Azure Service Bus Relays, SAS tokens and BizTalk Server

Great article by Mark Brimble. SAS support is now available across all WCF adapters in BizTalk Server 2016 CTP1!

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Many people have written about Azure Service Bus Relays in the past and a summary can be found here. Dan Rosanova recently tweeted “….We’re trying to discourage ACS for security. SAS is our preferred model.”. The ACS security pattern is described here and the SAS pattern is described here. This article attempts to summarise BizTalk adapter support for using SAS tokens.

Most BizTalk Server examples use ACS tokens rather than SAS tokens, probably because the BizTalk Adapters only allowed configuration with ACS tokens when service bus relays were first released with BizTalk 2013. BizTalk 2013 R2 has limited support for configuration of SAS tokens and most adapters only allow use of ACS tokens out of the box (OOTB). If you want to use a SAS token you have to be very inventive. I hope that BizTalk vNext will add SAS token support for all WCF adapters.

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Using BTDF to Deploy Pure WCF Services

The BizTalk Deployment Framework (BTDF) is widely used as a tool for managing the complex deployment requirements for BizTalk Server integration solutions. With each iteration, it gets better & better. The latest version (still in Beta) now supports BizTalk Server 2013 R2.

Of course at Mexia we use this tool quite regularly for our clients, enjoying the simplicity it affords in automated deployment and management of environment-specific configuration. However, the ESB that we often provide our customers includes more than just BizTalk applications; it includes some services implemented in pure WCF. Although these services do utilise BAM for tracking and SSO for configuration management, those features do not require the empty BizTalk application that is generated from using the BTDF.

After consultation with BTDF author Thomas Abraham and some helpful tips on this thread, I spent some time putting together a BTDF project file that would deploy just the bits that are needed for WCF – and nothing more. It has been very successful so far, providing for a consistent build definition and deployment process across the entire ESB platform.  I’d like to share it with you here.

But before we go into the details, there are a few things you need to be aware of regarding this solution: Read more of this post

Using Azure Hybrid Connections to Consume an On-Premises WCF Service from the Cloud

Microsoft introduced Hybrid Connections a few weeks ago, a [currently] free version of BizTalk Services that allows you to seamlessly connect Web Sites and Mobile Services hosted in Azure to LOB systems residing within your organisation’s network. Similar to Service Bus Relays, there is no need to open inbound firewall ports as a locally installed agent can establish the connection to Azure from within your network. To help support this feature, Microsoft also introduced a free tier of BizTalk Services specifically to accommodate Hybrid Connections.

The most obvious question asked by most is, “Will this replace Service Bus Relays?”.  After all, they do seem very similar in concept. Michael Stephenson wrote an excellent blog post addressing this very question and identifying the key differences as well as the situations you would most likely choose one technology over the other.

What has sparked my post here is that the only examples I found highlighting this new feature were aimed at connecting to on-premises databases. While this is certainly impressive and useful (especially since your Azure Web Site can use the exact same connection string you would use for on-premises access!), it left me wondering how Hybrid Connections could be used to expose WCF Services within an internal network – without the need for configuring relay bindings.  My interest in this capability has arisen from some recent experiences building hybrid solutions for our clients:

Read more of this post

WEBCAST: Consuming REST Services Using BizTalk 2010

Although this may be superseded by the new REST adapter coming in BizTalk Server 2013, this first  webcast of mine shows how to use WCF custom behaviours and the webHttpBinding to consume REST services from BizTalk 2010 and earlier:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QshMdmTHgRY

Code samples are available on the TechNet post  that inspired this webcast.

The slide deck used in this webcast is available here.

Additional webcasts will continue to be posted on the Brisbane BizTalk User Group YouTube channel.

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