After a lengthy beta period, Microsoft is finally set to commence shipping BizTalk Server 2009 on Monday.

BizTalk Server 2009 has an upgrade to its system integration software featuring virtualisation and backing for recent software packages such as Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

The product has been in a beta release stage since last September, and BizTalk Server 2009 is the sixth release of the product, said Darrell Cavens, director of product management for BizTalk Server at Microsoft. "There's a set of improvements around our connectivity story," Cavens said.

The product connects systems via protocols like EDI. "There's more than 25 adapters included with BizTalk," Cavens said. A key addition in the 2009 release is an adapter for Oracle E-Business Suite. The latest versions of CICS, IMS, and DB2 are supported as well.

Full support for Hyper-V, Microsoft's virtualisation technology, is included with the enterprise edition of BizTalk Server 2009. Unlimited, virtualised instances are supported.

"You can now run BizTalk Server in a virtualised environment" for manageability and cost benefits, said Cavens. For example, a user could run eight virtual environments for BizTalk Server on the same physical machine and have applications that can tie together but still be run separately. This would be critical in dealing with trade partners, for instance, Cavens explained.

"We have customers who want to run separate instances and run virtualisation and this enables them to do that," said Cavens.

The 2008 releases of Windows Server, SQL Server, and Visual Studio are supported in BizTalk Server 2009, including team development capabilities in Visual Studio. Also added is support for deploying RFID mobile capabilities via BizTalk and Windows Mobile. Applications like RFID readers can be deployed.

With BizTalk Server 2009, Microsoft is playing "catch-up," said analyst Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft

"Although BizTalk 2009 is the first full release of the product in about three years, it really appears as more of a 'catch-up' release to gain alignment with the Microsoft platform and various connectivity standards," Sanfilippo said. "Certainly, it is critical for BizTalk to offer compatibility with Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008, especially to take advantage of Hyper-V to save customers on hardware and energy costs."

He called Visual Studio Team System integration "a noteworthy feature."

"This will make BizTalk a first-class citizen in Microsoft's ALM offering and should help development teams work more efficiently with BizTalk applications," Sanfilippo said.

"The looming question for BizTalk lately has been uncertainty for its future considering the upcoming Dublin Windows extension and WF (Windows Workflow Foundation), which is getting a major revamp in .Net 4.0," he added. Dublin features a set of extensions to Windows Server for hosting Windows Communication Foundation and WF, he said.

BizTalk Server 2009 will be available Monday to MSDN and Microsoft Software Assurance customers.

The enterprise edition is priced at $34,999 (£24,000) per processor, with standard and branch editions also available. The standard edition costs $8,499 per processor while the branch system is $1,800 per processor.