Microsoft Integrates RFID with BizTalk Server

Loraine Lawson

Frank Kenney, a Gartner research director, and I were discussing Microsoft's recent ranking as a challenger in Gartner's Integrated SOA Governance Magic Quadrant. He explained that this was because Microsoft offered a solution that isn't typical. Microsoft has its own vision for SOA governance and a tool to fit its own vision, he said.


But at this point, even Gartner doesn't know what that full vision will be. He noted, however, that Microsoft's strength has always been its ability to take a technology that's hard and make it very easy -- often drag-and-drop.


And that's a large part of Microsoft's enduring allure in the tech world. Love it or hate it, you will nonetheless always want to learn more about what it's doing.


This week, Microsoft announced that it will RFID-enable its BizTalk Server software, and I've got to think that's pretty significant, particularly since, as this e-Commerce News article points out, 62 percent of companies surveyed by the Aberdeen Group say data integration is now their primary worry when it comes to RFID.


We've been talking about RFID for years, but it's never quite taken off. This CNET News blog post suggests that's because U.S. companies tried to do too much too quickly and with a bad business driver. As the article points out, it doesn't make sense for Procter & Gamble to invest in RFID just so Wal-Mart can save money. Instead of wide deployments, companies are engaging in scaled-back RFID projects, opting for "closed-loop" environments, which use RFID technology as an internal control.


But I don't think a misguided scope is the only reason RFID didn't take off as quickly as anticipated. I think it's also because RFID is hard and expensive. RFID sensors will yield an incredible amount of information, but information is only worthwhile if you can use it.


One of the typical ironies of integration projects is that there is often both a cost-justification (long-term) and a cost-hindrance (short-term) . It's the same with RFID. While the e-Commerce article lists costs as a point of concern for RFID, this Industry Week article points out end-to-end process integration is one of the top 10 business benefits for RFID.


By integrating RFID technology with its popular server, Microsoft could be offering an answer to the cost-hindrance issue, according to eCommerce News:

The costs and complexities of building or modifying IT infrastructures to ease the extraction of valuable real-time information is therefore a major hindrance to RFID adoption. Microsoft's RFID enablement of BizTalk Server creates the opportunity for users to RFID-enable their current infrastructures without having to start from scratch, and at lower costs than those associated with "roll-your-own" RFID solutions.

The article also mentions that Microsoft will add integrated SOA support technologies to BizTalk Server. It doesn't connect the two, but, again, I don't think it's a coincidence that Microsoft will -- and IBM plans to -- offer integrated RFID-enabling solutions just as SOA is coming into its own.


SOA enables RFID, a point analyst David A. Kelly explained three years ago in an ebizQ column:

SOA provides important benefits for RFID (as well as other) implementations, including increased agility and ability to re-use components and services over time. Organizations implementing RFID that want to increase their responsiveness while lowering on-going integration and business process management costs should be evaluating SOA as approach for the solution architecture.

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