BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3

BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3

In this blog post we will update you on which new capabilities came with BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3. Earlier, we have also written about Feature Pack 1 and 2. You can find these articles here:

Introduction to BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Packs

In 2017, Microsoft started releasing so-called Feature Packs for BizTalk Server 2016. The concept of releasing these Feature Packs is that Microsoft doesn’t want their BizTalk Server customers to wait for new features, until a new release of BizTalk Server arrives. Instead, they want their customers to enjoy these new features, as soon as possible once they have been developed and are ready to go to market. As these Feature Packs contain non-breaking features, there is little risk that a BizTalk customer runs into issues as a result of installing such Feature Packs. These Feature Packs are only available with the Enterprise and Developer edition of BizTalk Server 2016.

Since Microsoft started with this strategy, they have released 3 Feature Packs:

The BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Packs are cumulative. This means that once you installed, for example, Feature Pack 3, you can also enjoy the features which were brought in Feature Pack 1 and 2.

You might have also noticed, that each Feature Update also contains a Cumulative Update. It is also possible to install these Cumulative Updates without the new capabilities which are provided by the Feature Packs. To check the most recent releases of these Cumulative Updates, please check this web site:

What’s new with BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3

This Feature Pack brings improvements in below mentioned areas:

  • Compliance
    • Compliance with US government accessibility standard
    • Privacy – Compliance with FIPS and GDPR
    • SQL Server 2016 SP 2 – Deploy multiple databases per instance of an Availability Group
  • Adapters
    • Office365 Outlook Email – Send and Receive messages using Office365 e-mail
    • Office365 Outlook Calendar – Create appointments using Office365 schedules
    • Office365 Outlook Contact – Create Office365 contacts
    • Web Authentication – Authenticate with Azure AD and OAuth using Microsoft Enterprise Single Sign-On
  • Administration
    • Advanced Scheduling – Set up recurrence on Receive Locations with greater precision

Compliance with FIPS and GDPR

As of this Feature pack, BizTalk Server is compatible with FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

FIPS is a standard developed by the US federal government for use in computer systems by non-military government and agencies. The specification comes with standards for among others:
  • Codes – country, region and state codes, weather conditions, emergency indications
  • Encryption – Data Encryption Standard, Advanced Encryption Standard

In case of BizTalk Server, this relates to how data becomes encrypted and decrypted in SQL Server. FIPS-compliance is enabled in the Operating System, under Local Policies; refer to the screenshot below. Once enabled, SQL Server will enter the FIPS compliant mode, thereby using cryptographic standards as defined in FIPS 140-2.

BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Local policies

GDPR is a European law on data protection which intends to regulate the privacy of individuals in the European Union. This new law supersedes Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC from 1995.

If you want to read more about BizTalk and GDPR, there are few resources written by Sandro Pereira on this topic:

Multiple databases in Availability Groups SQL instances

Also SQL Server 2016 SP 2 is supported from Feature Pack 3. This is especially good news when you are running SQL Server Availability Groups. Because this allows you to have multiple BizTalk databases in the same SQL instance. As this was not possible earlier, this made setting up BizTalk Server in Availability Groups complex and expensive. The reason for that, is because you needed to have multiple SQL Server instances than without Availability Groups and more expensive as you need to license each SQL Server instance in the Availability Groups.

New Adapters for Office365 connectivity

Few other interesting features of this Feature Pack are the adapters for Office365 Email, Calendar and Contacts. These adapters allow you to use Office365 accounts for receiving and transmitting emails, creating and updating calendar items and creating contacts.

The Office365 Email adapter

This adapter can be uses both for receiving as for transmitting messages. In BizTalk terms, you can use this adapter both on Receive Locations as on Send Ports.

On the receive side the adapter enables you to:

  • Select a folder from which to retrieve email

  • Select a timestamp from which you want to receive emails

  • Retrieve unread emails only

  • Select an action after the email has been read, like marking the email as read or deleting the email

When transmitting emails via a Send Port, you can set the following properties:

  • To – separate email addresses with a semicolon (‘;’), maximum 256 characters

  • CC – separate email addresses with a semicolon (‘;’), maximum 256 characters

  • Subject – enter maximum 256 characters

  • Importance – select Low, Normal or High from the drop down  in the Send Port

Also, it is important to realize that you can only send plain text messages.

Once you receive an email on a Receive Location, the Receive pipeline adds promoted properties, which you can use for routing the emails. These promoted properties are:

  • Importance

  • Subject

  • SenderName

  • SenderAddress

  • HasAttachments

The Office365 Calendar adapter

You can use this adapter both for receiving events as for transmitting events. To be able to receive/send events you need to have the XSD schemas for both operations. You will find these schemas here:

Program Files (x86)Microsoft BizTalk Server 2016SDKSchemas

Related to calendars, this folder contains the following schemas:

The advantage of having these schemas is, that you can determine yourself which elements you will promote for routing purposes.

When you want to receive calendar items, you can select a calendar from an Office365 Outlook account. Next, you can configure that you want to receive events which are starting within a particular time frame.

You can also use the adapter to create events from BizTalk Server. Therefore, you can, populate a message according the above mentioned Send schema. Yet, some event properties can also be set on the Send Port. The properties you can set on a Send Port are:

The Office365 Contact adapter

You can use the Contact Adapter for creating contacts in Office365. For this adapter too, Microsoft has provided a schema. You will find this schema in the same location as the Calendar schemas and has the following name:

Office365OutlookContactSend.xsd

Again, because you can add this schema to your BizTalk solution, you can determine yourself which fields you would like to promote. The Send Port configuration only allows you to sign in with an Office365 account. You cannot configure any contact properties on the Send Port.

Note: To be able to use the Office365 adapters from BizTalk, besides Feature Pack 3, you need to install TMS. This service refreshes the Office OAuth tokens which BizTalk uses. After installation of the Feature Pack, navigate to the installation folder of BizTalk Server (Program Files (x86)Microsoft BizTalk Server 2016).  There you will find BizTalkTMS.msi, which you must install.

Read this article for more details about the Office365 adapters for BizTalk Server 2016.

Advanced Scheduling of Receive Locations 

Scheduling Receive Locations has always been hard with the out-of-the-box capabilities of BizTalk Server. Often people used the open source Scheduled Task Adapter which exists since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently, Sandro Pereira maintains this adapter on GitHub.

The open source Scheduled Task Adapter does a good job. But, organisations might prefer not to go for open source software, but still they might have a need to schedule Receive Location(s). Microsoft has listened to their requests and introduced Advanced Scheduling of Receive Locations with Feature Pack 3!

Below screenshots show how the scheduling capabilities of a Receive Location look like, before and after installation of Feature Pack 3.

BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Scheduling before Feature Pack 3BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Scheduling with Feature Pack 3


In case of the Feature Pack 3 scenario, the upper part of the screen
is extended with capabilities to select a time zone and to configure automatic adjustment for Daylight Saving Time (DST).

The ability of setting the time zone can help in case your integration partner(s) live in different regions of the world. Using the Time Zone drop down will make it easier to configure when Receive Locations will pick up messages according the partner’s time zone.

Daylight Saving Time, also mentioned Summer Time, is a practice which is done in a number of countries in the Northern and Southern hemisphere. During DST, the clock becomes advanced one hour close to Spring and adjusted backwards in Autumn. This way daylight lasts longer in the evening. These adjustments might effect the proper working of your interfaces. That’s why Microsoft introduced the ability to automatically adjust the schedule of your Receive Locations, according DST.

By the way: did you know that the Data Monitoring features in BizTalk360 are also compliant to Daylight Savings? Our colleague Mekala wrote an article about it. Here you have the link to that article:

Especially the Service Window capability of Receive Locations are improved hugely. The original ability to configure just a Start and a Stop time has been extended with the following recurrence features:

  • Daily – configure the number of recurring days and from which date the recurrence will be active

    BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Daily Service Window

  • Weekly – configure the number of recurring days, from when the recurrence will be active and on which weekdays the recurrence must be active

    BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Weekly Service Window

  • Monthly – configure which months and which days the recurrence should take place
    BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Monthly Service WindowBizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3: Monthly Service Window

Conclusion

With BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 3, Microsoft has released many useful features for BizTalk Server 2016. The Office365 adapters, the improved scheduling capabilities and the support of SQL Server 2016 SP2 (because of simplification of  Availability Groups) can be considered as the most useful ones.

Meanwhile, the community is also waiting for the release of BizTalk Server vNext which has been announced recently. This version of BizTalk underlines the on-going commitment of Microsoft in the platform. The new version of BizTalk will, amongst others, contain all the release Feature Packs for BizTalk Server 2016.

You can receive this kind of announcements and many other interesting articles in the Microsoft Integration space directly in your email box, by subscribing to our monthly Integration Newsletter. You can find the August edition of this newsletter, which provides more information about BizTalk vNext, here.
Why did we build ESB Management Portal?

Why did we build ESB Management Portal?

Why do we need this feature?

One of the tools which come with BizTalk Server is the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Toolkit. Although the ESB Toolkit is a collection of tools that extend the service-oriented capabilities of BizTalk, the Exception Management capability is one of the most widely used features of the ESB Toolkit. This feature allows you to perform Exception Management in a centralized manner, which can be a great benefit.

What are the current challenges?

See below for a list of challenges while using the out-of-the-box ESB Toolkit portal, which comes with BizTalk Server:

  • Bad quality portal
  • Lack of statistic information
  • No security/auditing
  • No monitoring

Bad quality portal

Even though the Exception Management framework is very robust and strong, the Exception Management Portal that comes out of BizTalk Server is not that easy to configure (takes about 1 or 2 days to configure the default portal successfully).

Besides the quality of the portal, the ESB portal is yet another portal, users need to be aware of in their day to day operations with BizTalk Server.

Lack of statistic information

Further, the ESB Toolkit gives no overview of for example the amount of ESB Exceptions that occurred, the number of itineraries processed or the number of resubmissions. This kind of information can be of vital value to know if the processes are all in a healthy state.

No security/auditing

Also, no security and auditing is in place for this portal. Anybody with access to the portal can view the exceptions, edit messages and resubmit them, which exposes its own risks.

No Monitoring

To be able to keep an eye on the ESB processes, it is handy to monitor these processes. Unfortunately, with the ESB Toolkit, no such capability exists.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 addresses these challenges in a number of ways. Firstly, the portal from the ESB Toolkit is replaced with a portal within BizTalk360. As with all features within BizTalk360, this portal is protected with security and auditing. The following policies are available:

  • Using the portal
  • Being able to resubmit messages

To be able to repair ESB Faults, there is an Edit and Resubmit feature. To make repair even easier, you can write and associate Knowledge Base articles to the ESB Faults. So in case of recurring problems, you can simply document the solution in such a KB article and associate it with the ESB Fault, thereby making repairs in the future easier.

BizTalk360 ESB Management PortalFor having a good overview of the ESB processes, BizTalk360 provides a customizable ESB Dashboard. You can create dashboards based on different categories of widgets, which are:

  • ESB Fault count
  • ESB Resubmission
  • ESB Itineraries

BizTalk360 ESB Dashboard

Besides the ESB Dashboard, there is also the Data Monitoring feature in BizTalk360. In case of ESB, this will help you in making sure all the ESB processes run like expected.

ESB Data Monitoring

With the ESB Exception Portal and all the other ESB focussed features, we think that we have brought another good feature to the product, taking away the need to use the out-of-the box features, while empowering the users with relevant other features.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we build EDI Dashboard?

Why did we build EDI Dashboard?

Why do we need this feature?

Many customers use their BizTalk platform to exchange EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) messages with their partners. BizTalk Server contains a number of features for EDI like Interchange processing, Batch processing and Trading Partner Management.

From an operational viewpoint, all kind of features exist in BizTalk Server and many have found their way to BizTalk360 as well. However, besides querying for running processes, there is no feature which shows the EDI processes from a statistical viewpoint.

What are the current challenges?

Often, BizTalk Server is considered as a black box and organizations with little knowledge of the product, sometimes prefer not to touch it. This behaviour can be quite dangerous as the (EDI) processes in BizTalk Server might not run as expected. So, insight into these processes is required to be able to guarantee everything is okay.
Information like the number of AS2 messages or the transaction count by transaction type or by partner id over a certain period is very useful to determine the well-being of the processes, but cannot be revealed from BizTalk Server.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 tries to breach this black box behaviour by bringing a platform which makes BizTalk Server environments easier to understand and safe to operate on.

Related to EDI, we bring a couple of features:

  • EDI Dashboards
  • EDI Status Reports
  • Reporting Manager
  • Parties and Agreements

EDI Dashboards

The EDI Dashboard is one of the features which enables the BizTalk user to get insight in what’s going in BizTalk. As the other dashboards in BizTalk360, also the EDI Dashboard is customizable and consists of widgets from different categories. In case of the EDI Dashboard, the following categories exist:

  • EDI Interchanges – widgets exist for
    • Interchange count by Partner Id/Name
    • Agreement
    • Encoding (X12/EDIFACT)
  • EDI Transaction Sets – widgets exist for
    • Transaction count by Partner Id/Name
    • Transaction type (filtered by Partner Id)
    • ACK Status (filtered by Partner Id)
  • EDI AS – widgets exist for
    • Number of messages by Partner Id
    • Number of messages by Partner Id and MDN status
    • Number of messages by MDN status

Below you can view some examples of EDI Dashboards you can create in BizTalk360.

The EDI Dashboard

The EDI Dashboard

The EDI Dashboard

EDI Reports

Comparable to the EDI query features in the BizTalk Administration Console, BizTalk360 brings a Reporting feature. On top of the set of queries you might know from the Admin console, BizTalk360 also provides a Functional ACK Status report.

EDI Reporting Manager

For easy configuration of your EDI reports, BizTalk360 brings the EDI Reporting Manager. See below for a screen print of that feature.

Parties and Agreements

Also the parties and agreements can be viewed in BizTalk360. See below for a screen print of that feature.

By bringing all these features, BizTalk360 gives good visibility of the EDI processes.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we built EDI Dashboard?

Why did we built EDI Dashboard?

Why do we need this feature?

Many customers use their BizTalk platform to exchange EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) messages with their partners. BizTalk Server contains a number of features for EDI like Interchange processing, Batch processing and Trading Partner Management.

From an operational viewpoint, all kind of features exist in BizTalk Server and many have found their way to BizTalk360 as well. However, besides querying for running processes, there is no feature which shows the EDI processes from a statistical viewpoint.

What are the current challenges?

Often, BizTalk Server is considered as a black box and organizations with little knowledge of the product, sometimes prefer not to touch it. This behaviour can be quite dangerous as the (EDI) processes in BizTalk Server might not run as expected. So, insight into these processes is required to be able to guarantee everything is okay.
Information like the number of AS2 messages or the transaction count by transaction type or by partner id over a certain period is very useful to determine the well-being of the processes, but cannot be revealed from BizTalk Server.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 tries to breach this black box behaviour by bringing a platform which makes BizTalk Server environments easier to understand and safe to operate on.

Related to EDI, we bring a couple of features:

  • EDI Dashboards
  • EDI Status Reports
  • Reporting Manager
  • Parties and Agreements

EDI Dashboards

The EDI Dashboard is one of the features which enables the BizTalk user to get insight in what’s going in BizTalk. As the other dashboards in BizTalk360, also the EDI Dashboard is customizable and consists of widgets from different categories. In case of the EDI Dashboard, the following categories exist:

  • EDI Interchanges – widgets exist for
    • Interchange count by Partner Id/Name
    • Agreement
    • Encoding (X12/EDIFACT)
  • EDI Transaction Sets – widgets exist for
    • Transaction count by Partner Id/Name
    • Transaction type (filtered by Partner Id)
    • ACK Status (filtered by Partner Id)
  • EDI AS – widgets exist for
    • Number of messages by Partner Id
    • Number of messages by Partner Id and MDN status
    • Number of messages by MDN status

Below you can view some examples of EDI Dashboards you can create in BizTalk360.

The EDI Dashboard

The EDI Dashboard

The EDI Dashboard

EDI Reports

Comparable to the EDI query features in the BizTalk Administration Console, BizTalk360 brings a Reporting feature. On top of the set of queries you might know from the Admin console, BizTalk360 also provides a Functional ACK Status report.

EDI Reporting Manager

For easy configuration of your EDI reports, BizTalk360 brings the EDI Reporting Manager. See below for a screen print of that feature.

Parties and Agreements

Also the parties and agreements can be viewed in BizTalk360. See below for a screen print of that feature.

By bringing all these features, BizTalk360 gives good visibility of the EDI processes.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we build Business Rules Composer?

Why did we build Business Rules Composer?

Business Rules Composer BizTalk360

This blog is a part of the series of blog articles we are publishing on the topic “Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360”. Read the main article here.

Why do we need this feature?

Although in our experience many BizTalk Server customers are using the BizTalk Rules Engine, many others are not using it. This is a pity because the BizTalk Rules Engine (BRE) can be very beneficial and can reduce the costs of BizTalk development.

The concept behind the BRE, is to empower business users to create and maintain business rules, which can be accessed by their BizTalk processes.
In case such business rules need to be changed, this can be done via the so-called Business Rules Composer, by the business user.

A simple example on how to use the power of the Business Rules Engine, is a business user who works in retail and would like to, temporarily, apply some discounts to certain product groups.

Without the BRE, the user would have to implement a change in his BizTalk solution, which can be time-consuming and rather costly. Especially, as the discounts will have to be reverted after some time.
With the BRE, the user can use the Business Rules Composer to make that change by himself.

The Business Rules Composer tool comes with BizTalk Server and as demonstrated, using this tool is far more cost efficient than having to line up a development team to make the needed change in the BizTalk process, while maybe having to revert the change after short period of time, like we have seen in case of temporarily discounts.

Besides being able to modify business rules with the Business Rules Composer, it is obvious that it is also possible to just view the business rules to gain insight how the business rules are set up.

What are the current challenges?

As mentioned, the BizTalk Server Business Rules Composer enables to view, modify and deploy business rules. There are however a few challenges with the Business Rules Composer:

  • It is too technical
  • It has no security and auditing

Business Rules Composer is too technical

In most cases the Business Rules Composer is just installed on the BizTalk server(s). Although, from a technical perspective, it is possible to install the Business Rules Composer on a normal desktop computer.
But, even when the business user does have access to the Business Rules Composer, we’ll explain that the Business Rules Composer is too technical in the hands of a business user.

Let’s briefly describe a bit about Business Rules. These rules consist of the following parts:

  • Policies – a policy is a collection of one or more business rules. Policies can be created, edited, deleted, versioned, published and deployed. Once a policy is deployed, no more changes can be made to the policy. If changes are needed, a new version of the policy will have to be created.
  • Business rules – a business rule can be constructed based on conditions, which will be evaluated by the Business Rules Engine. To construct these business rules, elements of the below mentioned vocabularies can be used.
  • Vocabularies – vocabularies contain the components which can be used in the policies. These components can be elements/attributes in a XML schema, fields in a database table or elements in a .NET class.  For ease of use, these components can be provided with a friendly (business) name. Just like policies, vocabularies can be versioned and published.

After vocabularies and policies have been created, they can be saved, published and deployed from the Business Rules Composer as well.

It must be quite clear now, that the Business Rules Composer is a powerful tool, but is quite complex at the same time. The tool is suited better for technical people who are well aware of the technical insides. As business users don’t have that knowledge, it will make it hard for business users to use the original Business Rules Composer.

Business Rules Composer has no security and auditing

In the Business Rules Composer which comes with BizTalk Server, there are no security and auditing features. So, once somebody has access to the tool, they have access to all the business rules of the BizTalk environment and can make any kind of changes, without leaving a trace. We think that this is an unacceptable situation.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 offers a web-based counterpart of the Business Rules Composer. As BizTalk360 is web-based, the Business Rules Composer is easier to access than the software which comes with BizTalk Server, as it is quite often just installed on the BizTalk Server.

BizTalk360 Business Rules ComposerFrom the BizTalk360 Rules Composer, users can for example:

  • Add, edit and remove policies
  • Add, edit, test and delete rules
  • Publish, deploy and undeploy policies

Security

Once a user has access to BizTalk360, the user can have different authorizations for the Rules Composer of BizTalk360. These authorizations are:

  • View rules only
  • Create/Save rules
  • Deploy/Publish rules

Besides security settings, there is also auditing of activity around business rules in BizTalk360.

By hiding irrelevant technical stuff in the BizTalk360 Business Rules Composer, this tool is better suited for business users than the one from BizTalk Server. Therefore, we only show the Policies and Vocabularies.

Additional features

We also brought some features to the BizTalk360 Business Rules Composer which do not exist in the original tool. Think of for example:

  • a Where function – this can be used to query database tables and retrieve the information
  • If, Else, Else If – these statements can be applied to the Actions part of the business rule, to be able to create more complex rules
  • Date Time Picker – to minimize errors while creating rules, we provide a date time picker for any function that involves picking a date/time
  • Download Test Result – besides testing of policies, you can also download XML files, which are modified as result of testing these policies

Conclusion

All in all, the BizTalk360 counterpart of the Business Rules Composer provides similar features as the one from BizTalk Server, while providing easier access, usage and security. By bringing few additional features, we make the feature even more powerful.

Do you want to know more about the Business Rules Composer in BizTalk360? You can read more on our documentation portal:

https://docs.biztalk360.com/docs/web-based-bre-composer-in-biztalk360

Get started with a Free Trial today!

Download and try BizTalk360 on your own environments free for 30 days. Installation will not take more than 5-10 minutes.

BizTalk360 30 Days Free Trial

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we built dedicated dashboard pages for BizTalk and SQL Servers?

Why did we built dedicated dashboard pages for BizTalk and SQL Servers?

Why do we need this feature?

The BizTalk and SQL servers are the heart and the bones of a BizTalk environment. Where the SQL Servers take care of all the database handling for BizTalk, the BizTalk servers take care of the actual message processing.
When something is wrong with one of these servers, changes are that this will affect the overall health of your BizTalk environment. So, it’s obvious that the well-being of the servers has to be considered for the overall well-being of the BizTalk environment. For that reason, administrators need to login to the servers to check the health of the distinct servers and come into action when needed.

What are the current challenges?

To be able to login to all the servers, the administrator needs to set up Remote Desktop connections to all these servers. Logging in, checking all the needed consoles and actioning when needed, can be time-consuming. Besides that, in highly secured environments, the administrator might not have access to the servers, from remote locations.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

Given the One platform philosophy after BizTalk360, we made access to the BizTalk and SQL servers from a BizTalk environment easy and secure. As the product retrieves the BizTalk servers of BizTalk environments from their Management database, it can provide easy access to these servers via the UI of BizTalk360. Also the SQL servers can be accessed and actioned from BizTalk360.

Overview BizTalk serverOverview SQL server

For each server, a number of the key components are shown, so you immediately have an idea on topics like CPU/Memory configuration and usage, installed server products and BizTalk Host configuration.
When you click on the orange strip, you get more detailed information of the server. In case of BizTalk servers you will have access to:

  • CPU Usage
  • Memory usage
  • Server products
  • Host Instances
  • Event Viewer (Application Log)
  • NT Services

You can Stop/Start and Enable/Disable Host Instances. NT Services can be stopped, started and restarted.

For the SQL servers you’ll have access to:

  • CPU Usage
  • Memory usage
  • Server products
  • NT Services

NT Services can be stopped, started and restarted.

Detailed view BizTalk server

By providing dedicated dashboards for the BizTalk and SQL servers of your BizTalk environment, you have easy access to important server aspects, without the hassle of having to use Remote Desktop connections.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we built Message Box Viewer (MBV) / BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) Monitoring?

Why did we built Message Box Viewer (MBV) / BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) Monitoring?

Why do we need this feature?

The BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) and its predecessor MessageBox Viewer (MBV) are important tools to learn about the overall health of BizTalk environments.
The tools are developed and maintained by Microsoft and firstly used by their Premier Field Engineers, to help them identify problems with BizTalk environments. Later, the tool became publicly available, enabling BizTalk administrators to run the tool themselves as well. Since that time, we have seen many updates of the tools, although MBV is deprecated for few years now.

The BizTalk Health Monitor can be downloaded here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=43716

The best practice is to run BHM frequently, say once per day at a quiet time, to be aware of overall health and check for any critical issues.

MBV did not offer a built-in scheduler, so you had to schedule it yourself with Windows Scheduler. With the introduction of BHM, the tool came with a plugin, to use it from the BizTalk Server Administration console and it also came with scheduling features.

Once scheduled, you’ll receive the output in the configured mailbox. So you have the fully detailed report easily at hand.

What are the current challenges?

Although it’s good to have the output of MBV/BHM runs in your mailbox, we think that the overall experience still can be improved.

In your day to day activities as a BizTalk administrator, you might receive many notifications in your mailbox. If not setup properly, the amount of notifications might be overwhelming, which might result in starting to ignore the notifications, thereby risking to miss important notifications.

So, you will want to focus on just the notifications which indicate something needs to be taken care of. In case of the MBV/BHM output, you will only be interested in critical and non-critical errors on which some actions must be taken. In other words, if all is healthy, you might not be interested to receive that output at all.

With BHM you will always receive the output, regardless if all is healthy or some (non-)critical issues exist. No clear notification can be received, in case something serious is going on.

Besides that, MBV/BHM is another tool/console you need to be aware of to consider the overall health of a BizTalk environment. As we want to apply our One Platform philosophy as much as possible, we brought integration with MBV/BHM to BizTalk360.

In the next section of this article, we’ll show you how BizTalk360 helps you to improve the experience of BHM and how you can have monitoring on the output of MBV/BHM runs.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 has integration with MBV/BHM for many years. This integration enables the BizTalk360 user to schedule MBV/BHM and view the output of the different runs of the tool directly from within BizTalk360.

Schedule BHM runs

This makes it easy to run MBV/BHM and view its output in BizTalk360, instead of delivering the output of each run to the mailbox of the user.

However, this does not yet solve the problem of just being notified in case of critical errors. To achieve that, you can simply add the BizTalk Health Monitor to a BizTalk360 alarm. In BizTalk360, you can do this by navigating to Monitoring => Manage mapping => BizTalk Environment => BizTalk Health Monitor. Here you can configure how many critical or non-critical may occur in the output of BHM, before a notification is being sent.

Monitor BHM output

As you can see from above screenshot, under Error Threshold, you can configure how many critical/non-critical errors may exist, before a notification is being sent. From the Current Configuration of the screen, you can see that in the last report there were 2 critical and 20 non-critical errors. So, in above scenario, the error thresholds have been met and a notification will be send.

If you want more fine-grained monitoring of the BHM output, BHM offers you the option to store the output of the BHM runs in a database. Say, you want to monitor on specific categories like Tracking or the BizTalk jobs, you could achieve that with Database query monitoring.
When you would like to know more on how to set this up, feel free to contact us (support@biztalk360.com) and we are happy to work with you on the scenario at hand.

Conclusion

The integration of MBV/BHM with BizTalk360 adds to the One platform philosophy. By also bringing monitoring of the output of MBV/BHM, we remove some of the clutter which appears in the mailbox of the user, providing good focus on the topics which really matter. With some customization, you could have even more fine-grained monitoring on the output of BHM.

There are some more articles on MBV/BHM integration. Check them out here:

Get started with a Free Trial today!

If you would like to try BizTalk360, why not give it a try. It takes about 10 minutes to install on your BizTalk environments and you can witness and check the security and productivity on your own BizTalk Environments. Get started with the free 30 days trial.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we built Message Box Viewer (MBV)/ BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) Integration?

Why did we built Message Box Viewer (MBV)/ BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) Integration?

This blog is a part of the series of blog articles we are publishing on the topic “Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360”. Read the main article here.

Why do we need this feature?

The BizTalk Health monitor (BHM) is the successor of the Message Box Viewer (MBV). Both tools have been developed by Microsoft for health analysis of BizTalk environments. Despite its (former) name Message Box Viewer, the tool checks many more parts of BizTalk Server than just the Message Box database(s).
For example, the tool checks whether:

  • the latest Cumulative Updates are installed
  • relevant hotfixes are installed
  • all kind of configuration (Windows, BizTalk, SQL) is conform best practices, think of
    • Correct Host Configuration
    • Auto-growth settings of your BizTalk databases
    • Unnecessary Tracking switched on
  • your BizTalk databases are in good health
  • the well-being of your BizTalk related SQL jobs
  • there are (relevant) Event Log errors

After Microsoft deprecated the Message Box Viewer software few years ago, they introduced the BizTalk Health Monitor (or BHM). BHM uses the same engine as the Message Box Viewer, but also comes with some improvements. These improvements are mainly related to:

  • Visibility – the BHM software comes with a MMC snap-in, which allows you to have both the BizTalk Server Administration console and the BizTalk Health Monitor software in a single MMC snap-in
  • Scheduling – you can now setup runs of BHM directly in the tool itself. In the background BHM still uses the command line version of the tool and the Windows scheduler to perform the runs. By creating multiple profiles, you can even perform runs for different BizTalk Server environments, from the same instance of BHM.

Just like with the Message Box Viewer, it is advised to run BizTalk Health Monitor on a regular basis. The tool comes with most recent versions of BizTalk Server and needs to be installed on the BizTalk Server. The tool can also be downloaded here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=43716

Once you have installed BHM, you can setup scheduling so you will automatically retrieve health reports in your mailbox.

What are the current challenges?

Although BHM contains important information on the health of your BizTalk environment, it is yet another console you must be aware of. Especially organizations with less knowledge of all the consoles needed to support BizTalk Server, this one can easily be overseen or forgotten, with potentially, catastrophic results.

To be able to access BHM, be it for configuration of the runs of BHM or viewing (historic) reports, you need Remote Desktop access to the BizTalk server on which the BizTalk Health Monitor software is installed. Logging in to the BizTalk server repeatedly is time-consuming and can prevented by using the MBV/BHM integration which is discussed in the next paragraph.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

As you probably know, the vision behind BizTalk360 is to provide One platform for BizTalk Server. By providing One platform, aka one user interface, we bring all the different consoles, a BizTalk administrator might need to be able to do his job, under one hood.
For that reason, we already brought integration with Message Box Viewer years ago and updated the integration to support the BizTalk Health Monitor. This integration exists of the following features:

  • Schedule runs of BHM
  • Run BHM profiles
  • Manually run BHM
  • View reports of BHM
  • Monitor the results of BHM runs

Schedule runs of BHM

For many years, BizTalk360 already had integration with the predecessor of BizTalk Health Monitor, being Message Box Viewer. This integration included the scheduling capability, which was brought by BHM, when the tool became available, as well.
So, when we replaced MBV integration with BHM integration, of course we made sure that you would be able to setup BHM schedules from BizTalk360 as well.

Schedule BHM runs

Run BHM Monitoring profiles

BHM allows users to create specific so-called Monitoring profiles, which can be used to execute a subset of all the available queries and rules. This can be used, for example, to monitor just specific components or artifacts.
BizTalk360 allows you to run or monitor on such a profile, by creating such a profile in BHM and manually copying it to the BizTalk360 installation folder. If you want to read more about this capability, read below article:

Getting BizTalk360 to run a BHM Monitoring profile

Manually run BHM

Besides being able to run BHM based on a schedule, as shown in the previous paragraph, you can also run the tool immediately from BizTalk360. By clicking the ‘Run BHM Now’ button (see the picture below), BizTalk360 schedules a run immediately and the results can be checked after the run has been processed.

View reports of BHM

The reports of all the different runs of BHM can be viewed directly in BizTalk360. The screenshot below shows the dropdown from where you can select, which report you would like to see. The most recent report is shown on top.

Storing the output of BHM runs
The BHM reports are stored in the BizTalk360 database and can reside there for a configurable time frame. By default, this time frame is 5 days, but you can choose values between 1 day until any number of days/weeks/months you prefer. Of course, it is wise to not to keep the date for too much time, as this will affect the size of the BizTalk360 database.
After the time frame expired, BizTalk360 will automatically delete the expired reports.

View BHM output

Monitor the results of BHM runs

Besides running and viewing the output of BHM, you can also setup monitoring on the output. This way you can get notified easily of critical and non-critical errors which might be found by BHM.

Monitor on BHM output

In another article of the `Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360` series, we`ll explain monitoring of BHM output in more detail.

Conclusion

By executing BizTalk Health Monitor runs, the tool reports about important topics on all kind of health and best practice related stuff. Having MBV/BHM integration in BizTalk360, the product makes it easier to schedule runs of BHM and provides you with easy access to the output of the BHM.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

Do you prefer to setup your BHM schedules and view BHM output in BizTalk360, instead of setting up RDP connections to your BizTalk server? Why not give BizTalk360 a try! Installation takes about 10 minutes on your BizTalk environment. Get started with the free 30 days trial.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we built Advanced Tracking Manager for BizTalk Server?

Why did we built Advanced Tracking Manager for BizTalk Server?

This blog is a part of the series of blog articles we are publishing on the topic “Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360”.

Advanced Tracking Manager for BizTalk Server

Why do we need this feature?

Being able to track messages and processes in middleware software like BizTalk Server can be used for few reasons, amongst them are:

  • be sure all processes run like expected
  • analysis of issues
  • debugging during development/test phase

However, especially for live environments, the best practice is that only limited tracking should be turned on, to prevent a performance penalty. Therefore, there needs to be a balance between the amount of tracking which is turned on and the ability for the BizTalk administrator to be able to do his job when it comes to analysis of issues.

In general, when no message context/content tracking is turned on and only the default tracking is switched on, you should be good.

To prevent performance penalties, it is obvious that it helps to have a good overview of all the tracking settings of the BizTalk environment.

What are the current challenges?

All BizTalk Server related tracking settings can be maintained in the BizTalk Server Administration console. However, the tracking settings are found in different parts of the console. For example:

  • the Group Level Tracking property is found  in the BizTalk Group Settings Dashboard
  • the BizTalk artifact settings are found at application/artifact level
  • Each artifact like (receive ports, send ports, orchestrations, pipelines etc) all come with their own UI to manage tracking.

This results in not having a good overview and easy maintenance of the tracking settings with the standard BizTalk Server Administration console.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

At BizTalk360 we decided to design one screen, which can be used for all tracking settings, enabling to have a good overview of all the tracking settings, meanwhile working as a central hub to configure all these settings.

We came up with the Tracking Manager screen, which can be found in BizTalk360 under Operations / Infrastructure setting.

As you can see from the screen, it contains an overview of all tracking settings. On a high level, the screen is divided into two parts:

  • Quick actions
  • Applications and Rules

The Quick actions allow you to easily turn on/off tracking on a global level for the BizTalk artifact types, but also to turn on/off group level tracking.

The second part of the screen allows you to view/configure tracking until the application level. If a more fine-grained configuration is needed, you can simply click on the application and set the desired tracking for one or multiple artifacts at once. The overall result of the settings will be reflected in above screen.

Also, maybe less familiar, Business Rules can be tracked. BizTalk360 enables you to easily configure these settings from the Rules tab page.

All in all, we can conclude that the Tracking Manager in BizTalk360 gives easy access and maintenance to all the tracking settings for BizTalk Administrators.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

Download and try BizTalk360 on your own environments free for 30 days. The installation will not take more than 5-10 minutes.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

Why did we build Receive Locations, Send Ports and Orchestrations Monitoring for BizTalk?

Why did we build Receive Locations, Send Ports and Orchestrations Monitoring for BizTalk?

This blog is a part of the series of blog articles we are publishing on the topic “Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360“.

BizTalk Server Receive Locations, Send Ports and Orchestrations Monitoring

Why do we need this feature?

Microsoft BizTalk Server is a powerful middleware product which allows integrating all kind of information systems, independent of whether these systems are on-premise or in the cloud. BizTalk Server uses Receive and Send ports to communicate with a broad set of on-premise/cloud systems, both on the technology level (FILE, FTP, POP3, SMTP, etc.) as on the business level (ERP, CRM, etc.).

Besides just receiving and transmitting messages, BizTalk solutions might also contain Orchestrations, which can process all kind of business logic,  for example, Order processing, Credit card validation, Claims processing etc.

As BizTalk Server is very scalable, a BizTalk environment can contain many deployments for all kind of different integrations. All together a BizTalk environment may contain hundreds of ports and orchestrations. The well-being of these artifacts is of vital importance to have the integrations working properly. When not running properly, these interruptions may cause serious damage to the business processes they support.

What are the current challenges?

To be well aware of the state of the BizTalk artifacts, the BizTalk administrator needs to consult the BizTalk Administration console multiple times per day. However, there are few challenges when depending on the BizTalk Administration console for checking the state of these artifacts.

Access to the Administration console – Often, the BizTalk Administration console is only installed on the BizTalk servers. Besides that there is the risk of unintended damaging the BizTalk server while accessing the server, you need to be authorized to access the servers. Not to be forgotten, is the fact that it constantly takes time to setup Remote Desktop connections to access the BizTalk server and the Administration console. Time which can easily be used for something more tangible.

Not suited for less experienced administrators – The Administration console is such a powerful tool, which is great when you are an experienced BizTalk Administrator. However, in the hands of less experienced administrators, unintentionally a lot of damage can be done. Think of for example stopping ports or terminating processes!

Not an efficient way of monitoring – Checking the state of the ports and orchestrations manually, multiple times per day, is just not efficient. It can easily be forgotten in the rush of the day, thereby putting the wellbeing of your integrations at stake.

Too many artifacts to monitor efficiently – BizTalk environments can contain hundreds of ports and orchestrations. In most scenarios, the artifacts should be in the Enabled/Started state. But there can be several reasons why certain artifacts are not in the expected state. Just to mention a few:

  • After the deployment of an update of a BizTalk application the artifacts are in a wrong state
  • Due to a temporary maintenance window, some of the artifacts need not be in the Enabled/Started state, to prevent suspended instances
  • Artifacts might be Disabled as a result of a temporary outage
  • Certain artifacts need only be Enabled/Started as a fall back scenario

By the given examples, it must be clear, that it can be very challenging to constantly be aware of the desired state of all the artifacts. This makes it hard to manually monitor the state of the artifacts in an efficient way.

Instead of having to monitor BizTalk manually, it is much more efficient to have automated, state-bound, artifact monitoring. Automated BizTalk monitoring will prevent you of constantly having to check for the state manually, enabling you to spend your time on more important activities. In the next section, we’ll show which features BizTalk360 has, to allow you to automatically monitor your BizTalk artifacts.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

To give you that comforting feeling that you are in control over the state of your ports and orchestrations, BizTalk360 provides multiple features.

Threshold Monitoring – While using the concept of Threshold Monitoring, BizTalk360 allows you to setup state-bound monitoring. This means that you can easily setup monitoring to have the product check for the Expected state of your ports and orchestrations.

In above screenshot, you can see how some Send Ports are being monitored against their Expected State. Once, the Current State deviates from the Expected State, a threshold violation has occurred and BizTalk360 will notify you of that fact.

Positive and Negative monitoring – In most scenarios, the Expected State of your Ports and Orchestrations will be Enabled/Started; which is called Positive Monitoring. However, there might be valid reasons that certain ports/orchestrations need NOT be Enabled/Started. Setting up that kind of monitoring is called Negative Monitoring. BizTalk360 allows to setup for both Positive and negative Monitoring.

Receiving Notifications via multiple channels – Once a threshold violation has occurred, by default, you will receive notifications by email. Moving forward, BizTalk360 also allows you to receive notifications via multiple other channels.

We are constantly considering new ways to send notifications, but currently, the following Notification Channels are provided out-of-the-box: Email, SMS, Event Log, Slack, Microsoft Teams, ServiceNow, HP Operations Manager, Webhook. In addition, you can build your own custom notification channel like writing to a database, calling an internal system etc.

Auto Correct – BizTalk360 not just monitors your artifacts, it can also try to bring the artifacts back to their Expected state, once there is a mismatch between the Current State and the Expected State. Think of for example that FTP Receive Location which goes down at night or during the weekend.

The Auto-Correct feature works for the following artifacts:

  • Receive Locations
  • Orchestrations
  • Send Ports
  • BizTalk Host Instances
  • Windows NT Services
  • SQL Server Agent Jobs
  • Azure Logic Apps

There is an extensive article on BizTalk360 Auto correct, which also explains in which kind of scenarios this feature comes at hand. You can that article here:

Monitoring Dashboard – Although receiving notifications of any mismatches between the Current State and the Expected State is very handy, it will equally be handy to have a large screen, at for example the Support Desk, which simply shows the current health of your artifacts. For this, we bring the Monitoring Dashboard, which does exactly that.

As you can see from below screenshot, it brings you a nice Expandable/Collapsible and filterable treeview, with automatic refresh, thereby constantly showing the current state of the artifacts.

Health Check Reports – Last but not least, are the Health Check Reports you can receive at your convenient timing. These reports function as your daily health check, providing you with an overview of the state of all the artifacts from your alarm. Very handy to receive for example at the beginning of your working day!

Conclusion

In this article, we have seen why being aware of the state of your ports and orchestrations is important. We have also seen why manually monitoring that state is very inefficient and sometimes very complex. As a company which knows these challenges from our own experiences, we have brought multiple features which will help the BizTalk administrator being in control, without having to manually check the state.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

Download and try BizTalk360 on your own environments free for 30 days. The installation will not take more than 5-10 minutes.

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.