Microsoft has unveiled new guidelines for its partners on how to create an enterprise service bus (ESB) as part of a conference where it heralded the most viable, "real-world" approach to building service-oriented architectures (SOAs).Usually, BEA Systems and IBM beat the SOA drum the loudest, but Microsoft renamed its Business Process and Integration Conference for BizTalk partners the "SOA and Business Process Conference" this year to demonstrate that it, too, has a plan for helping customers build SOAs.Microsoft has had its business process integration product BizTalk since 2000, but it has not been as vocal as competitors BEA and IBM in discussing a comprehensive SOA strategy. SOA is the next generation of enterprise software architectures, in which applications and services within the IT system are loosely coupled and able to be integrated piecemeal to form custom, or "composite" applications from various components across the enterprise.Microsoft worked with partner Neudesic to provide sample code and documentation for using BizTalk Server to build an ESB, which Microsoft defines as a set of capabilities\u2014such as mediation, transformation and integration\u2014for connecting business processes and services throughout the organization, said Steven Martin, a Microsoft director of product management.The company also unveiled a new adapter for XML-based BizTalk that enables customers to connect the product more easily to IBM mainframe and AS\/400 systems. The technology, called the BizTalk Adapter for Host Systems, is based on technologies available in Microsoft\u2019s Host Integration Server product, which the company has had for some time, Martin said.John Devadoss, a Microsoft director of architecture, said it is still finding a lot of misconceptions about SOAs among its customers, who think they have to rearchitect their entire software infrastructure "from the top down" to build SOAs. On the contrary, Microsoft believes that SOAs are more successful if there is a "real-world business driver" behind the architecture, he said."In the real world, the success stories we see are customers taking a pragmatic, middle-out approach," he said. "The only way to truly track to the needs of the business is to take small steps along the way. The mega projects are either big science projects that never get finished or they diverge from the needs of the business."-Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service (New York Bureau)Related Links:\n\nWhat You Need to Know About Service-Oriented Architecture\n\nIBM Moves to Eliminate Gaps in SOA Offerings\n\nNew Roles, New Processes for SOAThis article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page.\u00a0For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.