With its tight integration between Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006, Microsoft has developed a compelling software stack.

But deployment of that long-awaited platform, which is slated to finally launch this week, could be slowed by still-missing pieces, partners said. Visual Studio 2005 features data access integration into SQL Server 2005 and a new Team System. SQL Server 2005’s business intelligence engine, XML support and Common Language Runtime (CLR) will give developers a consistent programming model across the Microsoft platform.

Microsoft partners said they see opportunity in the combination of the new database and 64-bit servers.

“I don’t see that kind of deep integration between different pieces of the stack from IBM, Oracle, BEA or others,” said Andrew Brust, CTO of Citigate Hudson, a New York-based service provider that specializes in Microsoft technologies. “Instead of cobbling together a bunch of separate, acquired products, Microsoft is tying its own products together at their respective cores and making sure each feeds off the other,” he said.

Still, some partners see cracks in the foundation. The delay of Visual Studio 2005’s Team Foundation Server makes it tricky to deploy the team system. And Microsoft’s planned Atlas technology, the Ajax-style programming technique for Web development, won’t come until 2006, partners said.

“Microsoft was certainly caught off guard by Ajax. Much of their focus on the user interface has been [Windows Presentation Foundation] and they are scrambling to add Ajax support to Visual Studio without losing their message around WPF. That’s easier said than done,” said Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner Group.

Microsoft partners also say SQL Server 2005 lacks the once-promised unified database and data mirroring—important for scalable implementations. Data mirroring won’t surface until next year.

Even so, many new features in the overall platform overshadow any missing pieces, partners said.

“The fact that they didn’t wait longer is a good thing because they can add Ajax later,” said Bob Tedesco, CTO at Resolute Business Solutions, a solution provider in Bellevue, Wash. “It is not immediately important to what we do.” The products are expected to be widely available in the channel within four to six weeks.