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Michael Stephenson keeping your feet on premise while your heads in the cloud

Recently a few of us were speaking about what would be the future of BizTalk after the 2009 release. I already had a few thoughts on what I think would be great additions to the product and what strategic directions it may move in. I have checked to ensure that none of my thoughts breach the MVP NDA and after getting the thumbs up I've listed my thoughts below so there might be a bit of discussion on these ideas.

Area

Thought

Notes

Improved or New Feature

Configuration Subsystem

Within BizTalk solutions we regularly need to store configuration somewhere for implementing a process. This is a real pain and there are multiple ways this can be done. The main problems are:

   

  • There is no consistently appropriate store
  • There is no easy management tool
  • There is no easy way to implement automation with this

       

    I have previously wrote the following article about how we usually do this in the field:

       

    http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/05/25/122381.aspx

       

    It would be great if there was a subsystem with BizTalk that would provide a good pattern to do this which addresses the above. This could possibly be an enhancement on top of SSO where the current configuration for ports etc is managed.

      

Suggestion

Velocity

There are a number of places where BizTalk uses caching or should use caching. I think BizTalk should be looking at how Velocity could be leveraged in future versions to make things easier for BizTalk people and also using it under the hood.

   

I have previously wrote an article about using Ncache with BizTalk Cross Referencing which shows some ways that distributed caching can be taken advantage of:

 

http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/09/21/125353.aspx

And

http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/09/21/125352.aspx

   

I think it could also offer an opportunity to look at this to help you with the low latency question in BizTalk. Possibly by having a distributed in memory message box and the normal database one. You could then do something like a provider pattern and allow a host to choose which kind of message box to work with.

   

Bit of an out there idea, but food for thought anyway.

Suggestion

Dublin Integration

  

One of the key things for BizTalk from now on in my opinion is how integration with Dublin is utilised and how solutions are developed taking advantages of both products.

   

I think it could be a good idea to look at how Dublin may take advantage of BizTalk features and visa versa.

 

Some of my thoughts on what a dublin solution might want to take advantage of from BizTalk are:

 

  • Maps
  • UDDI
  • ESB Guidance taking advantage of BizTalk and Dublin services

      

Map Enhancements

A whole bunch of thoughts about maps

  • Be able to use maps to design mappings without having to implement code. Sort of like an analyst/developer view of the same map

       

  • Able to easily highlight mapping of a particular field and make other field mappings hidden would be very useful for complex maps

       

  • Exposing maps using a provider model. This would allow ISV and community mapping tools to plug in as if they were a normal map rather than having to do a custom pipeline component

       

  • Apply maps at receive location level. This would allow the response messages to be mapped from 1 common message to multiple destinations if you have a request response port

        

  • Allow maps to be applied at receive location level on request response ports (see http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/05/09/122024.aspx)

Schemas/Messages

Bunch of suggestions

  • Generate message type classes behind the scenes as we always end up doing this anyway and it would be much better if it was just done

       

  • Support messages defined by dsl's in M as well as xsd

       

  • With Generated schemas it would be useful to choose if it adds all of the orchestration and other stuff that you normally just delete once you have finished using the wizard

       

  • It would be good if you could easily add to your compile tasks to regenerate schemas from a defined contract. As an example I did a post where I regenerate schemas each time I build by pointing to the WSDL from a WCF service. This means if the contract is changed then I know and it breaks my build. We keep the contracts in a central repository usually. The article is below:

    http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/07/29/124078.aspx

Pipeline Components

Pipeline Component Wizard

  

Implement this as a visual studio component

Pipelines

Get rid of Pipelines

I believe that there is no value from the pipeline artefact. If you examine it in reflector you will see a pipeline is simply a class containing a string of xml which is made available as a property. The string of xml is a description of the pipeline components that should be executed.

   

I would prefer if this artefact was deprecated and instead you would define pipelines through the port bindings where you could list the pipeline components. This would have the benefit of being able to add and remove pipeline components to a port at runtime by an administrator.

   

It would also be great if in the bindings you could define a list of reusable groups of pipeline components (essentially defining a pipeline in the bindings and being able to reuse it on multiple ports.

   

The root thing is that in my opinion because the pipeline is just xml under the hood it shouldn't need to be compiled.

Orchestrations

Again a whole bunch of suggestions

   

   

  

  • Allow namespace alias's to shorten the code in expression shapes

       

       

  • Provide a designer view to an orchestration which shows the same kind of detail but in a more simplistic view and which does not require compiling a bit like the old business analyst tool but one that is useful

       

  • I would like a BAM Quick start, it would be great to be able to just click an orchestration and say report this to BAM and maybe set a few properties and get this reporting in a very simple way. This could be a leader into more complex BAM solutions done in the more traditional way. In most projects I see BAM is not an initial requirement because a customer just wants to implement their core requirements and BAM is seen as more work. If this simple quick start was implemented the a customer would see the benefits of BAM without having to do additional work and would be more likely to buy into a BAM solution early in projects

       

  • Persistence point indicator for newbies and analysis showing the number of persistence points

       

  • Patterns wizard in Visual Studio

       

      

BAM

Bunch of ideas

   

   

  

  • A nicer to use tool than the excel addins for BAM definitions

       

  • Integrate the generated type bam api tool into Biztalk so when we create a bam definition and it is deployed then an api is generated and added to the GAC for us to use easily from code

       

  • Is BAM going to stay in BizTalk or it is possibly better positioned as a SQL BI Component especially since it can commonly be plugged into from WF and WCF

       

  • A better web interface for BAM Portal

       

  • Sort out the BAM Notification dependancy on SSNS which currently means you need to download a old SQL 2005 component

       

  • It would be great if BAM was using some reporting services stuff from SQL Server and an easy model was provided to add new SQL Reports to the BAM Portal

       

  • Provide an easy way to incorporate BAM into your build process (see http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/06/15/122870.aspx)

      

BRE

Bunch of suggestions

   

  

  • Provide a ws interface for Business rules to expose them for use in other applications. I've seen some projects where they have spent a money on just a business rules server. If BizTalk rules were easily exposed and available to other applications then it would be another cool feature for the enterprise.

       

  • The roadmap of BizTalk versus WF Rules is unclear. However the above comment could make Rules available as an enterprise service regardless of them being WF or BTS based.

       

  • A web interface to allow Business users to view rules that have been executed to see how they were evaluated

 

  • A web interface to allow business users to view current rules as at present they are only viewable by a BizTalk administrator

       

      

Deployment

Bunch of suggestions

   

   

   

   

  

  • Samples and guidance for automated installs and server builds would be great in Vnext documentation

       

  • Ability to export Biztalk application as a WIX package to allow easier extension of the msi

       

  • Include the manual tasks as part of the group configuration process (eg: setting up SQL Jobs). This means when the group is installed and configured there shouldn't need to be any manual tasks than an administrator needs to go chasing to do (or often forgets to do).

       

  • Deployment topology patterns which can help apply a lot the optimisations at setup rather than them having to be manually done

       

  • By default create a separate host dedicated for tracking called "Tracking Host" or run the jobs of the TDDS process in a background service which can not be misused through the BizTalk admin console. Everyone always does this anyway but it sometimes gets forgotten

      

Application Life Cycle

Bunch of suggestions

   

   

   

  

  • Easier to implement versioning

    This is a bit of a nightmare to do properly at the moment and lots of times it is frightened away from. I've wrote the following about how we did it: http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/12/18/128030.aspx

       

  • All management stuff should be made available by a managed API. At present it's a combination of executables, WMI, managed API etc. It should be consistent and simple so anything not done out of the box can easily be done by extending the set of build tasks etc.

       

  • Would be great if we can have a set of MsBuild tasks and powershell scripts for the common tasks

       

  • Integration of orchestration profiler into Visual Studio

       

  • Integration of BizTalk documenter into Admin Console

       

  • Integration of Best Practice Analyser and Messagebox Viewer into BizTalk Admin console

Binding Files

Another bunch of suggestions

   

  

  • A designer for binding files so you don't always have to import them into BizTalk to edit them, you should be able to just open an xml file containing bindings in visual studio and edit them through a designer

       

  • Support for tokenised bindings to make it easier to configure between environments. Ive written an article about how we do this now:

    http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/01/27/118963.aspx

    And

    http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/12/18/128024.aspx

       

  • An option to export sensitive data such as passwords if desired. It is sometimes a complete pain when the passwords are omitted. By default only the BizTalk Administrator can do this so he should be able to choose if he/she wants to hide passwords

       

  • A set of reusable tokenised values which are defined at application level and can then be referenced from Binding values

       

      

Operations

More -->

   

  

  • Ability to double click on an orchestration in the admin console and be presented with a graphical view of the orchestration

     

  • Log events when a host begins and ends throttling

       

  • Consolidate all BizTalk business style management information into a UI that can be exposed to business users.

HAT

  

  • I would like HAT to record which machine an orchestration shape executed on. This can cause a major pain when you get an obscure problem

     

  • I would love to see hat data stored in the cloud. Tracking information requires lots of storage onsite and requires a solid archive policy etc. If tracking information was stored to the cloud then it would save on a lot of the infrastructure and operations requirements for BizTalk. Also this would allow BizTalk to begin to move to a service based costing model where customers could pay based on the amount of tracking information they want immediately available and how much data they will have. This will also allow Microsoft to develop tools and reports on this data which can be added and enhanced without requiring customer to upgrade on-premis.

Cross Referencing

Bunch of suggestions

  

  • Expose Xref as a web service so it can be used by other applications

       

  • Improve the tools for managing BizTalk Cross Reference, there is currently none

       

  • Expose Xref in a management web site to allow non biztalk people to view it

       

  • Have a way of being able to map data when it doesn't really match the restrictive xref model. Maybe this includes adding new tables or something. We always have to do custom databases for this

       

  • Allow easy automation of loading xref data. Its not that great at the minute
Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2009 3:44 PM BizTalk | Back to top


Comments on this post: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Additions to BTSTask

- Beeing able to add references
- Beeing able to Specify Resource Locations !!!!!
Left by Patrick Wellink on Mar 18, 2009 10:29 AM

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Mike,
An excellent list of features. These would certainly go a long way to making BizTalk massively productive. Hope something happens in these areas. There's also a potential for a number of codeplex projects addressing these areas.

Cheers,
Benjy
Left by Benjy on Mar 18, 2009 12:50 PM

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Although Velocity has made progress from CTP1 to CTP2, it still leaves much to be desired. It will be some time before they provide all the important features in a distributed cache and even longer before it is tested in the market. I wish them good luck.

In the meantime, NCache already provides all CTP2 & V1, and many more features. NCache is the first, the most mature, and the most feature-rich distributed cache in the .NET space. NCache is an enterprise level in-memory distributed cache for .NET and also provides a distributed ASP.NET Session State. Check it out at Distributed Cache. NCache Express is a totally free version of NCache. Check it out at Free Distributed Cache.
Left by Kevin Clark on Apr 02, 2009 8:13 AM

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the comment. Im actually already a supporter of NCache, and have done an interesting post before about how you could use it with BizTalk. See: http://geekswithblogs.net/michaelstephenson/archive/2008/09/21/125353.aspx

I think longer term Velocity will hopefully become a good product which is comparable to NCache. The point on the wishlist is that Id like the Microsoft to be looking at using Distributed caching inside of the next version of BizTalk. I think it offered excellent opportunities inside the product and also for those who may use a distributed cache to support their custom solution.

Thanks
Mike
Left by Mike on Apr 02, 2009 11:57 AM

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Interesting list, I used your idea and wrote my own list (some are alternative solutions to items in your list, other are additional ideas):
http://www.nootaikok.com/2009/04/my-biztalk-vnext-post-2009-wish-list.html

About your suggestion of getting rid of pipelines:
I can see one case where the pipeline artefact is still useful, when calling a pipeline from an orchestration. It's not the most common use case, but there can still be contexts where this is justified.

About "Ability to export Biztalk application as a WIX package to allow easier extension of the msi ": I would rather reverse the process, by allowing creation of a WIX package without ever deploying into a "dummy pre-deployment BizTalk server".
Exporting a WIX package from a deployed application could also be useful, but it should not be the only option.
Left by Christos Karras on Apr 20, 2009 3:20 AM

# re: Thoughts about BizTalk VNext
Requesting Gravatar...
Hello Mike,

coming back to this interesting post about BizTalk VNext and
"Integration of Best Practice Analyser and Messagebox Viewer into BizTalk Admin console"

FYI I released recently an MMC Snap-in for MessageBoxViewer tool (aka "MBV") :

http://blogs.technet.com/jpierauc/archive/2009/07/15/mmc-snap-in-for-mbv-available-here.aspx

Cheers

JP
Left by JP on Jul 18, 2009 5:01 AM

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