BizTalk to Incorporate Covast B2B Capabilities

A few days ago, Steve Martin announced that Microsoft have reached an agreement with Covast (the European software firm behind the Covast EDI Accelerator and the out-of-the-box Base EDI Adapter) to acquire their advanced B2B capabilities – this will be incorporated into a new feature pack which will be available as part of Software Assurance benefits to customers who license BizTalk Server, similar to the BizTalk LOB pack.

I’m reading between the lines here, but I believe Microsoft may have acquired the technology recently developed by Covast and GXS (a Value Added Network provider), otherwise known as the Covast B2B Suite for GXS Trading Grid, which includes:

  • New adapters to support Value Added Network (VAN) connectivity.
  • An EDI message repository which is stored in SQL Server offering seamless integration via EDI Explorer to Visual Studio (I hope supported by VS2008), allowing EDI message definitions to be imported as XSD schemas into BizTalk projects.
  • Real-time updates from VANs on EDI message delivery and trading partner receipt (something that was always a pain to achieve, especially when doing it through, erm…. snake based scripts).
  • New message standards for specific industry sectors.

There is no news on when this technology will be available from Redmond directly, however Steve’s post suggested that it will be available around the same time as R3. However, I’m not too sure how this fits into the bigger picture: the original Base EDI Adapter was simply the Covast EDI Accelerator with all the handy bells and whistles removed.  This accelerator did the job of EDI document translation admirably but I would have thought that after the release of BizTalk 2006 R2 and its own native EDI handling capabilities, the majority of customers would have made the transition away from costly third party software to the R2 capabilities. Releasing more Covast based technology may just muddy the waters for us EDI types…. I hope that won’t be the case and the BizTalk Team provides native R2 EDI integration into this functionality.

That said, I’m pleased to see that Microsoft believes BizTalk has many more miles to go – this new announcement should certainly keep me occupied until Oslo arrives!

More information on the Covast B2B Suite for GXS Trading Grid can be found online at the Covast website.