Jun 09

In the recently released BizTalk Server 2010 Beta, we introduced a new feature “BizTalk + AppFabric”, which allows users to easily develop simple integration applications. With this feature, users can:

· Develop Windows Workflow applications that require connectivity to backend Line of Business (LOB) systems like SAP, Oracle DB, Oracle E-Business Suite, Seibel, and SQL Server without writing custom code for LOB connectivity.

· Develop XML-based data transformation using the easy-to-use and rich user interface of BizTalk Mapper that can be launched and used right within a .NET/WF project

In this blog, I will provide an overview of this feature. A more elaborate whitepaper with a tutorial can be found here.

With this feature, Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) activities are provided to the end user to programmatically access BizTalk’s LOB connectivity and data transformation capabilities. This enables users to easily create new composite applications using the WF model, which can be deployed, hosted, managed in Windows Server AppFabric. This also enables web-based applications to access LOB data. This can help a class of scenarios (such as Web-based queries) that are best effort, short running and don’t require the durability/persistence provided by traditional BizTalk Server. A typical application architecture may look like below:

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Figure 1 A workflow service hosted in AppFabric/IIS connecting to a Line-of-Business system

Connecting to a Line of Business System

BizTalk provides a set of WCF based adapters that provide easy connectivity to Line of Business (LoB) systems. To use this, you need to install the WCF LoB Adapter SDK and the BizTalk Adapter Pack, which are available as part of BizTalk Server 2010 Beta release.

To use this feature from a WF project in Visual Studio, click the “Add Adapter Service Reference…” menu item.

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This brings up a dialog box (like the one below) which you can use to connect to the LoB system. The dialog box allows you to browse through the artifacts supported by the LoB system and choose the operations you want to use. For example, in the screenshot below, we use the “Select” operation on the SQL Database table “CustomerInfo”.

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When you click OK, the plugin will generate WF activities for the operations you have selected. You must build your project to see the activities on the Visual Studio Toolbox (See below). Once that is done, you can simple drag-and-drop the activities to use them in your workflow.

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Transforming Data using the BizTalk Mapper

BizTalk provides a rich GUI-based tool for performing data transformations for XML data. We can now use this capability from a WF application through the Mapper activity. You will see this activity on the Toolbox under the “BizTalk” category after you install BizTalk Server (Developer Tools) and the WCF LOB Adapter SDK.

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To use this mapper activity, you need to specify the InputDataContractType and the OutputDataContractType. As the name suggests, these are .NET types for the input data and the output data for the activity. You can then create a new map or select an existing map based on these types. If you are creating a new map, the activity will generate the XML schemas for the selected input and output DataContract types and a new BizTalk map (.btm) file.

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You can then open and edit the BizTalk map file in the BizTalk Mapper GUI from within the WF project itself. When the map file is saved, it will automatically be compiled and built along with the project.

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The mapper activity has an input argument that takes the data to be transformed and an output argument where the transformed data is stored. You can create workflow variables to pass the input and store the output from the activity. At runtime, the input data will first be serialized into XML. It will then be transformed using XSLT generated from the map file and finally de-serialized back into an object of the output type.

Summary

With these features, developing web applications which require access to LoB data will be a lot easier. The ability to use the BizTalk Mapper for data transformation means that different data in different LoB systems can be transformed using an interactive and intuitive GUI-based tool. Windows Server AppFabric provides a hosting service to deploy and manage these applications.

We would be happy to see you try out these features in your workflow applications, and receive your feedback. You can either write to me directly (sameerch @ microsoft . com) or leave a feedback here on this blog.

Sameer Chabungbam
Program Manager, BizTalk Server Team

Jun 02

We are very excited to welcome the public Beta release of BizTalk Server 2010. We have some very interesting enhancements in B2B space in this release. I want to share a brief around the Trading Partner Management feature.

Trading Partner Management(TPM) is increasingly challenging in the exploding global trading economy. A huge heterogeneous mixture of business players are coming in with cost effective options to trade with.

Previous releases of BizTalk provided a functional party management offering that enabled customers to build solutions that needed party management data, but it did come with a few challenges around usability and scalability. To address the growing demand for a scalable TPM, we interviewed a number of customers from different market and sizes and incorporated their valuable feedback. With the new release of BizTalk Server 2010, we have rebuilt the TPM model ground up to meet the tactical and long term needs of the B2B players.

I want to lay out some of the key aspects that are new in TPM for BTS 2010. Detailed blogs would be based on your interest in the specific areas

Functional/Operational

ü Party Model enhanced ground up that would be Business user friendly:

a. Party, Business, Agreement, Protocol Settings: More intuitive model to reflect trading partners, their various businesses, partnerships and agreements between partners. Default Protocol settings to reflect the expectations and abilities of either party getting into an trading partner agreement

b. Inbound, Outbound Settings: Reflective of how business handles inbound messages and sends outbound messages

c. Directional Agreements: Agreements are made two part, one part each for the direction of messages

ü Centralized Business Identities: Identities that are used by the business are centralized without making them protocol-specific. This enhances the productivity as well, as business identities can be set/updated in one place and one time and not repeated across protocol settings

ü Message Type Inclusion/Exclusion: A configurable list of accepted Transaction/Message Types that the business wants to support. Greatly reduces noise of unsupported message types being exchanged and dropped.

ü Productivity around Agreement onboarding:

a. Ability to create protocol settings that are by default expected by a business and reusing them automatically in all agreements created with the business. Ability to override and specific setting as needed in the agreement

b. Ability to save agreements as ‘Agreement Templates’ and applying the same across all similar agreements by a click of a button

ü TransactionSet/Payload validation by Message type: No more validation settings at interchange level; now you set validation (‘leading trailing spaces, ‘extended EDI validation etc) for each message type differently

ü Enhanced Global/FallBack Settings: All the settings possible for an onboarded party can now be set in Fallback settings too(earlier releases didn’t support all settings in Global settings and for some users were forced to use pipeline settings)

Access

ü B2B Operator Role: A new BizTalk role that reduces the onus on the Admins to perform all Party management operations which was also sometimes security risk. The new role allows windows users associated with the role to perform all party management operations.

Upgrade Customers

ü Migration Tool: With all these changes comes a Party Migration tool that helps upgrade customers to easily move from the old PAM based model to the new enhanced TPM of BTS 2010 without having to redo the onboarding of hundreds of parties/agreements

These are the highlights that I wanted to call out and have you all try them out. Any feedback on the feature would be greatly appreciated.

Hoping that the feature excites you as much as it excites me, and looking forward to a great success!!

Until next time

Ravi

*TechEd Alert*

I will be presenting a session at TechEd 2010 North America on this TPM feature with a demo. If you want to see how it really works and hear the story of how this feature got build, do visit the session at TechEd on 9th June (ASI 304: Building Large B2B Integration Solutions on Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010). See you folks there!!!

Jun 01

Today we’re excited to announce the availability of the BizTalk Server 2010 Beta, which will RTM in the third quarter of calendar year 2010. BizTalk Server 2010 aligns with the latest Microsoft platform releases, including SQL Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010 and SharePoint 2010, and will integrate with Windows Server AppFabric. This alignment, along with the availability of a wide array of platform adapters, allows customers to stitch together more flexible and manageable composite applications.

Updates include enhanced trading partner management, a new BizTalk mapper and simplified management through a single dashboard that enables customers to backup and restore BizTalk configurations. Also included in this release are new Business to Business integration capabilities such as rapidly on-board and easy management of trading partners and secure FTP adapter (FTPS) .
Download the beta today and tell us what you think at www.microsoft.com/biztalk.

Today we’re also officially launching Windows Server AppFabric, with the immediate availability of the Windows Server AppFabric Release Candidate (RC) at http://msdn.microsoft.com/appfabric; the final release of the product will be available in June.

Together with the already available Windows Azure AppFabric, Windows Server AppFabric and BizTalk Server 2010 form Microsoft’s application infrastructure technologies. These offerings benefit you by delivering cloud-like elasticity, seamless connectivity, and simplified composition for the most demanding, enterprise applications.

To learn more about Microsoft’s application infrastructure technologies, visit the Microsoft Application Infrastructure virtual launch event at www.appinfrastructure.com!

Jun 01

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BizTalk 2010

May 04

Great RFID case study…

Toll Global Logistics

Feb 10

The recent economic crunch has decisively demonstrated that retailers need lean, on-target inventories to succeed in a changed marketplace. But simply slimming down product inventories isn’t enough. Retailers need similarly lean execution throughout their enterprises in order to reap the benefits of this new business model.

This RIS News Web Connections seminar, sponsored by Xterprise, will demonstrate how item-level RFID solutions are transforming “the detail of retail,” making store operations more efficient and helping to ensure that leaner inventories don’t mean disappointed customers and lost sales.  You’ll learn how leading apparel retailers have been able to improve the speed and precision of inventory cycle counts, gain a comprehensive view of in-store inventory, and reduce both shrinkage and out of stocks.

I encourage you to join us on Feb 18th, at 2pm eastern, as Leslie Hand, Retail Industry Analyst with IDC Retail Insights and Dean Frew, founder and CEO of Xterprise discuss how item-level RFID solutions can turn lean inventories from a survival strategy into a competitive advantage.

To register for this event, click here.

Jan 29

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is now available. This service pack is an update for BizTalk Server 2006 R2 and includes a roll-up of hot fixes from the BizTalk Server 2006 and 2006 R2 releases, some hot fixes from the BizTalk Server 2009 release, as well as some additional enhancements.

Important Links:

  1. Location: Download Location
  2. Detailed Article: KB Article
  3. BizTalk Server Roadmap: http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/en/us/roadmap.aspx

Additional Details

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is an update for BizTalk Server 2006 R2. The SP1 installation program offers a unified installation experience: It will automatically detect and update all of the BizTalk Server components that are currently installed. It will also detect all BizTalk Server hotfixes currently installed, and will distinguish between hotfixes that predate this service pack, and those which were issued after this service pack was released.

SP1 includes a roll-up of hotfixes from the BizTalk Server 2006 and 2006 R2 releases, some hotfixes from the BizTalk Server 2009 release, as well as some additional enhancements. Some of the key fixes and enhancements in this service pack are the following:

New Features

  • For WCF-Custom and WCF-CustomIsolated Adapters, the ability to look up custom bindings from locations other than machine.config.
  • Support for using multiple certificates to sign outgoing AS2 messages

Better reliability, performance, and scale for the following key features

  • Throttling and dehydration of orchestrations.
  • Archiving and purging operations.
  • BAM alerts and archiving.
  • HIPAA.
  • Reduced memory consumption in scenarios using scripting functoids.
  • Improvement in the bts_FindSubscription stored proc, resulting in faster execution and lower CPU utilization.

Better management and deployment experiences

  • Performance and user experience improvements of key scenarios.
  • WCF configuration management.
  • Significant improvement in deployment time for send ports using a map.

Improved support

  • X12 and EDIFACT updates.
  • Increased footprint of supported FTP servers and locale.
  • XMLDocument message types in orchestrations.
  • Configurable timeout for Basic HTTP.
  • WCF adaptor now suspends messages instead of terminating when the host instance is stopped.
  • Configurable transaction timeout for WCF Adaptors.
  • Mapping of inline schema for SQL Adaptor now allows for using $ characters as part of the updategram.
  • The SQL Adaptor now supports calling from a BizTalk Server dynamic send port. The following properties can be set on the call to the dynamic port:
          Connection string (all the SQL connection properties)
          Document Target Namespace
          Response Document Root Element
  • Ability to disable generation of Routing Failure Report.
  • Fixes to some issues that used to cause high CPU usage by BizTalk Server hosts due to certain .NET updates.
  • Ability to use multiple certificates for signing outbound messages.
  • Message Pack 2009.
  • Message property tracking with BAM for all messages in the interchange, irrespective of the usage of pipeline or mapping.

Integrated tracing to help in debugging EDI specific issues. This improvement is aimed at reducing the time taken for diagnosing and isolating an EDI problem.

Jan 11

We have an excellent MSDN Webcast on Thursday this week for you to watch. Especially if want to learn how to drive down costs and achieve more with less for your integration projects.

Register here.

Following are the details of this Webcast:

Air date/time: 1/14/10, 1:00 PM Pacific

Title: MSDN Webcast: Business Process Automation & Integration: Connecting Partners, Applications and Devices with Microsoft Application Platform

Abstract: Tough economic times bring us back to focus on improving efficiencies, cutting cost and extracting more value from existing systems.  These times also present excellent opportunities to streamline information-sharing among partners, customers, employees and suppliers, as well as automating sophisticated, high-value transactions, both inside and outside the organization.  Automation and Integration can do a lot for your organization during these challenging times. Learn about the price/performance advantage of Microsoft’s Application Platform to drive your automation & integration, SOA and composite application projects.

Level 200 (intermediate)

Presenter : Syed Rasheed, Sr. Product Manager, Microsoft.

Nov 16

PDC – Professional Developers conference is the premier Microsoft conference focusing on developer community. We show off our upcoming technologies and releases at this conference. It is going to be a big week for BizTalk Server too. We have multiple sessions and we will be rolling out BizTalk Server roadmap as part of the event.

Following are sessions to look out for if you want to know more about BizTalk Server…

Speaker: Balasubramanian Sriram in 502A on Tuesday at 3:00 PM

Abstract: Learn how BizTalk Server 2009 lets you focus on writing the code to do the hardcore business logic and let BizTalk take care of moving the data. Hear how your development skills with Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) work seamlessly with the powerful integration platform of BizTalk. Find out how BizTalk aligns with the Microsoft application server in the longer term.

Speakers: Syed Rasheed, Dmitri Ossipov in 515B on Tuesday at 4:30 PM

Abstract: See how the BizTalk Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) enables you to build services that can be quickly located and connected, whether they live behind the firewall or in the cloud, without creating a brittle point-to-point link. Learn how to dramatically improve the service lifecycle of development, testing, and deployment by using the powerful messaging, routing, and transformation capabilities of the BizTalk ESB in your solution today, and get a glimpse of future plans for BizTalk service bus/pub-sub pattern.

  • Chalk Talk Title:  BizTalk and StreamInsight: A Better Together Story (Session 3 – Theatre Chalk Talk on Tuesday at 1:00 pm)

Speaker: Mark Simms

Abstract: SQL Server 2008 R2 introduces Stream Insight, providing a powerful platform for developing and deploying complex event processing (CEP) applications.  Come and learn how Stream Insight can be used to enable new capabilities in BizTalk for providing real-time monitoring and analytics for infrastructure and business events at scale.

  • Lab: Introduction to BizTalk Server 2009 Demo: Process Automation Solution with SharePoint & WF (lab code: SRV001)
  • Lab: Introduction to the BizTalk ESB Toolkit: Providing Service Integration Agility  (lab code: SRV002)

Last but not least stop by the BizTalk demo booth in the Microsoft Products Pavilion if you want to chat with members of the BizTalk product team and other BizTalk experts. We will be presenting cool demos and would love to talk to you.

You can also meet us at the “Ask the Experts” session on Wednesday 5:30 – 7:00 PM.

See you next week at PDC!!!

Nov 16

This week I was in Germany of tech-ed Europe 2009. I reached Berlin on 9th Morning and headed straight to Messe, Berlin location of the event. It was fun to travel through Berlin city. I love train networks in Europe. 🙂

I could not sleep much on Sunday night due to jet lag. Monday morning I delivered a session on Integration and Interop along with couple of my colleagues. After the event we headed to enjoy the celebrations at Berlin city center on 20th anniversary of fall of Berlin wall. Was awesome event. Got back at midnight.

Had to deliver another session on BizTalk Server 2009 on Tuesday early morning hence worked on my deck and demo most of the night. Again could not sleep much. Tuesday was really hectic with my session from 9-10:15 and couple of press briefings on SQL Server later in the afternoon.

Wednesday, I had to visit a customer in Karlsruhe which is 2 hours from Frankfurt or 1 hour from Stuttgart. I took morning 6am flight to Frankfurt, met with Richard(SSP for App Plat in Germany) and headed to customers office. Had a great 3-4 hour meeting on integrations especially how they could leverage BizTalk Server. Had beer with Richard at Stuttgart airport and got back to Berlin at 10pm.

By Thursday I was completely exhausted. 🙁 Again could not sleep much at night got some emails done and spoke to my wife at 5:00am. Then I crashed and when I got up it was 2:00am and cleaning crew was banging my door. 🙂 Got up headed to do booth duty at the show. Went out for dinner with all the colleagues to a great Italian Restaurant. 🙂

I did not sleep whole night on Thursday and headed back to US on Friday. 🙂 Now time to pack-up and go to LA for PDC. We are announcing BizTalk Server roadmap next week at PDC. Stay tuned.

Some Pictures:

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