Version 2004 the BizTalk of the town

Local interest in Microsoft's latest release of BizTalk Server has soared this year, with one major partner needing to significantly expand its numbers to account for the growing deployments.

Anthony Stevens, Dimension Data's practice manager, said demand for BizTalk Server 2004, based on previous experience, was "going bananas".

He believed that previously, organisations hadn't pinpointed a development product or technology that had been cost-effective or addressed problems. But he now says that is changing with BizTalk 2004, which is more accessible, comes at a reduced cost and is easy for people to use.

"Definitely a groundswell is happening around that technology," he said.

Stevens said the company had doubled its staff numbers quarter-on-quarter (including contractors) to deal with the growth.

According to Microsoft Australia's e-business servers product manager Sarah Bond, Dimension Data is one of several partners building a practice around Windows Server System products that includes BizTalk Server.

Another is ExpressData, which recently toured Australia on a roadshow with Microsoft to discuss how organisations can take advantage of BizTalk.

Since BizTalk Server 2004 was launched in March this year, Microsoft has seen strong interest in deploying solutions around it to integrate systems, employees and trading partners, Bond said.

"Over the last 12 months the number of BizTalk partners in Australia has more than doubled, and we've run over 20 training courses on BizTalk Server, largely for our partners, up from five in the previous year."

The developer community activity surrounding the Windows .NET Framework is also swelling. The last two .NET user group meetings in both NSW and SA alone had over 100 attendees -- double the normal number -- and demand is growing at regional level. This has also seen the creation of new user groups in Wollongong and the Gold Coast, with a Newcastle group coming online shortly.

"Other more specialised user groups are also springing up, like the new user groups in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, focusing on SQL Server, data access and features like ADO.NET," said Finula Crowe, Microsoft Australia's developer tools product manager.

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