Saturday, February 21, 2009

BizTalk vNext Wish list

So you are probably thinking, BizTalk 2009 isn't even out and you are already posting a wish list? Well yes, I was recently asked the question, so I figured I would share my thoughts with you.

Adapters
  • An Email Adapter(POP3/Exchange) that supports regular expressions. For instance if you are only interested in retrieving certain messages from a mailbox, you should be able to provide a regular expression against the subject field of the message. If the words in the subject matches you reg ex, then the message would be retrieved.

  • A native Exchange adapter. I have personally run into this and have also seen several instances of this on the MSDN forms. For many organizations, leaving their servers open to POP3 connections posses a security risk. The way that we solved this problem was limiting POP3 access to certain IP Addresses. This is "ok" for servers, but when I put in a request to have my IP Address added, that was declined as individual users should not have POP3 access. So yes this is more of "my problem" than Microsoft's, but if many others are in the same problem then perhaps adding an Exchange adapter would be beneficial.

  • FILE Adapter that supports regular expressions. The current adapter does support file masks using '*', '?' etc, but it would be even better if regular expressions were supported. I work in an industry where the names of files are built into the File Exchange specification. Often times this will include ranges of numbers that are considered valid. It is pretty tough to properly constrain without regular expressions. Yes, I know that a Custom Adapter could be built that supports this scenario, however it would be nice if this was included in the core product.

  • FTP Adapter that supports Temporary folder in ASCII mode. In order for the FTP adapter to support "once only guaranteed delivery", you are required to use a Temporary folder when moving files with the FTP Adapter as described here. The problem is that temporary files are only supported when the Adapter is used in binary mode. The issue is that when are exchanging data between heterogeneous environments like Windows and Unix that these environments use different symbols for carriage return line feeds. Using ASCII mode takes care of the conversions of these symbols. So as you can see we are in a bit of a Catch 22 situation here.
Deployment
  • Deployment has improved considerably from BizTalk 2004, but I still think that some improvements could be made. The organization that I work for has automated our build and deploy process including deploying a BizTalk project to a multi-node BizTalk group. It would be nice if this type of functionality was part of the core product. For instance when importing an MSI in the BizTalk Admin console if you could "Deploy to Group" that would be a welcomed feature where it does the import to the BizTalkMgmt database once and gac's the dlls on the remaining BizTalk nodes.

  • Binding files - To be honest I am not exactly sure what I am looking for here but think there just has to be a better way. Obviously the ability to separate code/assemblies from configuration is required. However managing that configuration could be improved. If you have a project with only a few receive locations then binding files is not too big of a deal. However once you start reaching the 10+ receive locations managing this data and the passwords becomes tedious. I personally 'love' having to export the bindings after a deployment only to play the "Find and Replace" game with the password '*'s before checking the bindings into source control. I do this so that the next time I deploy I don't have to manually set passwords during the next deployment. I do recognize that having passwords, in binding files, in clear text is not a great option but if we could somehow improve this scenario it would relieve a lot of headaches.


Design Time

  • The ability to update a generated schema automagically. For instance if I have generated a schema for an SAP IDoc and the IDoc has now changed, I need to run through the "Add Generated Items" wizard again. If I have renamed or modified the target namespace of the original schema I then need to update this new version of the schema. As an added bonus, a blank orchestration is added to my solution even though I already have a working solution.

  • The ability to debug an orchestration from Visual Studio. When I first started using BizTalk, I really missed this feature. Prior to working with BizTalk I was a ASP.Net developer and really enjoyed ASP.Net debugging. Especially having worked with classic ASP. I am not sure how they could support this feature, but it would definitely be welcomed.


Management/Operations

  • The ability to go back and historically look at a message. So yes this functionality does exist today however there is another catch 22 situation. If you have message body tracking enabled, then a copy of the message body will placed in the BizTalkDTADb database. However, in order to keep your BizTalk environment performing well, you need to archive and purge data from this database. The job that takes care of this is the DTA Purge and Archive job. If you neglect to enable this job, or keep your live window open for too long, you are bound to have performance problems. At one point, neglecting this job was one of the top BizTalk tickets to Microsoft support. One option is to take the extracts that this job will output and aggregate them together to create your own Long Term Archive solution. This would alleviate you from any run time issues, however it leaves you with a management problem as you need to manage this yourself. The requirement itself comes from a request to find out "What happened last month to order # 1234567"?

  • If you have a complex business scenario and need to find all messages related to that instance of the business process, it would be great if you could link all of the related messages to the orchestration that managed this business process. So yes, there are Ids that do link all of these interactions together, but it would be nice if you could easily view all of this information from a tool. This would allow you to quickly view what happened to that particular business process instance. Consider the following interaction, if you needed to view all of the messages for this particular business process, how could you easily achieve this?

ETC

So here are a few items that tend to show up frequently elsewhere

  • Support for Low Latency scenarios. BizTalk's design includes built in persistence. This is a feature that is used to support guaranteed delivery. While in many scenarios this feature is required, but there is a cost associated. For some scenarios this cost is just too expensive. Having the ability to by pass all of the persistence may satisfy some requirements that are not currently addressed.
  • An expandable, or larger, expression editor. The argument has always been that if you need a larger expression editor then chances are that you are doing something that you shouldn't be doing. While I agree in principle with this statement, here is something else to consider. If you follow a popular namespace convention that includes using OrganizationName.BusinessUnit.FunctionalName as a namespace in a .Net assembly it does not take too long before you are starting to scroll to the right when calling a static method.
  • Constructing a new message in an orchestration. We have all been there! You use some sort of questionable approach to create an instance of a message. This may include using a map that does not actually map any data, loading an XML string that matches your schema's format and assigning it to a message. It would be nice to just create a new instance of a message without having to jump through these hacks.

If you have any Wish list items of your own, please post them using the comments feature.

3 comments:

Michael said...

Hi Kent,

I know we chatted about some of this at the MVP summit. Ive eventually written up some of my thoughts and then came across your post. So adding my link here for comparing thoughts:

http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2009/03/17/130156.aspx

Kent Weare said...

Not a problem Michael.

Nice post you have there. I couldn't agree more with you on a Map and Schema update.

christiancarnero said...

Hi Kent,
If you still need a native Exchange adapter, you can try this product:
http://kayxo.com/products/keab_developers.php

Best,
Christian