Unisys is hoping to pick up some work linking national police databases with European Union centralized databases for border control and visa applications\u2014and has chosen Microsoft as its software partner, the companies announced Wednesday.When the\u00a0union databases enter service next year, some European countries will want to link their central police computers and immigration databases to them. Although the central databases are not yet ready, Unisys is already positioning itself for the integration work, and will push Microsoft\u2019s BizTalk Server for that purpose, said Roberto Tavano, vice-president of homeland security programs for continental Europe at Unisys. "The game is beginning now. The specifications are still not completely defined," he said.The two databases, the second generation of the Visa Information System (VIS) and the Schengen Information System (SIS II), will be stored in Strasbourg, France, with a backup system in Salzburg, Austria. The European Commission awarded the US$48.5 million contract to construct them to a consortium of Hewlett-Packard and French IT services company Groupe Steria SCA in April 2005. Separate contracts will be let to link national databases of visa applicants and undesirable people to those systems.The SIS II and VIS databases are the result of a tightening of European border controls in the so-called Schengen zone. In 1985, a group of European countries signed a treaty in Schengen, a small town in Luxembourg, promising to institute a common immigration policy and open their borders to one another. Those countries\u2014some of them members of the European Union, some outside it\u2014form the Schengen zone.\u00a0In 1995, this agreement progressively entered force so that now, for example, it is possible to travel overland from Germany to Portugal, crossing the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain, without having to show identity documents.The members of the Schengen zone exchanged data about who was to be refused entry to the zone through the Schengen Information System (SIS). The original database contains only text, but later treaties resulted in the need to expand the capabilities of the original database, adding more records and new kinds of information, including biometric data. More recent signatories to the treaty will have access to the database, even if they haven\u2019t opened their borders.Unisys wants to use Microsoft\u2019s BizTalk Server to build connectors to link SIS II and VIS with the treaty signatories\u2019 databases, making them interoperable."Interoperability implies data interoperability. We communicate XML, but it also implies a higher level, the semantics of the processes. You have to make sure that the semantics of the process at a national level are compatible with the central system," Tavano said.Unisys also pushes open-source software\u2014but not for this application, he said."We have chosen Microsoft technology because it\u2019s very convenient and affordable," he said. "Other technologies would have implied building the whole thing from scratch."Unisys will charge "a few hundred thousand euros" for the BizTalk Server license, said Tavano. Integration work will cost extra. "This is very aggressive," he said.-Peter Sayer, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.