Microsoft has added RFID support to BizTalk Server 2006 R2, which was released this week.

The update is Microsoft's first software to come with RFID support. BizTalk is the foundation of the company's SOA, supply chain and business process-management platforms.

The company said BizTalk Server 2006 R2 includes APIs and hardware frameworks so third-party vendors can tie their RFID wares into the platform. The platform will also include a set of business rules and event-management capabilities so RFID events can be connected to back-end business processes.

Microsoft said the server will tie real-time supply chain events to business processes such as connecting what is happening on the shop floor to partner networks and corporate systems, such as SAP.

In addition, Microsoft has added native support for electronic data interchange (EDI) and Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), and has added integration with Vista and Office. It also has included integrated support for vertical industry standards such as SWIFT, HL7, HIPAA and RosettaNet. Those connectors previously were add-ons but now are included with BizTalk Server 2006 R2.

Microsoft also released Enterprise Service Bus Guidance, which provides customers with architectural guidance, patterns and practices.

All the upgrades to BizTalk are designed to extend Microsoft's business process-management platform to the edge of the network and beyond. They also are intended to deepen the integration of BizTalk with Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft says the close integration of the three products, and other software in its platform line-up, will allow it to raise its reputation in the corporate datacentre and become the platform for critical corporate programs, such as trading-floor applications.

"We have delivered in one box the ability to extend a user's core business outside the enterprise and connect all the way back to their core systems," says Steven Martin, director of the connected systems product management at Microsoft. "It is a single platform for supply-chain automation, applications integration and process automation."

The BizTalk integration with Vista and Office will focus on two WinFX technologies, the Windows Communications Foundation and the Windows Workflow Foundation.

The Communications Foundation is Microsoft's middleware technology to support web services. Microsoft will provide an adapter framework to help customers build customised adapters to bring applications, such as mainframe programs, into a web services infrastructure.

With the Workflow Foundation, users that build applications that integrate workflow can track those through BizTalk. The workflow engine in the server, however, is not built on the Workflow Foundation technology but a proprietary workflow engine specific to BizTalk. With R2, Microsoft is only supporting integration between the two. Future versions of the server will be built on the Workflow Foundation technology, the company said.

In Office, users will be able to link workflows, such as those supported in SharePoint Server 2007, for document life cycles in business processes and track those using BizTalk.

Microsoft also released Beta 2 of the BizTalk Server Adapter Pack, which helps users integrate line of business applications. The adapters work with BizTalk Server 2006 R2, SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Final shipment of the adapters is expected between 1 January and 1 July, 2008.

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 is available in four editions: Branch, Developer, Standard and Enterprise.