RECAP: BizTalk Summit 2014 – Australia
September 1, 2014 1 Comment
Last Friday I had the privilege of attending the final session of the inaugural BizTalk Summit in Australia, sponsored by BizTalk360 and Mexia Consulting. This was an experimental event, bringing together no fewer than six Microsoft Integration MVPs (three from Australia + three others from Europe) to deliver a whirlwind tour of consecutive one-day events across three cities (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane). What a great event!!
After a kickoff presentation by Mexia’s Technical Director Dean Robertson about the ever expanding paradigm of enterprise integration and the benefits of bringing the cloud to your enterprise through hybrid solutions, the session launched straight into Michael Stephenson‘s comprehensive discourse on integration architecture patterns and how to choose the right one for your needs. His lecture covered the full gamut of technologies from VPNs, Express Route, Service Bus Relays, BizTalk Services, BizTalk Adapter Services, Hybrid Connections and more. He complemented each scenario with a description of a real world solution he had built over the course of his 30+ Azure project deliveries. One stand-out for me was his "Hybrid Integration in a Day" scenario where he described how he literally solved a major integration problem for a client by lunchtime with a design using Service Bus Relays and an on-premises WCF Router. Michael has a great gift in being able to articulate architectural and technical concepts in a clear, concise and simple manner that makes it easy to understand. I highly recommend a perusal of his new website project where you can find his encapsulation of all of these patterns and technologies; it serves not only as a terrific primer for people confused about all the options available, but also as an excellent reference for the integration professionals who design & build these solutions! Michael also highly recommended the book "Applied Architecture Patterns on the Microsoft Platform" as a good reference, available via Packt Publishing.
Next up was Mexia’s own MVP Bill Chesnut (aka "BizTalk Bill") who talked about the new features in BizTalk Server 2013 and the latest R2 release. Bill’s 30 years experience and extensive knowledge of both the software and infrastructure aspects of BizTalk was evident in the way he not only discussed the "bullet point" features of the two releases, but also expanded on the real-world implications of each item. For example, the use of the XmlCompiledTransform class within the mapping engine has increased performance significantly, but also has been known to break custom XSLT code developed in prior versions of BizTalk. It was also interesting to hear that the "deprecated" SOAP and SQL adapters are likely to stick around for awhile due to dependencies on the current version of the ESB Toolkit and community demands based on some limitations of the newer WCF adapters. Bill also reinforced Microsoft’s commitment to the product by reiterating the promised release cadence of a new full version every two years with an R2 release each year in between. Coupled with the quarterly cumulative update (CU) releases and the same quarterly release cadence of Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services, customers should feel very confident about their continued investment in BizTalk as an integration platform.
And for those companies who have made that investment, Saravana Kumar’s turn at the podium revealed the value and benefits that his fantastic BizTalk360 product has to offer. First up he mentioned the five typical challenges that a newly installed BizTalk application presents to an organisation:
- Support by non-BizTalk people
- Governance & Auditing
- Security: Access and Authorisation
- Sharing of BizTalk Environments between Business Units
- Monitoring and Notifications
He then showed how BizTalk360 can not only assist with all of the above, but also offer additional value-adds through consolidated views of BAM, Business Rules, Event Log, Tracking, etc. Especially impressive to me was the greatly enhanced graphical Message Flow viewer, which allows you to trace a single message’s journey throughout all the relevant orchestrations and ports, as well as the simplicity with which the Throttling Analyser permits monitoring of performance. While the product currently supports the server version only of BizTalk, Saravana hinted at the possibility of future BizTalk Services support.
Steef-Jan Wiggers then took us on a skyward journey – and with more than just the Star Wars theme of his slide graphics! His presentation was all about Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services, the iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) counterpart to the server based product. He covered not only the development aspects using Visual Studio, but the management aspects as well, including how to migrate to a higher tier via the backup & restore service feature, and troubleshoot applications using the tracking data. Steef-Jan also demonstrated the awesome sample GUI tool he created to manage BizTalk Services using the REST API, which you can download from the MSDN Code Gallery. He wrapped up by hinting at some features that might be available in the next version of BizTalk Services, due by the end of this year:
- Adapter Framework
- AAD Integration
- Workflow / Process
- Last up was Sydney-based MVP Mikael Hakansson who gave a great talk discussing various authentication and authorisation strategies for hybrid applications, including using Azure AD, On-Prem AD/ADFS, Office365, Azure Service Bus, and SharePoint online. I was particularly impressed by his analogy of approaching a USA immigration officer to illustrate federated authentication; this made concepts like "relying party" so much clearer to me than anything else I’ve ever read! Mikael was joined by fellow Breeze consultant Mick Badran in the Sydney session which would have been great to see – but the solo version in Brisbane was still quite impressive.
After the event, the MVPs finally got to relax and have a few drinks – a welcome break from the usual dash to the airport to get to the next day’s event. After the success of this year’s summit, I think we can definitely expect to see future annual events in Australia!
For an inside perspective on the organisation of this event and link to more photos, read Saravana’s recap on his blog here.
All photos courtesy of Steef-Jan Wiggers