New Class for BizTalk Administrators Goes Even Deeper than Ever Before

I think I can speak for everyone here at QuickLearn Training when I say that I am proud to announce the upcoming release of our BizTalk Server Administrator Deep Dive course! It has been a long labor of love in which I’ve invested an innumerable amount of time including many late nights.

We are coming down the home stretch of development of this course, and I’m so excited that I wanted to share the three things about the course of which I am most proud.

A TRUE TECHNICAL DEEP DIVE

This class is a true deep dive into BizTalk Server technologies. Our primary goal for this class is to teach people how to be the best BizTalk Server administrators by teaching them more than how to do their job; we wanted to teach them how BizTalk Server does its job. I don’t want to reveal too much here but we have many detailed discussions about the internal mechanisms of BizTalk Server which provide greater understanding of why we do the things we do on planet BizTalk.

This is the thing that makes me most excited for this class; I cannot wait to have these conversations with other experienced and interested BizTalk professionals.

PERFORMANCE TESTING AND TUNING

Everyone knows that performance testing and tuning is important in order to ensure that your BizTalk Server implementation is successful, but sadly there is very little practical guidance showing you how to do it. We spend about three days of the course focusing on running performance tests, identifying performance bottlenecks, and eliminating those bottlenecks. We look at how you can improve performance by changing hardware, reconfiguring network infrastructure, optimizing the underlying Windows Operating System, and other ancillary services. We also walk you through advanced configuration of BizTalk Server databases and hosts.

This is where we’ve spent the most amount of time designing the course. I’ve personally spent weeks running performance tests so I can better understand how these changes affect performance and so I can prove to you the impact that a particular optimization might have.

Performance Monitor

ANALYZING THE IMPACT OF THROTTLING

I have one word for you: Throttling. Other than the MessageBox database I cannot think of single component in BizTalk that can have greater impact on performance than throttling. I know it is so clichéd now, but Stan “the man” Lee once said “With great power comes great responsibility”. The sad reality however is that there are so many people who’ve shirked all their responsibility when it comes to throttling.

I have enough faith in my fellow BizTalk professionals to believe that this is not because of carelessness or a general disregard for efficiency but instead stems from a lack of understanding; which isn’t surprising considering the amount of documentation and guidance coming out of Microsoft. We’ve worked hard to create the most comprehensive explanation of throttling including practical information that will finally demystify it forever.

Rate-Based Throttling

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I hope that this small insight into the upcoming BizTalk Server Administrator Deep Dive course has sparked your interest in the course. We are currently in the process of testing labs and editing slides and expect to have the course ready later this summer.

You can expect to see it on our calendar starting in July 2014. It will be offered publicly allowing anyone from anywhere in the world to attend remotely or if you prefer you can attend in-person at our state-of-the-art training facility based in Kirkland, WA.

two new tfs 2013 courses now available

Two exciting new courses added to our TFS 2013 curriculum

QuickLearn Training is expanding its TFS Curriculum with two new courses being added to our range. With both the most up-to-date and comprehensive TFS curriculum, you know you’re in good hands when you book on one of our courses.

Build, Release, and Monitor Software Using Visual Studio 2013

This new 3 day introductory level course is focuses on the following components of Visual Studio 2013;

  • Team Build
  • Release Management for Visual Studio 2013
  • Application Insights

As the title says, if you want to improve the way you build, release and monitor your applications, this is the course for you. Like all of our courses, you can attend this training on our public schedule or we can run it onsite for you.

Download full outline (PDF) | View TFS 2013 course dates

Applied Scrum Using Visual Studio 2013

Achieving success in your software development projects requires understanding of both your development tools and processes. This 3 day course aims to help address both of these by teaching you the Scrum Framework and how to apply it using the Visual Studio 2013 product at the same time. This course is ideal for getting your entire team pointing in the same direction and using Visual Studio as effectively as possible. Bring us onsite now to deliver this exciting new course.

Download full outline (PDF) | View TFS 2013 course dates

See us and win at the ALM Forum Seattle 2014

QuickLearn is committed to the ALM community and have signed up as Gold Sponsors for the upcoming ALM Forum Seattle 2014.

ALMForum

BEFORE THE EVENT – WIN A FREE TICKET

You can win a free ticket (valued at $ 1,895) to the ALM Forum Seattle on 1st-3rd April 2014. We have two free tickets to give away to lucky readers of our newsletter. We’ll be announcing details on how to enter the draw in our newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up from our community page.

AT THE EVENT

Come and see us at our booth and learn about the world’s most comprehensive TFS training curriculum. We’ll have two of our TFS trainers available to discuss your training requirements. You can also go into the draw from some great prizes including the Lenovo 64Gb Thinkpad 8 Tablet. This amazing device was a true standout at the CES conference in Las Vegas earlier this year!

WinLenovo8Tablet

Our new TFS 2013 training curriculum kicks off on Jan 27th

Since the official release of Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2013 in November we’ve been testing our newest course updates and we’re pleased to be launching our new 2013 courses at the end of this month.

If you either working with, or thinking of working with Microsoft’s latest release then you should take a look at the following courses.

  • Jan 27-29  TFS 2013 Configuration and Administration
  • Jan 30-31  TFS 2013 Developer Fundamentals
  • Feb 3-7  ALM Solutions using Visual Studio TFS 2013
  • Feb 10-11  Managing Projects with Visual Studio TFS 2013
  • Feb 12-14  Software Testing with Visual Studio 2013

You can find out more and register for these course on our dedicated TFS 2013 page.

We’re also planning on releasing an additional three TFS 2013 related courses in the coming months.

attend our 1-day pre-conference WORKSHOP at the alm forum in April 2014

QuickLearn’s lead ALM instructor and curriculum author, Anthony Borton, will be presenting a one day hands-on pre-conference workshop at the ALM Forum in Seattle in April 2014.

The ALM Forum (previously ALM Summit) is a three day event focusing on all things ALM. There is an awesome cast of speakers lined up for this year including keynotes from  Scott Ambler, Steve Denning and Ken Schwaber. James Whittaker and Dave West are delivering plenary sessions as well.

The details of the pre-conference workshop are as follows.

TITLE: Managing your Application Lifecycle with TFS

DATE: Monday, March 31st 2014. (Day before conference)

ABSTRACT:

As a member of an Agile development team, you want to learn the best practices for setting up a new project on Team Foundation Server, so that your team can get the best possible start for delivering better software, more frequently.

In this workshop, attendees will start by setting up a brand new Team Project on TFS 2013 and then proceed to configure everything required to get their team ready for their first iteration.

Some of the key topics include:

  • Entering our requirements and setting up our portfolio backlog
  • Configuring our two teams with independent backlogs and taskboards
  • Introducing the team members to the appropriate tools for their role
  • Fostering collaboration using Team Rooms and adding users and events
  • Preparing version control for our developers to get started
  • Getting QA ready to kick off with their first test plan
  • Leveraging the out of the box reports and creating ad-hoc reports

To find out more or to register visit the workshop page.

To find out more about the ALM Forum Seattle 2014, visit http://www.alm-forum.com

BizTalk Integration Summit 2013 Recap

The week before this last holiday week was quite a time to be in the BizTalk world. The BizTalk Integration Summit 2013 kicked off at the swanky Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington bringing with it a defined release cadence and roadmap, new cloud-based product announcements, and even a peek into the plans for the upcoming on-premise version of BizTalk Server.

The First Peek

The first peek into what the Thursday-Friday event would hold is captured in this agenda from the first day. The first day contained a single track of content, where all attendees would be able to experience the same messaging and presentations. The second day provided two tracks for those who wanted to chose their own adventure.

agenda

Familiar Faces & New Faces

The man in the Red Polo himself – Scott Guthrie kicked off the event – and also took the opportunity to announce the general availability of Windows Azure BizTalk Services. To clarify, it’s real and released – no longer in preview – but also not a static unchanging thing (as we will see later).

scottgu

We also had a new face bringing the initial welcome – Mark Moritmore. He’s the man behind the event, having received the torch passed by Kent Brown (who is now working with NY-based integration powerhouse Nimbo). This guy is passionate about the product, and is a long-term thinker. He’s exactly what BizTalk needs as organizations continue to choose BizTalk Server and Windows Azure BizTalk Services for mission critical integration applications that are expected to have long lifespans.

mark

Updated WABS SDK

The announcement of the general availability of Windows Azure BizTalk Services left me itching to get the bits, and “play” with them for lack of a better term. However, all the turkey from Thanksgiving put me a week behind the times and I just had a chance to download/install the freshly released SDK last night. One of the changes I noticed right away (from the last time I had installed one of the preview SDKs), is that I wasn’t having to hunt for miscellaneous MSIs to install the pre-requisite components. The new streamlined setup just makes it happen (though you’d better have a SQL Server or SQL Server Express instance handy if you’re planning on using the BizTalk Adapter Service – it’s not going to do that for you).

auto_install_dependencies

One of the other things demoed at the summit was the BizTalk Service Explorer Visual Studio Extension. This is a nice little plug-in for the Server Explorer window that allows you to interact with BizTalk Services artifacts in really cool ways (e.g., submitting a test message without leaving Visual Studio). While the UI looks/feels clunky at times, it definitely gets the job done. After seeing it, this will be on my list of extensions to install by default.

biztalkservice_explorer

Misc Thoughts About WABS GA

Looking at WABS from the perspective of migrating existing on-premise solutions to the cloud, I’m not sure the story is really complete there (and that’s not some huge secret – WABS is still in active development, and upcoming changes will erase most of the concerns I’m about to mention).

First, as noted in an earlier post, I did have some expectations around the map upgrade tool that still weren’t really met with this release. I had at least hoped the limitations in the preview would not be seen in the final release, or that I would get happier results than I was seeing before out of the tool at the very least.

Another tool that ships with the SDK is a TPM migration tool (essentially to move parties/profiles/agreements to the cloud. While this is actually done pretty well, there is still some mismatch in capabilities (e.g., EDIFACT is available on-premise, but is still a future delivery for WABS) that will prevent moving all solutions.

I took a look at the X12 schemas while thinking through some integrations I’ve worked on in the past, and noticed an absence of the schemas used for HIPAA sub-document splitting. To be fair, I haven’t actually had an opportunity to test to see if that functionality is present (for the most part the schemas are 100% clones of the on-premise schemas, so maybe those extensions are implemented in the WABS version of the EDI Disassembler), but it’s not looking promising. So those integrations would potentially stay on-premise as well.

Another thing that makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable is the direct deployment from Visual Studio. I’m hoping we will see more solutions like Michael Stephenson’s AppFx.ServiceBus.Build that will make deployment a happier experience (and hopefully a fully automated one that doesn’t live in Visual Studio).

That’s not the end of the story though. I don’t intend to write this in such a way that it seems I’m saying that WABS is somehow unsuitable. Instead these are the places where there is still work to be done – and I’ll emphasize again – work is being done. EDIFACT support was confirmed as coming, along with a new rules engine (with new tooling), support for Windows Workflow Foundation workflows, AS2 support, and other fun extensibility points (e.g., BAM-like tracking, easy to build/lightweight adapters). So we’re getting a better B2B story, and also starting to see the seeds of a BPM story emerge within WABS.

Essentially WABS is doing great things already (for straight-forward X12 integrations built fresh for WABS), and will be doing even better things in the future.

BizTalk 2013 Updates Since Release

Another point of discussion was the present state of BizTalk Server 2013 on-premise, as well as a road map for the future. Since the release of BizTalk Server 2013, the BizTalk team has been hard at work, and shipping updates and new functionality (e.g., HIS 2013, which had been delayed due to close work between the product team and TAP customers to get everything happy and ready for release).

2013updates

BizTalk Futures (2013 R2 and Beyond)

Looking to the roadmap ahead, the team made a commitment to a release cadence (that in a way is a continuation of what we have already seen, but which hadn’t so much been publicly formalized). The release cadence going forward will see:

  • Major BizTalk Server release every other year
  • R2 BizTalk Server release every year there is no major release
  • Cumulative update package each quarter
  • WABS refresh each quarter

release_cadence

Looking at this slide, I feel like I’m looking at a description of the release cadence for Visual Studio. Which is nice, because in a way this provides some level of guarantee that I’m going to be able to develop BizTalk Server artifacts in vLatest of Visual Studio (give or take a few months in this case).

As part of the commitment to this release cadence, an announcement was made for BizTalk Server 2013 R2, which will bring:

  • Platform alignment
  • JSON Support (so much for all that work writing pipeline components!)
  • Proxy support for the SFTP adapter (as well as SSO support)
  • Authentication improvements for Service Bus
  • Healthcare Accelerator Improvements (slides to follow with specifics)

2013r2features2013r2features2

Exciting Road Ahead

When you get down to the bottom of it, it really is an exciting road ahead for BizTalk Server. I had a lot of fun this year at the BizTalk Integration Summit, and I’m hoping that this becomes an annual tradition and opportunity for the BizTalk community to come together in-person, and have a dialog with the team that’s building the product and service.

Before I close this post out, I want to give a shout out and thanks to everyone that stopped by our table and has found themselves sporting a new tablet cover with the QuickLearn Training logo (spread the love!), and a thanks to everyone who made it to our party at the Rock Bottom Brewery – lots of good times and good conversations were had there!

If you want to get some other perspectives on the summit, Saravana and Steef Jan (among others) beat me to the punch and have offered their thoughts here:

Well, it looks like I don’t have an excuse to sit in this restaurant any longer (one of the upper floors of a seemingly endless concourse at DEN). I’m going to go catch the rest of my flight out to Houston (completely different part of Houston than last time) to teach some TFS this week, and I’ll be back in short order. Until then, take care!

Our Visual Studio 2013 ALM Training Curriculum is live

I am pleased to announce we have dates set for the first public run of our new Visual Studio 2013 ALM Training courses. These courses are available for you to attend in person in Kirkland, WA or you can attend using our online classroom infrastructure.  If you need your team trained, we can also provide closed on-site courses for you.

  • TFS 2013 Configuration and Administration
    27th-29th January 2014 | 3 days | More info
  • TFS 2013 Developer Fundamentals
    30th-31st January 2014 | 2 days | More info
  • Application Lifecycle Management solutions using TFS 2013
    3rd-7th February 2014 | 5 days | More info
  • Managing Projects with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2013
    10th-11th February 2014 | 2 days | More info
  • Software Testing with Visual Studio 2013
    12th-14th February 2014 | 3 days | More info

For additional dates, visit our TFS 2013 home page.

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Top 5 Indicators of the BizTalk Server 2013 Community’s Vitality

This post is the twenty-fourth, and final, in a weekly series intended to briefly spotlight those things that you need to know about new features in BizTalk Server 2013.

For my final post in this series, I wanted to highlight something that is not part of the core on-premise product, or even a part of Windows Azure BizTalk Services. Honestly, it was a struggle trying to figure out what to close out this series on. I had debated ending with the coverage on WABS, the code-sample heavy posts on REST, or even an end-to-end build-out of a solution using the new SharePoint adapter. Instead, I am going to focus on something which really causes BizTalk Server 2013 stand out from the rest, and is born out of its lengthy history as Microsoft’s flagship integration platform – the BizTalk Server 2013 Community.

So without further ado, I would like to present, the Top 5 Indicators that the BizTalk Server 2013 Community is thriving now more than ever.

Expanded Community of Bloggers

It has been exciting over the last few years to see more people get involved with blogging about BizTalk Server. The ESB Toolkit, specifically, is something near and dear to my heart, and I’m seeing consistently great things related to the Toolkit coming from people like Tomasso Groenendijk, and Colin Meade on their respective blogs. It’s especially cool, though, to see blogs specifically dedicated to BizTalk Server Administration– as with Tord Nordahl’s blog.1 If you ever want to be inspired and feel like a small part of a much larger community, just read through either Richard Seroter’s 4 question series, or Steef-Jan Wiggers’ BizTalk Community Series.

New Community Sites

Lex Hegt has done some pretty interesting work lately for the BizTalk Server Community, but he’s not taking any credit in the process. Just last year he launched BizTalkEvents.com which aggregates event schedules from BizTalk Server user groups and training classes from all over the world. It also features a presentation archive organized by date and event, complete with slide deck downloads.

EDIT: Michael Stephenson also pointed out that another interesting initiative that has come about during this latest round of BizTalk Server offerings is the BizTalk Maturity Assessment, which helps organizations determine their level of maturity across a variety of different areas, and then use the results of the assessment to grow those areas in which they need work.

Robust Third-Party Products

houstonmissioncontrol Since BizTalk Server is often used to build mission critical systems, it has tended to attract fairly high quality third-party products. This generation of 3rd party products entering the BizTalk Server 2013 ecosystem is certainly raising the bar though for quality and innovation. One really only needs to look at the latest (currently in Beta) version of Kovai’s BizTalk 360 headed up by Microsoft Integration MVP Saravana Kumar. Fresh out of the trappings of Silverlight, and into the land of HTML5 goodness, BizTalk 360 is augmenting the BizTalk Server Administration Console with something that would make even Houston jealous.

The TechNet Wiki

Every time I go to the landing page for BizTalk Server articles on the TechNet Wiki, I wonder to myself what percentage of the overall wiki is comprised of articles about BizTalk Server. Countless community contributors and careful curating by contributors like Steef-Jan Wiggers, have grown this free-form body of knowledge into a treasure trove of information about all versions of BizTalk Server – including pointers to the edges of the BizTalk Server Community itself.

The BizTalk Summit

Finally, if you want to see the BizTalk Server community thrive, go to one of the BizTalk Summit events. Hosted by Microsoft, these are special events where the community can come together, meet each other, swap battle stories, and bond over the shared love of bringing systems together. Last year, I had the opportunity (along with Rob Callaway, John Callaway, Chap Phillips and Paul Pemberton of QuickLearn) to bring some hands on labs to life, showing both Salesforce integration and an early peak at the EDI capabilities of WABS. I’m hoping to be a part of bringing even more this year – especially now that we have a platform for easy setup of such labs in Azure.

Registration is open for the summit right now, so don’t miss it!

The End?

While this post does mark the end of my series on the new features in BizTalk Server 2013, I’m not going to pack up my mouse and keyboard and call it a year. We’ll keep this space up to date with interesting tidbits that come up along the way. Some of it will be new stuff, some will be written responses to frequent questions that come up in class – but hopefully all of it will be adding value to the BizTalk Server community as a whole.

Take care until next time!

- Nick Hauenstein

1 If you’re ever stuck at a conference with people you don’t know, go find Tord and he’ll talk to you as if you were his best friend and keep you entertained in the process).

Mapping Code Pairs in the WABS Mapper

This post is the twenty-third in a weekly series intended to briefly spotlight those things that you need to know about new features in BizTalk Server 2013.

Assuming that one of the major benefits of using Windows Azure BizTalk Services is being able to offload some of our EDI processing to the cloud, then a major use case for the new WABS mapper becomes EDI mapping. One of the fun tasks that comes out of that is dealing with code pairs (if you’re interested in the on-premise side of this problem, the best coverage to date is found here). In this post, I’m going to examine how one might approach this problem using the new tooling available in the WABS SDK.

Give Me an Example of Code Pairs

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “I don’t really care about EDI, but WABS looks interesting,” and you still want to be able to gain something from this discussion without getting buried in the esoterica that is EDI. If that’s the case for anyone out there, here’s an example of the problem I’m going to try to solve using the WABS mapper.

We have an input that is a repeating record of items where there is a qualifier that describes that type of item we’re looking at, and a value that provides the value of the item. Consider this schema:

image

Here we have (at some point in the schema) a list of phone numbers, identified by a Type field element (our qualifier) and the Number field element (our value). The Type field is defined as follows:

image

We have an output that is a flat listing of items where we have a set of fields representing a few of these different types of numbers:

image

So what we are trying to do is iterate through the list of numbers in the input, map over the value for the item with the qualifier Mobile for the CellNumber output, and grab the value of the Home qualified number and toss it into the HomeNumber output field. It’s something that looks trivial, and yet is annoying to do en masse using the BizTalk Mapper:

image

In a Land Without FLATTENING Value MAPPERS

So what does this look like when brought over to the land of WABS using .trfm style maps? Well, looking into the toolbox, we do have an item called Conditional Assignemnt, which is essentially a Value Mapper:

image

If we run with that (combined with some Logical Expression map operations, we end up with something like this:

image

Unfortunately, this isn’t a Value Mapper (Flattening) type map operation. As a result, this actually will only work if we are interested only in a single qualifier, and that qualifier happens to show up in the first code pair that appears in the document.

So what do we do now? Do we reach to XSLT and code it up by hand (after-all, it is super easy to pull off)? Let’s take a look at how the migration tool that comes with the SDK handles this scenario:

image

It adds two MapEach operations to the map, that are configured something like this:

image

As you can see, the MapEach was made to be conditional upon the Type field element being compared to a constant string input. However, this conditional check is repeated inside the MapEach operation within the chained Logical Expression and Conditional Assignment map operations. While the map technically works as generated by the tool, it looks horrible, and it really feels like there ought to be a better way.

Another Approach

If you don’t want to use the MapEach approach (which really wouldn’t be so bad if our two nodes weren’t hanging out at the root as siblings), then we can take advantage of the ability of the new mapper to generate lists of items in memory while working through the mapping (really this is kind of similar to the Table Looping and Extracting functoid).

In order to make that happen, we use the Create List map operation, and then at some point inside include the Add Item operation to add items to the list. The Create List operation is configured to include the names of the fields of each item in the list. It then includes the ForEach operation with a nested Add Items. The ForEach is pointed to by the parent repeating node of our code pairs. The Add Items operation is pointed to by each value we want to include for each source item:

image

Here’s what the configuration of the Create List map operation looks like:

image

Once we have the list created, we can select values out of the list using the Select Value operation (in fact we’ve used two of them):

image

Does it Work?

Technically, both approaches worked, and took this input, and generated the output shown below it:

image

image

I’m going to be honest here, it still feels comparatively clunky, and I’m probably going to be reaching for that XSLT override pretty frequently. That is, unless there’s yet another way that’s cleaner and more simple than those presented thus far (this is one of those posts that I hope to revisit in the future with a correction showing an even better way to approach the problem).

Next Week

Next week, I will be wrapping up this series and shifting focus back to day-to-day BizTalk Development and all the fun things that we’re actively working on there.

Until then, happy mapping with shiny new tools!

Building Blocks of Windows Azure BizTalk Services

This post is the twenty-second in a weekly series intended to briefly spotlight those things that you need to know about new features in BizTalk Server 2013.

Since the last BizTalk Summit, there has been a lot of coverage within the greater BizTalk Community of Windows Azure BizTalk Services – the Azure-backed offering that brings pieces of the core BizTalk Server functionality to the cloud. This is something that QuickLearn had early opportunity to get hands-on with, and also something for which we were able to create labs (even before public availability). At the same time, it’s something that we haven’t really written about until now.

This week, rather than going through specific how-to guidance for pieces of the offering, I instead want to take a step back and look at the offering as a whole, so that we all understand the pieces that are there (and can see the forest through the trees). If you want to follow along, go ahead and download the Windows Azure BizTalk Services Preview SDK.

Once installed, you’ll find that Visual Studio has been juiced up with two additional project templates found under the BizTalk Services heading:

image

The first project type BizTalk Service allows you to define Itineraries (not in the ESB sense, though they do display a complete message flow, much like ESB), and the configuration for Bridges (much like a BizTalk Pipeline).

The second project type BizTalk Service Artifacts allows you to define schemas and maps (.trfm files, though you can convert your existing .btm files with some limitations using a tool provided at the SDK download link). The mapper is something I’m not going to be discussing any further, and as a result I will instead recommend this excellent blog post on the subject by Glenn Colpaert, and then also the official documentation on the conversion process/limitations.

So we can create these Itineraries, configure these Bridges, and deal with Schemas and Maps, but how does this all fit together within the context of Windows Azure BizTalk Services? To understand the answer to that, we have to first address the three things that Windows Azure BizTalk Services is trying to do:

  • Rich Messaging Endpoints (Itineraries + Bridges + Maps)
  • BizTalk Adapter Service (Service Bus Relay + Local Helper Service + BIzTalk Adapter Pack)
  • Business to Business Messaging (EDI Schemas + All of the Above)

Rich Messaging Endpoints

image

I’m going to start with the weirdest of the bunch – Rich Messaging Endpoints. The developer experience of this is similar (to a point) to defining an ESB Toolkit itinerary, but only inasmuch as you’re seeing the entire message flow within a single diagram. Here you can define certain sources (FTP/SFTP) for messages, and have them routed through Bridges (similar to Pipelines), and then routed out to certain destinations (for which CBR can be used to route the messages to one or multiple destinations).

In order to specify the settings necessary to connect to those destinations, you often find yourself within a configuration file defining WCF related binding settings directly:

image

Double-clicking on a bridge within the itinerary will bring up a semi-clone of the Pipeline Designer with a fixed set of components in place (as well as a location to specify maps to execute directly as part of the pipeline):

image

In terms of integration patterns, the bridges here are giving us a subset of the VETRO pattern (namely the VETR part of it): Validate, Enrich, Transform and Route. Where is the Route part of the equation you might ask? Well, you’ll actually find it in the Properties window for the bridge, by clicking the button in the Route Ordering Table property:

image

Here, we can do context-based routing that helps determine the destination for each message coming from the destination (though here, I have only connected a single destination endpoint).

BizTalk Adapter Service

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What happens if the list of destinations doesn’t suit me? What if I want to take information from an SFTP drop, transform it into something that I could use to generate a record within a table in SQL, and then directly insert that record into my on-premise system? In that case, I’ll find myself reaching to the BizTalk Adapter Service feature.

This one has a nice list of dependencies that need to be in place before you can even use it (e.g., Windows Server AppFabric, BizTalk Server Adapter Pack), but once you have those, it’s fairly straight-forward to setup.

What it’s really providing is a single WCF endpoint that is exposed over a Service Bus Relay endpoint (and thus accessible from anywhere in the world – even if hosted behind a fairly strict firewall). This single endpoint can be passed messages destined for any number of internal systems that you can setup through the Server Explorer interface within Visual Studio. The BizTalk Team Blog actually had a pretty decent article on the topic back in June that sadly generated 0 comments.

Essentially, this is allowing you to bring your LOB systems into the mix to play along with everything else already mentioned (assuming those LOB systems have WCF adapters included in the BizTalk Adapter Pack).

Business to Business Messaging

The final capability that WABS is bringing to the table is B2B messaging (i.e., EDI). We have the ability through a special portal (still in preview) within the Windows Azure Management interface to create Parties and Agreements a la BizTalk Server on-prem. In fact, the same exact schemas are used to define the X12 messages, so if you’ve already had to do some schema customizations on a per-partner basis for in-house integrations, those same changes can now be brought to the cloud.

Pulling it All Together

Is this replacing BizTalk Server on-premise as we know it? Not quite. We have a lot of the same pieces: Transport (Limited)/Translation (Limited)/Transformation and Context-based Routing (Content-based Routing when using the Enrich stage of the Bridge). We are missing more complete process orchestration with exception handling / transactions / compensation (Orchestrations). We are missing rule-driven injectable logic (Business Rule Engine), among other things (though I’m stopping the list here to avoid debate about similar (but not quite) functionality in Azure in general).

So what do we do with this? Use it to solve integration problems that use a hybrid between cloud-based and on-premise resources (e.g., http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsazure/hh859742.aspx). Use it when an on-premise BizTalk installation would be overkill for the task, but it can be done happily using the tools available in WABS. Use it to take over the most taxing parts of your B2B processing, leaving BizTalk Server on-premise to do those things it’s great at.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. BizTalk Server 2013 and Windows Azure BizTalk Services together give you the power to decide how to break up your integration work, and how you approach the integration challenges that are thrown your way.

If you haven’t yet given the SDK a download yet, go do it. Though the service is still in preview, the SDK has been available for quite some time now, and great things are right around the corner – so keep your skills sharp.

That’s all for now!