critical mass of BizTalk Framework schema maps emerge, more and more applications supporting one BizTalk Framework schema become "plug and play" with applications supporting other BizTalk Framework schemas.

Eventually the market will drive schema integration through the use of BizTalk schemas shipping in leading software products and integrated with high volume commercial websites. One of the first schemas published on the BizTalk website will be a product catalog schema designed by Microsoft and its partners. This schema will be used in MSN online marketplaces and with MSN commerce services for small businesses.

BizTalk Framework Architecture Principles

The BizTalk Framework is designed to foster application integration and electronic commerce through data interchange standards based on XML. It assumes that application programs are distinct entities, and application integration takes place using a "loosely-coupled", message-passing approach. There is no need for a common object model, programming language, network protocol, database, or operating system for two applications to exchange XML messages formatted using the BizTalk Framework. The two applications simply need to be able to format, transmit, receive, and consume a standardized XML message.

Messages are the basis for the most significant contributions of the BizTalk Framework. A message flow between two or more applications is a means to integrate applications at the business process level by defining a loosely-coupled, request-based communication process. Since many business processes involve one party performing a service at the request of another party, the mapping of messages to requests is natural. Approaches making tighter integration demands, such as those based on special programming languages or shared distributed computing "platforms" are highly appropriate to tightly-connected applications on single machines or in controlled environments, but they do not adequately support distributed, loosely-coupled, extensible business process integration. An XML-based messaging system, with open, extensible wire formats captures the essentials of a business communication while allowing flexible implementations.

We anticipate the vast majority of interchanges – the exchange of XML documents and messages between trading partners or applications -- implemented using the BizTalk Framework will use a simple http post transport, but business can also use other transports including ftp and message queuing technologies including IBM’s MQSeries and the Microsoft Message Queue Server.

Since few software applications today provide native support for XML, we anticipate businesses and software companies implementing layers of adapters to enable their existing applications to participate in the first generation of BizTalk Framework interchanges. For many applications, these adapters take an existing function call, translate it into an XML document, and route the document to a target destination, whether it is a trading partner or another application within a corporate Intranet.

Until applications have native support for XML, these types of BizTalk Framework interchanges will require layered software that transforms native date types into XML and then performs the XML document routing. The BizTalk Framework will also provide support for schemas describing more complex interchanges involving multiple documents exchanged in a sequence. End-user companies have built these types of XML document transformer/routers in-house. Microsoft is developing a BizTalk Server that automates many of the functions required in a BizTalk Framework interchange. Software products potentially capable of supporting BizTalk Framework interchanges are available today from companies like webMethods and DataChannel, Inc. The important point is that BizTalk Framework interchanges do not require any specific software product from any individual software vendor.

BizTalk XML Design Guidelines

Separate technical specifications describe the BizTalk Framework XML schema design. The core building blocks for implementing a BizTalk Framework schema include:

BizTalk Schema Syntax
This is the set of guidelines on how to format a BizTalk business document in XML. BizTalk Framework requires the use of XML-Data to format schema. BizTalk Framework schema syntax includes optional guidelines for message handling tags used for BizTalk Processes, and XML element inheritance from other BizTalk schemas for schema aggregation and customization.

BizTalk Framework XML tags
These are a small set of mandatory XML tags that annotate an XML document.

These tags define a convention for defining message identity and establishing a clear namespace boundary for each schema. A small number of optional elements describe anticipated message handling characteristics that are necessary to manage a secure, reliable, multipart interchange.

BizTalk Framework Website

The BizTalk Framework website – www.BizTalk.com -- is the online reference for all BizTalk schemas. It allows customers, developers and standards bodies to query, submit and publish business interchange expressed in BizTalk schemas in a dynamic and rich fashion. The website will support schema versioning and private schema publication through private sections or referral to other sites, defined as hosts of BizTalk schemas.

The website will be free of charge.

The website will include BizTalk Framework specifications, downloads, a schema repository, verification tests, newsgroups, tools, and other information.

BizTalk Steering Committee

A BizTalk steering committee will meet on a monthly basis and provide guidance on how the www.BizTalk.org website is being managed, including the schema submission process and the future requirements of the BizTalk Framework. The steering committee will also recommend which parts of the BizTalk Framework merit submission to the W3C. Since the BizTalk Framework is not a standard, the BizTalk steering committee will not be a standards body.

Charter members of the BizTalk steering committee include the following organizations:

American Petroleum Institute

Data Interchange Standards Association

Open Applications Group, Inc.

Ariba Inc.

Commerce One Inc.

Concur Technologies Inc.


Peoplesoft Inc.

Baan Co.

J.D. Edwards & Company

Pivotal Inc.


Boeing Co.

Merrill Lynch & Company