Windows Azure BizTalk Services for B2B Integration and Supply Chain Management

Multishoring.info in cooperation with Cnext is proud to announce its latest offer in the field of B2B integration and supply chain management for distribution, logistics and manufacturing companies by means of Windows Azure BizTalk Services (WABS). The Windows Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) version of BizTalk is revolutionizing the data exchange between businesses – enabling fast and cost-effective B2B integration, easy on-boarding of new partners, smooth monitoring, and finally scalability and flexibility as never before.

What is Windows Azure BizTalk Services (WABS)?
BizTalk Services – how do they work?
Using Windows Azure BizTalk Services for B2B integration and supply chain orders/ invoices

How much does it cost?
Why Multishoring.info and Cnext?

What is Windows Azure BizTalk Services?

Windows Azure BizTalk Services (WABS) is a simple, powerful and extensible cloud-based integration service that provides Business-to-Business (B2B) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) capabilities for delivering cloud and hybrid integration solutions. WABS runs on a secure, dedicated per tenant environment that you can provision on demand, while it is being managed and operated by Microsoft. The solution brings BizTalk functionalities in the cloud, making them available to customers in a cost effective “as a service” model.

Using Windows Azure BizTalk Services you can take advantage of an easy-to-use trading partner management portal, support for common EDI schemas and rich EDI processing over X12 and AS2. You can also create common EAI scenarios connecting services in the cloud with any HTTP/S, REST, FTP, WCF and SFTP protocols to read and write messages. WABS also supports rich message processing and mediation via configuration-driven development tools. You can utilize hybrid connectivity to on-premises LOB systems with ready-to-use SAP, Oracle eBusiness, Oracle DB, Siebel and SQL Server adapters too.

BizTalk Services – how do they work?

Windows Azure BizTalk Services provide EAI or B2B services through the cloud. The EAI service enables you to exchange data through different protocols and transform it to and from different formats. The B2B services offer businesses the possibility of exchanging data between their partners in compliance with all the industry process standards.

Illustration 1 - Concept of the BizTalk Services

The Windows Azure enables you to provision BizTalk Service and provide accessibility to monitoring, configuration and tracking stores. BizTalk Services Portal provides capabilities for Trading Partner Management (TPM) and Bridges. The latter can be developed and deployed using Visual Studio. PowerShell gives you the ability to use cmdlets for management operations on BizTalk Services.

Using Windows Azure BizTalk Services for B2B integration and supply chain orders/ invoices

Using Windows Azure BizTalk Services, companies can significantly speed up the process of integrating their systems with partners with whom they must exchange data such as purchase orders and invoices. The transfer of the process to the cloud also makes it possible to drastically reduce the costs of its implementation as well as monitoring of its activities. Low costs of using WABS are also ensured by the manner in which it is licensed as you pay only for the actual use of the platform capabilities, with easy scaling if needed.

For which companies BizTalk Services may prove particularly useful?

For companies that have just implemented a Warehouse Management System/ Transportation system / Ecommerce / Self Service Portal/ ERP system recently, and have a need for the rapid integration with IT systems of their trading partners.

For fast-growing small logistics, transport, and production businesses constrained by the costly and time-consuming necessity to adapt to the standards of EDI of larger trading partners.

For mature companies with a stable situation, which, however, suffer from performance problems of their partner’s EDI platform during periods of peak growth in orders.

Key benefits

Easy, fast and cost-effective B2B integration
With Windows Azure BizTalk Services, you can easily and quickly connect your ordering and invoicing systems to any combination of Cloud and on-premise applications. As there is no software or appliances to install or maintain, you can realize huge cost savings on this type of B2B integration as all you need is a web browser. You can sign up, log in and then build and deploy your integrations at whatever pace you require.

Easy managing and on-boarding of trading partners
Using Windows Azure BizTalk Services you can easily on-board new trading partners for business-to-business messaging. It doesn’t require either special knowledge or custom coding. You simply add a new partner and configure data exchange information in a familiar Windows environment. Thus, you can cut down the time needed for this from days to hours.

Scalability and flexibility
The important thing is also that with Windows Azure BizTalk Services you pay only for what you use (in terms of the number of trading partners and exchanged data). Thanks to that, you can easily test the solution with minimum investment and then scale it up if it proves to be useful. You can also scale it up during periods of peak growth in orders.

Savings on the EDI processes monitoring with Windows Azure
Another area of savings is the EDI processes monitoring. The Windows Azure Management Portal provides an in-depth view on the utilization of the deployed resources. This information helps to make the right decisions about procurement, right-sizing, scaling according to usage, and performance.

Additional monitoring with our proprietary tool
We also provide our own monitoring tool, extending standard capabilities of monitoring Windows Azure BizTalk Services and ensuring its 99.9% availability. Using this tool you can get access to additional reports on both the technical and business status of the processing operations, such as time and performance, which can be useful for Customer Service departments as well as external clients. In this way you don’t need to finance the costly hardware and software support for your EDI processes monitoring.

Compliance to all the logistics processes standard
Windows Azure BizTalk Services has prebuilt support for thousands of predefined EDI schemas, including all the logistics EDI standards. You can also easily modify these schemes to reflect an untypical standard used by one of your trading partners. WABS also supports the most common methods used to transmit EDI messages between trading partners, such as a Value Added Network (VAN) – allowing companies to send data which is then reviewed by the VAN and sent to the correct recipient, or AS2 (Applicability Statement 2). Using AS2, the EDI documents are transmitted across the internet and the security of the document is achieved through encryption and the use of digital certificates.

Configuring B2B Messaging using BizTalk Services Portal and Bridges – a sample scenario

Imagine the following scenario in a trading relation between two business partners, created by the Microsft BizTalk team. Contoso (the retailer) sends sales order messages to Northwind (the supplier). Northwind maintains all the sales order data in a table called SalesOrder, which is housed in a SQL Server database within Northwind’s premises. Contoso can send either XML messages or EDI messages to Northwind. Thus, Northwind has to implement a solution by means of which:

  • Contoso can send either an X12 message or an XML message for sales order.
  • Contoso must send messages that conform to the schema for the sales order message expected by Northwind.
  • Contoso can also send XML messages to directly insert sales order data in the SalesOrder table in Northwind’s SQL Server database.

To enable this scenario, Northwind does the following:

– For Contoso to send XML messages, Northwind configures an XML Request-Reply Bridge on BizTalk Services to enable message validation and transformation. This bridge takes an input XML message, validates it against the sales order schema required by Northwind, and transforms the message to that schema. Northwind also uses BizTalk Adapter Service to enable connectivity to the on-premise SQL Server database from the XML Request-Reply Bridge deployed on the Service Bus.

– For Contoso to send EDI X12 messages, Northwind uses the BizTalk Services Portal to configure and deploy an agreement using which Contoso can send an EDI/X12 message to Northwind.

You can read more scenarios of Windows Azure BizTalk Services usage by clicking here.

How much does it cost?

Windows Azure BizTalk Services are offered in four editions, as described on this page. Its basic edition – providing all key B2B and EAI integration capabilities – costs about $500 per month.

Why Multishoring.info and Cnext?

Multishoring.info offers you over 800 programmers skilled in the Cloud-based Enterprise Application Integration in the cost-effective nearshoring model. We also offer you a European reach and experience in integration projects for companies from distribution, manufacturing, and logistics industries thanks to our long-term cooperation with Cnext. This Belgium-based BizTalk consultancy helps over 25 national and international clients to connect their business applications and partners. Multishoring.info and Cnext’s joint portfolio includes such clients from logistics and distribution industries, as MSC, Komatsu, Scandinavian Tobacco Group, Logis, Tim SA. Both Cnext and Multishoring.info are Microsoft Gold Application Integration Partners and Windows Azure Circle Partners.


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