New Online API Mapping Tool

One of the many challenges with an integration project is typically the mapping of messages from one API to another. The difficulty most often lies not with the technical implementation (although some former projects mapping SAP iDocs to EDI X12 are still giving me nightmares), but rather with forming the specification of the mapping itself, including understanding the semantical meaning behind each element. This is difficult because it requires expert knowledge of both the source and target system, as well as an analysts who can correct “draw the connecting line” between the two. The correct end result is only achieved through significant collaboration amongst the relevant parties.

The BizTalk Mapper goes a long way to facilitating this task with it’s graphical mapping interface. Aside from providing the developer a means of rapidly implementing a transformation, it also servers as a visual representation of the mapping that can be understood by a business analyst (if not too complex):

biztalkmap

(image courtesy of MSDN)

There are two problems with this approach, however:

  1. It requires BizTalk Server, which is not only expensive, but also may be overkill for a solution that can easily be implemented in WCF, REST, or another platform;
  2. The mapping must be implemented by a developer before it can be shown to analysts and business users for discussion and validation. This usually entails a number of iterative cycles until the mapping is correct.

Enter api-map.com – a new free online tool created by my colleague Joseph Cooney specifically to address these particular challenges. api-map provides a medium to formulate, display and share mapping documentation which can eventually be handed over to a developer for implementation on any chosen platform.

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Testing for Empty/Nil/Missing Source Nodes in BizTalk Maps

Re-posted from another blog – original publish date 27 Aug 2012

Scenario: You are mapping an optional node in your source schema to an optional node in your target schema. But… the target schema has stricter validation rules and cannot accept empty or “nil” nodes, whereas the source schema can.

By default, if the source node doesn’t exist, it won’t be output in your target. No problems there. But… what if the source node is empty or null?

Let’s look at this mapping example:

BadMap

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Logical Functoids Cannot Connect to XML Attribute Nodes

After working with BizTalk Server for over ten years, I was amazed to discover only today that the BizTalk 2010 Mapper does not allow you to connect a logical functoid to an XML attribute node!

Logical functoids are “special” in that they don’t output values when connected to a node in the target schema. Rather, the Boolean value that they do emit is often used as a conditional flag for determining the connected node’s appearance in the result. If a logical functoid connected to a record or an element evaluates to “false”, then the record/element will not be present in the output.

The question is… why doesn’t this work for attribute nodes as well??  Try to connect a logical functoid to one and the cursor turns into the dreaded “No you don’t!!” symbol, as shown in this screenshot:

MapToAttribute_NOT_v2

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Mapping a Newline within a String

Today a colleague asked me how best to insert newlines into a concatenated set of address lines within a map. It struck me that despite spending eleven years as a BizTalk developer, creating hundreds if not thousands of maps,  and even authoring a Pluralsight course on the Mapper,  I’ve never actually attempted something as simple as inserting a newline into a string output!

Like most programmers with C# .NET experience, the first instinct was to try inserting “\n” or “\r\n” into the string. But of course that wouldn’t work – the output of a non-scripted mapper link is XSLT, not .NET code.

So that leads to the assumption that an XML entity character is required; surely that will work? Since the string “&#13&#10” is the XML entity representation of a carriage return followed by a line feed (CR LF), we should be able to just insert that as a constant parameter within the String Concatenate functoid:

01

But then it becomes evident that the mapper escapes all characters that might otherwise be unintentionally interpreted as markup:

02

Hmmm… not turning out to be as easy as we thought. Surely we don’t need to resort to inline XSLT just to insert a newline into text?

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First Pluralsight Course Published!

PluralsightIn case anyone is wondering why I’ve been out of the blogging and social media scene for the past few months, it’s because I’ve had my head down trying to complete the authoring of my first Pluralsight course!

Well, I’m pleased to say that the course is now live!! It’s been a long journey and resulted in three scope changes, but is finally published. Also feel very privileged to have joined the ranks of the Pluralsight author team, comprised of so many exceptional people whose wisdom I’ve been following throughout my career.

The course is entitled Using Functoids in BizTalk Server 2013, and it features a deep-dive exploration of the eighty built-in functoids within the BizTalk Mapper toolbox, as well a brief look at creating custom functoids and hosting custom XSLT files. Despite the title, it is equally relevant to BizTalk Server 2010 users as the Mapper has not changed much between those two versions. (Come to think of it, the functoids themselves haven’t changed all that much since BTS 2006, even though the user interface was overhauled to great improvement in 2010.)

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