Great Week at Ignite Australia!

TLGsLast week I had the opportunity to attend Microsoft Ignite on the Gold Coast, Australia. Even better – I had a free ticket on account of agreeing to serve as a Technical Learning Guide (TLG) in the hands-on labs. This opportunity is only open to Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) and competition was evidently keen this year – so I am glad to have been chosen. Catching up with fellow MCTs like Mark Daunt and meeting up with new ones such as Michael Schmitz was a real pleasure. Of course the down side was that I missed quite a few breakout sessions during the times I was rostered. Nevertheless, I still got to see some of the most important sessions to me, particularly those that centred around Azure and integration technologies. Please have a read of my summary of these on my employer’s blog.

By and far this was my best Australian Ignite/Tech-Ed event experience for many reasons, including:

  1. The Pro-Integration team from Redmond came all the way out to Australia show everyone what the product group is doing with Logic Apps, Flow, Service Bus, and BizTalk Server
  2. I was chosen to present an Instructor-Led Lab in Service Fabric – my first ever speaking engagement at Ignite
  3. I had the rare opportunity to catch up with some fellow MVPs from Perth and Europe.

It was truly phenomenal to see enterprise integration properly represented at an Australian conference, as it is typically overlooked at these events. In addition to at least four breakout sessions on hybrid integration, Scott Guthrie actually performed a live demo of Logic Apps in his keynote! This was a good shout-out to the product team that has worked so hard to bring this technology up to the usability level it now enjoys. I’m glad that Jim Harrer, Jeff Holland, Jon Fancey and Kevin Lam were there to see it!

iPhone Import 015Teaching the lab in Service Fabric was a thrilling experience, but not without some challenges. The lab itself was broken and required a re-write of the second half, which I had pre-prepared and uploaded to One-Drive here so the students could progress. The main lab content is only available to Ignite attendees, however if you want to have a go at a similar lab you can try these ones available from Microsoft:

Despite the frustration that some attendees expressed about the lab errata and the poor performance of the environment, I was pleased that all the submitted feedback relating to the speaker was very positive! Smile

iPhone Import 050iPhone Import 037 (2)Finally, perhaps the best part of events like these is the ability to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. It was a pleasure to hang out with Azure MVP Martin Abbott from Perth and meet a few of his iPhone Import 047colleagues. It was also great to see Elder Grootenboer and Steef-Jan Wiggers from the Netherlands, who happened to travel to Australia this month on holidays and to speak at some events. Steef-Jan also took time to include me in a V-Log series he’s been working on with various integration MVPs, recording his 3-minute interview with me at the top of Mount Coot-tha on a sunny Brisbane Saturday! And Mexia’s CEO Dean Robertson & myself got to enjoy a nice dinner out with the Microsoft product group and the MVPs.

All good things must come to an end, but it was definitely a memorable week! Now it’s time to start getting ready for the Brisbane edition of the Global Integration Bootcamp on Saturday, 25th March, to be followed not long after by the Global Azure Bootcamp on Saturday 22nd April! I’ve got a few demos and presentations to prepare – but now with plenty of inspiration from Ignite!

Month of Achievements!

“When it rains, it pours.”

Well, I must say I’ve had a pretty remarkable run the past few weeks! I can’t remember any point in my professional life where I’ve enjoyed so much reward and recognition in such a short time span.

mcsa-cloud-platform-certified-2017-smFor starters, after six weeks and probably 50-60 hours of study, I managed to pass my MS 70-533 Implementing Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam. Since I’d already passed the MS 79-532 Developing Azure Solutions exam a couple of month earlier, this earned me the coveted Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) qualification in Cloud Platform. I now have just one more exam to pass to earn the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) qualification.

MVP_Logo_Preferred_Cyan300_RGB_72ppiThen just last week I was granted my first  Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award  in Azure! This is incredibly exciting to say the least, and not only a surprise to myself to have been identified with so many incredibly accomplished leaders in the industry, but also to many others because of the timing. Microsoft has revamped the MVP program so that now awards will be granted every month instead of every quarter, and everyone will have their review date on July 1st. I’m looking forward to using my newfound benefits to contribute more to the community.

And if that wasn’t enough, this week Mexia promoted me to the position of Principal Consultant! Aside from the CEO (Dean Robertson), I am the longest serving employee, and the journey over the last seven and a half years has been nothing short of amazing. Seeing the company grow from just three of us into the current roster of nearly forty has been remarkable enough, but I’ve also watched us become a Microsoft Gold Partner and win a plethora of awards (including ranking #10 in the Australia’s Great Place to Work competition) along the way. Working with such an awesome team has afforded me unparalleled opportunities to grow as an IT professional, and I will strive to serve both our team and our clients to the best of my ability in this role.

So what else is on the horizon? Well for starters, next week I join the speaker list at Ignite Australia for the first time delivering a Level 300 Instructor-Led Lab in Azure Service Fabric. I’m also organising and presenting for the first ever Global Integration Bootcamp in Brisbane on 25th March, and doing the same for the fifth Global Azure Bootcamp on 22nd April. And somewhere in there I need to fit in that third Azure exam… It’s going to be a busy year!

Azure Exam Talk at User Group

The other night I had the privilege of presenting to the Brisbane Azure User Group at our last meeting of the year. My topic was about certification exams in Microsoft Azure, and aimed to address two relatively new changes in the certification program:

  • New Certification Path – Microsoft recently announced changes in their certification program designed to streamline the certification path. Although they are retiring the Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD): Azure Solutions Architect as of 31st March 2017, the three exams mentioned below that made up this certification are still relevant and will now earn the title of Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure.
  • Refreshed Exams – All three exams have been refreshed as of 23 November 2016, now including new content specifically around the PaaS capabilities in Azure (App Service, Logic Apps, Azure Functions, API Management, Service Fabric, etc), Azure Resource Manager (ARM), and extended identity management capabilities (e.g. Azure Active Directory B2B and B2C). They have also removed Cloud Services from the syllabus.

The three exams that all this relates to are:

The recording of this talk (which also discussed preparation tips & techniques) can be found here, whilst the slides are available here.

Busy Times…Again

You may have noticed that I haven’t been too active on the social media / blogging front of late. It certainly isn’t because there isn’t much to write about…especially when you consider the release of BizTalk Server 2016 (including the Logic Apps Adapter), the General Availability of Azure Functions, and many other integration events leading up to these! And for those on the certification path, there’s news of the refresh of the Azure exams as well.

In fact, it is that very last item that accounts for a good deal of my scarcity in the blogging world of late. My employer is keen for as many of us as possible to earn the Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) accreditation in Azure. I’ve already passed first of three required exams, MS 70-532 Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions after several weeks of after hours study (hours that might have been spent blogging). That accomplishment has earned me this nice little badge:

exam-532-developing-microsoft-azure-solutionsI’m now currently studying for the next exam, MS 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. Passing this exam will earn me a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) qualification in Cloud Platform. However, it won’t stop there as I’ll need to pass one more exam – MS 70-534 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions in order to attain the coveted MCSE in Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. All I can say is that I’ll be doing a lot of studying over the Christmas holidays…

Aside from studying for exams, I’ve also been heavily tasked at work as Mexia has had a profoundly successful sales year in 2016 – which translates into an overload of work! No wonder we’re heavily recruiting right now, looking for those “unicorns” that can help us remain as the best integration consultancy in Australia. There has been a fair amount of travel lately, and as Mexia’s only Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) I will continuing to deliver courses in BizTalk Server Development, BizTalk Server Administration, BizTalk360, and Azure Readiness. That means many more hours preparing all of that content.

But it hasn’t stopped me from speaking, at least not entirely. Aside from regular presentations at the Brisbane Azure User Group (including this one on Microsoft Flow), I’ve also been a guest presenter at Xamarin Dev Days in Brisbane where I talked about Connected and Disconnected Apps with Azure Mobile Apps.

Looking forward to writing posts more regularly again after this exam crunch is over. There’s a lot of exciting things happening in the integration world right now!

User Group Presentation on Microsoft Flow

Last week I had the privilege of presenting a short session on Microsoft Flow to the Brisbane Azure User Group. The group meets every month, and at this particular event we decided to have an “Unconvention Night” where instead of one or two main presentations, we had several (four in this case) shorter sessions to introduce various topics. This has been a popular format with the group and one that we will keep repeating from time to time.

Wrapping up the evening was my session, called Easy Desktop Integration with Microsoft Flow.  Flow is a new integration tool built into Office365; it allows business users (yes, I really mean “business users” – no code required) to build automated workflows using 35+ connectors to popular SaaS systems like DropBox, Slack, SharePoint, Twitter, Yammer, MailChimp, etc.  The full list of connectors can be found here.

Even better is that Flow comes with over 100 pre-built templates out of the box, so you don’t even need to construct your own workflows unless you want to do something very customised! All you need to do is select a template, configure the connectors, publish the workflow – and off it goes!  In fact, it is so simple that I built my first Flow during Charles Lamanna’s presentation at the Integrate 2016 conference in London; I decided to capture all tweets with the #Integration2016 hashtag to a CSV file in DropBox.

Flow is built upon Azure Logic Apps, and it uses the same connectors as PowerApps – so you can leverage both of these great utilities to create simple but powerful applications:

image

Because it is built on Logic Apps, this means you can easily migrate a Flow workflow to an Azure Logic App when it becomes mission critical, requires scalability, or begins to use more sensitive data that requires greater security and auditing.

Feel free to view the recording of my session at https://youtu.be/sd1AhZpPsBw:

Microsoft Flow presentation to the Brisbane Azure User Group

 

You can also download the slides (which came mostly from Charles Lamanna’s deck– used with permission of course). But most importantly, get started using Flow! I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

Integrate 2016 – What an Event!

Last week I had the privilege of attending the world’s largest integration event this year, Integrate 2016 in London. A big thanks to my employer Mexia for sending me. As is typical for events organised by BizTalk360, it was on an especially grand scale (27 sessions with 25+ speakers) and did not disappoint in the content presented by members of the Microsoft product team and the MVP community.

Day 1 of the three day event featured a number of announcements from Microsoft that clarified their vision and direction for integration, even more so than the Integration Roadmap delivered at the end of last year. Showing their commitment to BizTalk Server as the on-premises integration platform and Logic Apps as the cloud platform provided some much-needed reassurance and comfort to the community. “BizTalk and Logic Apps better together” is the mantra underpinned by the addition of a Logic Apps adapter in the upcoming BizTalk 2016 CTP2 release and the new BizTalk Connector soon to be introduced in Logic Apps.

Without explicitly stating it, it also became rather apparent as to what is “on the outs” in the integration space:

    • Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services (MABS) is likely to be deprecated as both the VETER pipelines and the EDI/B2B functionality moves into Logic Apps by way of the Enterprise Integration Pack;
    • Azure Stack is no longer being touted as the on-premises integration platform; rather BizTalk Server will continue to be king of that domain.

I’ve already posted an article on Mexia’s blog giving my rundown on all the sessions presented by Microsoft and the  significant announcements. Soon after I followed up with a summary of the many MVP sessions that rounded out the conference.  In addition, there are plenty of other blog posts from the community giving their thoughts and recaps of the event; here are just a few:

Besides Microsoft’s clear roadmap message and the excellent presentations, perhaps the best thing about this conference was the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends from around the world – and meet new ones as well!

Kickoff Dinner
(photo by Thomas Canter)

 

Saravana&Dan
(photo courtesy of BizTalk360)

 

GreenwichKitchen
(photo by Tara Motevalli)

Dinner_with_MVPs
(photo by Steef-Jan Wiggers)

Kudos again to Saravana Kumar, BizTalk360, Microsoft and all the sponsors for making this such an outstanding event! Looking forward to Integrate 2017!

Why Did My BizTalk Services Stop Working? Check Expired ACS Credentials…

So… let’s say you were one of the early adopters of Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services (MABS) and actually put a solution in production. Everything goes swimmingly for about a year. Then one day your interfaces stop working. Moreover, you will see no error entries in tracking (actually, no entries at all for that interface), although you might see some errors from the client trying to send messages to MABS.

Although the error messages you see may not be very helpful, the length of time that the service has been deployed and running should lead you to suspect some expired credentials. As it turns out, there are multiple levels of credentials and places that they are managed. The SSL certificate might be an obvious one, but many folks forget about the ACS credentials behind the service. Read more of this post

User Group Presentation on Integration Roadmap

Dan PresentingLast night at our Brisbane Azure User Group meetup, I had the privilege of delivering a short presentation on the Microsoft Integration Roadmap that was revealed on Christmas Eve last year, and which I previously blogged about. I couldn’t find any “official” slide deck from Microsoft yet, so I put together a rough deck of my own incorporating some screenshots from the roadmap PDF, a few slides from previous Microsoft decks, and a couple of handmade ones of my own. Feel free to download this from SlideShare and use it if you like.

My presentation was preceded by an excellent session on Azure Application Insights given by Microsoft Solution Architect Todd Whitehead. Amazing to see how easy it is to get so much telemetry from Azure! Looking forward to using this feature more & more.

More photos and details of the Meetup can be found here.

Following the Roadmap to Microsoft Integration

Microsoft has just released a document detailing their roadmap to integration. With all of the recent activity in the cloud around integration – including the release of Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services two years ago, followed by a seemingly different change of direction with Azure App Service announcement earlier this year – there has been much confusion about where Microsoft was headed in the integration space. This has been challenging for partners and customers who want to ensure that they invest in the “right” technology when building out their enterprise integration capability.

I am pleased to say that this document finally delivers some much-needed clarification in this respect. Aside from reinforcing that “BizTalk is not dead” and confirming some key new features in the much-anticipated BizTalk Server 2016 release, it also shows how Microsoft is aiming to close the gap between traditional on-premises integration afforded by the server product and the modern API-based approach offered in Azure:

convergence

Read more of this post

Load Balancing with the Azure App Service File Connector

The File Connector is one of the built-in protocol apps that are available in the Marketplace when you go to provision and API App. Through configuration only, this app allows you to perform file-based operations from a Logic App in Azure, bridging the boundaries of your corporate network:

image

The documentation from Microsoft clearly explains how you can configure the app and then download a listener agent to install on your on-premises server associated with the file(s). In most cases, this would be a single server – but I got to wondering what would happen if you installed the agent on multiple servers? So I tried it out using both  the “Get File” and “Upload File” operation.

Turns out that the File Connector will talk to all of those servers, provided that you have set up the same base directory path on all of them. This path is configured at the time you provision the API App – not when you use it within a Logic App. The configuration of the “File Path” property within the instance of this app only defines the sub-directory within the base path, as well as the file name. Incidentally, if this sub-directory does not exist at runtime, it is automatically created for you in the case of the “Upload File” operation.  Unfortunately, this is not the case with the base directory – if that doesn’t exist you get a rather meaningless 500 error recorded in the tracking log:

The requested page cannot be accessed because the related configuration data for the page is invalid.

In any case, I set up a simple Logic App and decided to test using the “Get File” and ‘Upload File” methods respectively to fetch and store files from assorted VMs hosted on my laptop. Once I had the syntax down for specifying the file path (this post by Saravana Kumar proved very helpful), then I was amazed at how easy it was to get this working! Here is my Logic App:

Read more of this post

John Glisson - Geek of the Cloth

Thoughts on integration, technology and what-not...

prashantbiztalkblogs

My BizTalk Experiences

The CRUCIBLE

THINK: It's not illegal....yet.....

paulbouwer.com

life and technology

Abdul Rafay's BizTalk Blog

My experiences with BizTalk related to architecture, development and performance in my enterprise.

Mike Diiorio

Connected Systems and other thoughts

BizTalk musings

Issues, patterns and useful tips for BizTalk development

EAI Guy.net

Enterprise Applicaiton Integration and SOA 2.0

Connected Pawns

Mainly BizTalk & Little Chess

Man Vs. Machine

Why can't we all just get along?

Adventures inside the Message Box

BizTalk, Azure, and other tools in the Microsoft stack - Johann Cooper

Biz(Talk)2

Talk, talk and more talk about BizTalk

Richard Seroter's Architecture Musings

Blog Featuring Code, Thoughts, and Experiences with Software and Services

Sandro Pereira BizTalk Blog

My notes about BizTalk Server 2004, 2006, 2006 R2, 2009, 2010, 2013 and now also Windows Azure BizTalk Services.

BizTalk Events

Calendar of BizTalk events all over the world!

Mind Over Messaging

Musings on BizTalk, Azure, WCF, and Enterprise Integration

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.