Microsoft has shelved its Jupiter project that looked to combine commerce, content management and integration technology into a single suite, because customers said they had no need for it.

While customers can integrate BizTalk Server, Content Management Server and Commerce Server themselves, the resulting suite could create licensing issues and other headaches while not adding much functionality, say observers.

The news of Jupiter’s demise comes just two weeks before the release of BizTalk Server 2004, which had been described as the first phase of the Jupiter project. While the latest version of BizTalk will be released 2 March, there is no longer a Phase 2, which was tagged "Discovery" and would have integrated BizTalk with the other two servers.

"Customers told Microsoft they were not ready for this integration and that they would not be buying it today, but that it might be something for the future," said a Microsoft spokesman.

Microsoft’s original intent was to marry its portal and business integration software to compete with the likes of IBM’s WebSphere and BEA’s WebLogic. But the first signs that not all was rosy came as early as last June when the company said Jupiter would be delayed until 2005. Rumours also circulated that Commerce Server sales were not meeting Microsoft’s internal projections. And last autumn, the general manager overseeing the Jupiter project was reassigned in an internal restructure.

"The Jupiter bundle just never made sense to me," says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions of Microsoft, an independent analyst firm focusing on the software giant. "I saw it as a competitive response to WebSphere, but when Microsoft talked to customers they said they did not want to buy it as a suite."

Now the emphasis will be on how the former Jupiter servers fit into Microsoft’s portal model. Those efforts, however, won’t be without their own questions.

Pawlak said Microsoft will face new challenges trying to integrate Content Management Server with SharePoint Portal Server because the two have very distinct and different infrastructures. It also plans to integrate other pieces of the Jupiter suite with SharePoint Portal Server 3.0, which is slated to ship in 2005.