Monday, November 5, 2012

BizTalk 2010 R2 CTP meet BizTalk 2013 Beta

Microsoft released some exciting news on Monday for people who live and breathe Middleware.  They have released BizTalk 2010 R2 CTP’s successor: BizTalk 2013 Beta.  The new name signifies a major release and rightfully so, it does deserve it.

Back in June 2012, I was at TechEd North America where the BizTalk team provided a glimpse into the future of BizTalk.  At that point, I did feel that they were adding enough new functionality to warrant the full release but it was only until today that they officially announced the name change.

What is included in this release?

Many of the features that they did speak to at TechEd have been included in the CTP including:

  • Integration with Cloud Services via SB-Messaging Adapter
  • Support for RESTful Services (both Send and Receive)
  • Platform Support (Windows Server 2012, Visual Studio 2012 and SQL Server 2012)
  • Azure BizTalk VMs (IaaS)

The BizTalk team has now added some more features within the Beta including:

  • Enhanced SharePoint Adapter (No longer do we need to install an agent(web service) on the SharePoint Server)
  • Secure FTP (SFTP) Adapter
  • ESB Toolkit Integration
  • Dependency Tracking (The dependencies between artifacts can now be viewed and navigated in Admin console)
  • Improvements to Dynamic Send Ports (ability to set host handler per adapter, instead of always using the default send handler of the adapters)

After I discovered the Microsoft post I sent it off to my team and a lively discussion was held.   There was a bit of a debate over which of the feature we can benefit from the most.  The interesting thing is that we can benefit from each of these new features. 

SharePoint Adapter

We do a lot of work with SharePoint and in addition to running a multi-node BizTalk farm we also have a multi-node SharePoint farm.  The BizTalk team does not like installing the Adapter Web Service on the SharePoint Web Front ends so you can imagine that the SharePoint team isn’t a big fan of it either.  To make things worse, try to perform an upgrade from BizTalk 2009 to BizTalk 2010 and ask a SharePoint person to come in on the weekend to assist with the install.  Not going to make many friends that way.

Secure FTP (SFTP) Adapter

It is great to see a native SFTP adapter being included “in the box”. Back in BizTalk 2009, Microsoft provided an FTPS adapter but that protocol is not nearly as pervasive as SFTP, in my opinion anyways. As you may have seen on my blog previously, I do have several posts about a 3rd party SFTP adapter.  The adapter has been a pretty good adapter for us.  Yes there have been a few bugs, but the vendor has always provided top notch support.  However, it is a pain to deal with another vendor, pay another invoice and get license keys. 

ESB Toolkit Integration

We don’t do much with ESB itineraries but we do heavily leverage the Exception Management Portal that is included in the toolkit.  We have made some small modifications, to the exception portal,  and many of our Business Units rely upon it for Business level exceptions that occur within the Middleware or other systems like SAP.  There are many opportunities for improvement and the installation is certainly one of them.  So even though the description on the Microsoft link is rather vague, I am really hoping for a seamless experience this time around.

Dependency Tracking

We have a fairly large BizTalk environment.  It is something that we have been building upon for the last 7 years.  I can confidently say that our Business runs on top of BizTalk.  If BizTalk doesn’t function, there are widespread impacts to our employees and customers.  A Vice President was asking me about BizTalk and he was purely amazed that it supported so many Business processes within the company.  With that said, we try to leverage common components and leverage previous investments.  Overtime this can be difficult to manage so this feature is definitely welcomed.

Improvements to Dynamic Send Ports

We do have a few different scenarios where we need to determine the route that a message will take at run-time and has been a bit of a pain that these messages will always be processed by the default send handler for that Adapter.  It will be nice to have some more granularity.

RESTful Services

Looking back there have been a few different integration scenarios where could have benefited by a ‘lighter weight’ service construct.  I don’t expect this to be our de facto standard when exposing services but I do recognize the benefit in having a more flexible option than SOAP.

Integrations with Cloud Services via SB-Messaging Adapter

If you have been following my blog recently, I have quite a few posts (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4 and Post 5)  on the new SB-Messaging Adapter which allows us to connect Service Bus Queues and Topics.  I actually have a blog post currently in the works with the CTP version but I will now save it and implement it with the new Beta. So far I have been very impressed with this new capability.  It is very easy to get this to work.  It will be this adapter that allows for many(but not all) hybrid integration scenarios with on-premise Line of Business (LOB) systems.  I fully expect BizTalk PaaS to participate in LOB integration scenarios but for those customers who have heavily invested in BizTalk, leveraging the SB-Messaging adapter has many benefits.

Azure VM BizTalk IaaS

I haven’t actually had a chance to try this out.  We do a lot of On-Premise integration so it just hasn’t been a big of a priority for me. I do recognize the value for some people though.  It creates a much lower barrier of entry for some organizations and allows them to get their “feet wet” with BizTalk before investing more significant capital in a larger environment.

Host Integration Services 2013 Beta

In addition to all of these BizTalk features a Beta of Host Integration Services (HIS) has also been released.  This version includes the following updates:
• Data Integration – Several key updates in integration with DB2.
• Application Integration – Updates to Transaction Integrator designer, tools and accounting.
• Network Integration – Direct connectivity from Server/Client to IBM mainframe systems using fully managed TN3270E runtime.
• Message Integration – WCF Channel Support for WebSphere MQ v7.5 and v7.1.
• Platform Support – Introducing the support for Window Server 2012, Visual Studio 2012, SQL Server 2012, BizTalk 2013 and IBM Systems.


From what I have seen with the BizTalk 2010 R2 CTP, the BizTalk team has been working very hard on this next release of BizTalk.  I think they are already demonstrating that the end product will be very solid as they have put together two compelling “pre-releases” of BizTalk.   I really encourage you to download the new bits and take the new BizTalk for a spin.  There are a lot of great features included.

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