Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BizTalk Server Futures and Roadmap

I realize that I am a little late to this party, but figured I would provide my thoughts on the BizTalk Server Futures and Roadmap presentation by Balasubramanian Sriram that occurred at PDC 09 this past November. To view a re-play of his presentation check out the following link. Also note that some of the content from this post has been 'borrowed' from his presentation.


Current State
  • BizTalk adoption continues to be strong. Currently over 10 000 Global customers are benefiting from BizTalk Server. If my memory serves me correctly, they have added approximately 1500 customers over the past 2 years.
  • Major industries using BizTalk include Electronic Parts companies, Telecommunications, Aerospace and Defense, Chemical Companies, Railroads and Insurance. In Canada I am aware of a few other industries that are also benefiting from BizTalk Server including Utilities, Oil and Gas, Healthcare and Government.


Short-term Road Map

Here is a list of some of the Customer "wants" that are being addressed:

Platform support

  • Platform Alignment (Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010)
  • Tighter integration with Windows Workflow
  • Common Application Model (scaling up .net apps into an integration server)

Productivity

  • Ease of use in transformation scenarios
  • Trading Partner Management
  • Out of box connectivity (more adapters)

Enterprise Capabilities

  • ESB
  • Enterprise manageability (consolidated view of integration assets)
  • Low latency scenarios
How are some of these wants going to be addressed in the short term?
BizTalk Server 2009 R2


Platform support
  • VS 2010, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2
Productivity Improvements
  • Single dashboard to apply and manage performance parameters
  • Out of box support for event filtering and delivering (RFID)
  • Powershell access to management tasks
  • New SCOM object model to better reflect BizTalk Artifacts

B2B Scenarios made easy

  • Mapper enhancements to make complex mapping easier to create and maintain
  • FTPS to provide secure transactions between businesses
  • Updated B2B accelerators for latest protocol versions
I am extremely encouraged to see theses added features in an R2 release especially since it seemed like BizTalk 2009 shipped yesterday. In particular, I am looking forward to the following features:
  • Platform support - It is nice to see that we should not have to wait as long as we previously did to be able to leverage some of these new technologies. It is always a bit of a downer when your organization is trying to stay current with technology only to have your application "slow the train down" because your application is not supported on the latest version of OS/DB/IDE etc.

  • Single Dashboard - It would be nice to get a composite view of your BizTalk environment from a single source. This Dashboard is also suppose to provide performance metrics and server health from one location. When working in an enterprise environment, multi-node groups are the norm, not the exception so it will be nice to have improved visibility.

  • New SCOM object model - I haven't been overly impressed with the SCOM management pack for BizTalk 2009. I find that some of the terminology that is used in the Management pack does not align with the terminology in the BizTalk Administration Console. For instance SCOM may notify you that you have an "Adapter" that is currently offline. No where in the BizTalk Admin console can you turn on/off, enable/disable an adapter. You can certainly add or delete an adapter but I am pretty sure that is not what SCOM is referring to. However, you can certainly enable/disable a receive location or stop a host instance which will impact an adapter's ability to function, but SCOM doesn't explicitly describe it this way. I also feel that the SCOM management pack doesn't correctly understand clustered host instances. I have received many alerts indicating that Clustered Host instance 'XYZ' is not running on Server 'b'. Well the reason for this is that the Host instance is currently active on Server 'a' and the nature of a Clustered resource is that it runs in an active/passive state by design.

  • Mapper Enhancements - Balasubramanian was correct when he mentioned the mapper as a "value add" for BizTalk. Since this is the case, then more should be done to improve a developer's productivity when using this tool. I have shown this tool to SAP resources describing how great the tool is only to find them cringing as we try to follow the connector lines when mapping an IDOC. I am extremely encouraged by what I saw and can definitely benefit by some of the new features described including only showing nodes that are involved in a map, auto scrolling, moving sections of maps to a new page and searching for nodes.




  • FTPS Adapter - This is welcomed change for me. The reality is that not every single interface is going to use the latest version of WCF. Providing an updated FTP adapter that supports security will be beneficial for BizTalk customers. I am still waiting for an update to the POP3 and SMTP adapters so that we can communicate with Exchange over MAPI. There is perceived risk associated with POP3 that makes Exchange administrators cringe when you ask them to open up POP3 connectivity. Yes 3rd party adapters do exist, but after several years, I do have expectations that something like this could be included in the box.

Future



Fear not, Microsoft will continue to support the BizTalk investments that have already been made to date. However, BizTalk will eventually run on top of AppFabric.

Here are some of the features that are envisioned for the future:

  • Use data contracts in maps and have the ability to transform to a schema and vice versa. One of the limitations of AppFabric (Dublin), in its current state, is the lack of a mapper tool to allow for transformation of messages. This new capability should fill in this current gap and also allow you to mix the use of data contracts with schemas in maps.
  • Create workflow activity based on map
  • Low-latency scenario versus durable messaging. This is a feature that many have been asking for. This feature is really intriguing in the sense that you can choose which path you would like to take when designing your message interactions. In Balasubramanian's scenario he was wanting to book a trip. Whenever read requests are required durable messaging is probably not required so why take on the additional performance hit that using MessageBox incurs. However when performing insert or update operations you probably want to use durable messaging to ensure that people's trips are booked. Using this hybrid approach allows for the best of both worlds within the same technology stack. Cool!
  • BizTalk will use innovations in AppFabric while preserving your investments
  • Current demo included Workflow in running in BizTalk Host – long term vision is for BizTalk to run in AppFabric host

A question that I have is: currently BizTalk is a product and has a licensing cost associated with it. AppFabric is really a framework that has no licensing costs associated with it. As these two platforms converge, which "components" will continue to have a licensing cost versus no licensing costs?

Overall it appears to me that the future for both of these platforms is extremely bright and Microsoft continues to make key investments into integration.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

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Thank you.