Microsoft BizTalk Server entered the EDI workspace riding over Covast’s shoulder. Starting with the BizTalk 2006 version, Microsoft replaced Covast with built-in EDI support for BizTalk. EDI support became tightly integrated with BizTalk’s core engine. Since then, Electronic data interchange has become an important growing segment for Biztalk. I personally have overseen numerous BizTalk migrations from Sterling Integrator (formerly Gentran) BizTalk, and lately we are starting to see BOOMI migrations to BizTalk.
Some people may argue that BizTalk is a complex product. Well, it is an enterprise product and for that matter, it is different than from your average out of box EDI mapping tool that sits on your desktop. If you have .NET skill sets within your company then you do not need to worry about the steepness of the BizTalk learning curve. If you are only looking at short-term goals, then it may feel that the BizTalk development process is much longer. However, if you see BizTalk as a platform enabler, you start to feel the power of this tool and its potential. Some additional time may be needed initially to create object libraries but if you architect them properly then you can reuse them in future and thus save on BizTalk development time.
Similar products in the market claim that they do not require any code and everything can be done by just drag and drop. Either they are oversimplifying things or it means that the product is rigid and cannot be extended when necessary. On the other hand, BizTalk can easily be extended through WCF framework, ESB tool kit etc. Most of the EDI integration tools are just a pure EDI play; whereas BizTalk is much more than that. Most forward looking companies will see a strategic value in choosing a BizTalk implementation. They will recognize that BizTalk is much more than an EDI tool. They will also see it as an internal integration tool. It could even host business workflows. It can automate your business process. It can help create a SOA framework. It can easily integrate with Azure cloud. It offers so much more value for their money as BizTalk creates lot of synergies between existing Microsoft assets or assets that may be acquired in future.
My advice to companies that are looking towards BizTalk as a solution to their integration needs is simple. Find a partner experienced with BizTalk integrations across both EDI and non-EDI domains. Request a demo based on a real life business scenario that tries to solve some existing pain point. Do not look at EDI integration as a silo but rather as a part of larger Enterprise Integration. This is where BizTalk breaks out from the crowd.
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