Busy Days!

If you’re wondering why my blogging frequency has dropped off over the last couple of months, it’s because I’ve been busy with some other projects. Here are just a few of them:

Brisbane Azure Bootcamp

BAB2015_Dan_OrientationAlthough originally intended to be the Brisbane chapter of the Global Azure Bootcamp, we had to change the date to a week later since the global event coincided with ANZAC Day in Australia. This year marking the 100th anniversary of the event at Gallipoli, it seemed irreverent (and also impractical) to hold the event on that day. So we joined Perth in organising our own version of the all-day event. Alessandro Cardoso from Readify and myself were the main organisers, while Damien Berry set up the event website.

 

BAB2015_Dan_HCWhat a success! With over 50 registrations, we had a full house at Microsoft headquarters, with the event stretching from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Presenters included Readify’s Alessandro Cardoso and Andrew Harcourt, myself on Hybrid Connections, and Microsoft’s Steve van Bodegraven with a session on Azure ML and lean start-ups.

Lots of prizes were given out thanks to sponsors Mexia, Pluralsight, and the Global Azure Bootcamp. Also a big thanks to Readify for funding the catering.

Brisbane Azure User Group

For the next Brisbane Azure User Group event, I’ll be presenting with Mexia’s Lee Simpson on Logic Apps – so preparation for that is keeping me occupied as well.

Pluralsight

And if that was not enough, I’m also authoring my second Pluralsight course. While I’m not allowed to say too much about the content until it’s published, I can reveal that it is based on an exciting Azure technology directly related to hybrid integration. Only one more module to go! Expect an announcement in a few weeks. 🙂

Of course there are other things stealing my time (and sleep) away as well, including heavier than usual workloads at our current client and preparation for a looming deadline for lodging my income tax return. But I hope to be back to more regular blogging next month! There are plenty of exciting things to write about…

Hello to the New Cloud Integration Platform: Azure App Service

Following Scott Guthrie’s & Bill Staples’ Azure Announcement this morning, I published this post on Mexia’s blog giving my overview of Azure App Service, the new Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering for web and mobile apps that allows you to quickly and easily build powerful new integration solutions at an enterprise scale.

App Service Overview

Rolling the existing Azure Web Sites, Mobile Services, and BizTalk Services into a single platform makes a lot of sense on many levels, not only from the rapid development perspective and the leveraging of existing enterprise capabilities such as auto-scaling, etc. – but also introduces a significant cost savings with the new pricing model!

But rather than ramble on here any more about it, I’ll point you to some excellent write-ups by some of the top integration experts in the world. Here you will find four different perspectives with lots of detailed information:

Or, check out these links directly to Microsoft resources:

You can try it all out for free right now… so why not have a go?

Integrate 2014 Summit: “Microservices” is the Word

Thanks to the generous investment of my employer Mexia, I had the enormous privilege of attending the Global BizTalk Summit in Redmond last week, organised by BizTalk360 and Microsoft and entitled “Integrate 2014”. As with all these events, I treasure thePass opportunity to meet face to face with the top minds and achievers in the Microsoft integration industry, catching up with old acquaintances and making many new ones.

In case you haven’t already heard, there was a jaw-dropping revelation to most of us in the room during the second presentation by Bill Staples. Most of us were anxious to hear about the anticipated new release of Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services (MABS). Version 2.0 was expected to include a greatly enhanced Visual Studio design surface, workflow (orchestration), a business rules engine, a framework for building custom adapters, and much more.

But all of that changed when Bill showed a slide that revealed the new cloud App Platform with “BizTalk Microservices” at the core. So what exactly are “BizTalk Microservices”? Answer: a set of discrete reusable components with a HTTP/REST endpoint that can be assembled as needed into composite services. It is essentially, “build your own integration app” by choosing from a wide selection of microservices from the gallery and/or building your own. The services are hosted in the same app containers used by Azure Websites today, which promises all the mature scalability features afforded by that platform. Read more of this post

Gotchas When Accessing an IaaS SQL Server in an Azure Cloud Service

It’s not that uncommon a scenario… You implement a spectacular BizTalk Server integration solution with well-designed Business Activity Monitoring, and you want to expose all that BAM goodness out through a custom-designed Web application built with HTML5, etc.

What might make this scenario slightly less common is when you’re hosting the BizTalk Server infrastructure in Azure. In this case, your custom Web application needs to be hosted within the same virtual network in order to access the BAM databases – unless of course you want to expose your SQL Server to the world by establishing a TCP endpoint on a port like 1433 (usually not a great idea).

Establishing that connectivity should be trivial – and it probably is if you get past a few potential stumbling blocks. I thought I might list some of them here in hopes that it may be helpful to others who try this.

Read more of this post

User Group Presentation on Hybrid Connections

Last week I had the privilege to present on Hybrid Connections at the Brisbane Azure User Group meeting. It was well attended and the community responded very enthusiastically to the ease at which this technology enables you to connect Azure Web Sites and Mobile Services to on-premises resources behind your corporate firewall. One attendee was so excited by the feature that he stayed back after the meeting with his laptop and proceeded to deploy his web site application to Azure right there on the spot, hooking it up in minutes to his on-premises database!

highres_399395482 I’d like to express my gratitude to Santosh Chandwani, a Microsoft Azure Sr. Program Manager who shared his slide deck with me and gave some very helpful tips in preparing my demo. The slides are available on SlideShare if you wish to view the presentation as I presented it, or you can download the original version that Santosh presented at Tech Ed USA.

Santosh also promptly answered some questions raised by the community which I posted on the Azure Advisors Yammer group:

Q: Seems expensive to get more than 5 HC connections?
A: “If there are specific Dev-Test scenarios where the 5 Free HC don’t suffice, please let us know.”

Q: What are the performance/load specifications? Any guidance on where potential bottlenecks may be, and/or best practice guidelines?
A: “In general, the throughput you can achieve with HC is constrained by the internet connectivity between the on-prem network and Azure. Since this is part of the user’s network infrastructure, it is hard for us to provide a specific throughput baseline.
We recommend users assess the throughput that each instance of the on-prem Hybrid Connection Manager provides on their network. Adding more instances may provide higher throughput (again depending on the network infrastructure). Also, for production scenarios, at least 2 instances are recommended for resiliency. ”

Stay tuned for an upcoming webcast about this on the BrizTalk YouTube Channel!

UPDATE: Webcast published!! View it here.

BizTalk Services – EDI Agreement Deployment Errors

This week I’ve been frustrated by “unknown exception” errors whilst trying to deploy an X12 EDI agreement to Windows Azure BizTalk Services. The generic message was of course extremely helpful in isolating the problem:

WABS_AgreementDeploymentError

(“Error: An error occurred while deploying the agreement. Details: Service encountered an unknown exception..”)

It happened that a recent tweet by Microsoft MVP Sam Vanhoutte proved that I wasn’t alone in my angst, as did this entry on the MSDN Azure forum. Unlike SGSJWS however, switching browsers didn’t solve my issue. Sam’s helpful advice to check all configuration items, however, did eventually lead me to closer inspection where I discovered the cause.

Read more of this post

WEBCAST: Integrating BizTalk 2013 with Service Bus Queues & Topics

I’ve just uploaded my latest production on the Brisbane BizTalk YouTube Channel, bringing our library up to four webcasts now! This presentation shows how easy it is to integrate BizTalk Server 2013 with Windows Azure Service Bus queues & topics, facilitating the creation of powerful hybrid applications:

Integrating BizTalk with Windows Azure Service Bus Queues & Topics[ http://youtu.be/jQefUBvc4Dk ]

You can also download the slide deck (complete with notes) from SlideShare [ http://www.slideshare.net/dtoomey/integrating-biztalk-2013-with-windows-azure-server-bus-queues-topics ]

Really loving my new RØDE Podcaster USB microphone, and also Camtasia 8.1 which makes editing these videos so easy!

Final Day at TechEd Australia 2013

Today was the final day of TechEd Australia, and I was privileged to attend probably the most relevant session to my chosen specialty area, apart from BizTalk Bill‘s WABS presentation yesterday. Brady Gaster from the Windows Azure SDK team gave a terrific presentation on integrating Windows Azure Websites with On-Premises Systems. billed as a discussion on “various techniques of connecting a Windows Azure Web Site to an on-premises enterprise architecture”. It certainly did not disappoint!

Brady demonstrated the use of Windows Azure Service Bus topics and relays in order to connect a website hosted  application to on-premises systems and databases by running iterative solutions based on an “Enterprise Pizza Store” concept. He used a Service Bus topic to accept orders from photo 2the website and process them, with multiple subscriptions based on the processing status. He then progressed to using Service Bus relays to expose services that perform the database operations rather than having external sources update the data directly. Finally, he included a “surprise demo” that exhibited the use of the Windows Azure SDK for Java, using a Java client to log messages.

All the demos were very smooth and impressive, and effectively demonstrated how easy it is to leverage cloud resources to implement hybrid solutions that cross organisational boundaries. All the code (excluding the “surprise”  Java demo) can be found here on GitHub, while the slides from his USA version of this presentation can be found on Channel9. He also has an extensive blog post on this. I highly recommend checking it out!

Read more of this post

Microsoft TechEd Australia 2013

ScottGuHaving a great time at Microsoft TechEd Australia this year! Today there were some inspiring presentations, including two awesome back-to-back sessions on Building Real World Cloud Apps with Windows Azure with Scott Guthrie (yeah, he might know a thing or two about Azure! Winking smile ). The Gu talked about patterns and best practices across a variety of areas including automation, source control, fault handling, storage, logging, scalability, SLAs,  and more. As expected, his presentation and demos were highly polished and indicative of his vast experience and knowledge.BillChesnut

I followed this by attending an equally polished and highly informative deep-dive session into Windows Azure BizTalk Services by "BizTalk Bill" Chesnut. Bill took us through the extensibility options offered through custom code opportunities via inspectors (in between each stage of the pipeline), custom script and/or XSLT in the maps, and WCF custom behaviours in target web services. He also showed us how to scale out BizTalk Services and gave us a peek at the somewhat daunting pricing schedule.

MovieWorld001

Finally, we wrapped up the evening with the "Celebrat8" party at Movie World. There was tons of food, thrilling rides, and an impressive stunt show… but there were definitely some shady characters hanging out in the neighbourbood!

Looking forward to the lock-note tomorrow where we get to hear Scott Gu speak again, this time on the future of Azure and about "owning tomorrow".

 

Many thanks to Mexia Consulting for sponsoring the whole team’s attendance again this year!

Message Tracking in Windows Azure BizTalk Services

Tonight I was presenting on Windows  Azure BizTalk Services (WABS) to the Brisbane Azure User Group, and someone asked me where you configure message tracking. It was one of those embarrassing moments where you know you saw the feature somewhere, but can’t remember exactly where… hence this blog post.

All messages go through a bridge in WABS, which is created on a design surface in Visual Studio (assuming you have installed the Windows Azure BizTalk Services SDK, that is). It is a property on this bridge element which eluded me tonight, although I don’t know how since it is pretty clearly marked:

TrackProperties_markup

Simply select the bridge element, then click the ellipses (…) button next to the Track Properties property to open the (…. you guessed it!….) Track Properties dialog box. There you can select any properties that you have promoted in an Enrich stage of the pipeline, as well as the default XPIPELINE_MESSAGETYPE and XPIPELINE_REQUESTMESSAGETYPE properties.

It should be noted that certain properties are tracked by default, regardless of whether you select anything here at all:

  • pipeline state
  • stage state
  • whether the route destinations are successfully ascertained
  • the activity state for any message processing faults

You then have the ability to view & search on tracked message data in the BizTalk Services Portal:

TrackingPortal

Note that to get to this portal, you need to:

  1. Log into the Azure Management Portal
  2. Click on BizTalk Services on the left (just below Service Bus)
  3. Click on the Manage button at the bottom of the screen

(The first time you access this portal, you may need to enter the Issuer Name & Issuer Key with which you deployed your application, from the ACS namespace you created to associate with the BizTalk Service.)

More information about tracking can be found here on MSDN.

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