Visy talks biz for interoperability

Legacy EDI and XML on the one platform

Paper and recycling giant Visy Industries will standardize its electronic communications platform on Microsoft's BizTalk server but will retain its 12-year-old, in-house logistics system.

Visy's Web and e-commerce technical lead Miguel Herrera told Computerworld the company has been doing e-commerce for a number of years and in 2002 adopted BizTalk 2002 for a particular business requirement.

"A lot of integration work was in bits and pieces and there was no standard platform. BizTalk allowed us to integrate it all together," Herrera said. "It can alert and track from end to end those processes, and does electronic ordering, sending back acknowledgments, and all sorts of electronic transactions."

After going through a "thorough" evaluation process because of investment in existing systems, and after reviewing BizTalk 2006, Visy became an early adopter for the new 2006 R2 release which includes EDI capability.

Herrera, based in Melbourne, said the inclusion of EDI allows Visy to consolidate previously disparate systems and different methods.

"We can now offer customers are wide range of options in terms of methods used, like XML and EDI, and we don't dictate what customers need to use," he said.

"Biztalk has also allowed us to consolidate hardware. We had a server to do AS2 communications with some customers, and another server running EDI conversion. As we move forward with 2006 we will consolidate different processes all onto the one platform which will save money on licensing."

Visy is using BizTalk for e-business but application integration is something it is looking at as the server allows data to be taken from one system and transform it to another format another system accepts.

"We started to centralize anything to do with electronic communications onto BizTalk and the reason is the flexibility BizTalk offers," Herrera said. "If customers have a special need we can easily extend it through .Net development."

Other applications include SAP for financials and a home-grown logistics system that's been around for some 12 years.

"We have considered moving off the logistics system but would be too expensive," Herrera said, adding the application is developed on Sybase with a Centura client.

"We are now delivering solutions for customers through BizTalk which was painful in the past. We now have more visibility of what we are doing."

BizTalk also supports RFID data, which is something Visy is continuing to investigate.

"We were one of the early adopters of RFID in Australia as we did the first RFID project in Australia - VisyChip," Herrera said.

Microsoft's director of connected systems product management, Steven Martin, said BizTalk 2006 R2 includes a full RFID server which has been in demand from retail and manufacturing technologies.

"We had more than 20 customers in production prior to R2 announcement," Martin said. "As many as 40,000 organizations say EDI is continuing to grow and BizTalk can get the price point down to where the customers can afford it."

Martin said the upgrade to R2 is "seamless" and some 7000 customers are already using BizTalk, including eight of the nine largest retailers around the world.

He could not confirm when BizTalk will be available for the upcoming Windows Server 2008 release, only to say the releases are regular and "we don't expect that to change".

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