Customer Feedback getting Answered: Custom Alarm Monitoring Widget in Operations Dashboard

Customer Feedback getting Answered: Custom Alarm Monitoring Widget in Operations Dashboard

We are planning a series of blogs, Customer feedback getting Answered, where we will be trying to address and answer some of the issues where a workaround is possible rather than awaiting a new feature release.

Many of our customers put a lot of effort in describing their problems in the feedback portal – (where we collect all requirements in single place and we pick the popular features to be implemented based on the voting done by various customers). We often go through the feature requests – updating the status of the issues and also discussing them with our technical development team of the feasibility of implementing them.

Behind the scenes, we go through a process for the popular requests and help to bring them to implementation in the upcoming releases.

In one of our previous blogs, I went through the FAQ’s a lot of our customers usually have. In this article, I take an issue from the feedback portal and show how it can be solved with the API we expose.

The Issue:

Monitoring Alarms information on the Operations Dashboard

The Operations Dashboard is widely used by a lot of companies to have a quick overview of the system. While we do have a lot of interesting widgets, we do not have anything which links the Alarm notification section to this area.

http://feedback.biztalk360.com/forums/331698-biztalk360-monitoring/suggestions/20369500-widget-with-errors

With API Documentation capability of BizTalk360, we have exposed over 350 REST services (APIs) that have the capability to retrieve the requested information from the BizTalk server environment. The APIs are defined as Swagger files which mean that you have the ability to execute them online to see if the result is what is intended. For example, you may want to display the list of BizTalk Applications or the performance of the BizTalk server (such as CPU, Memory, etc.) in a custom dashboard application within your organization. With BizTalk360 API Documentation, it is very easy for you to consume the API and retrieve the information from the BizTalk server environment. It not only ends with these. You can access pretty much any information like EDI, BAM, Artifact information, and so on from the BizTalk environment with the help of BizTalk360 APIs.

The Solution:

I have used for this example, a very simple API to retrieve the latest monitoring data for a specific alarm from the below API.
GET Services. REST/AlertService. svc/GetLatestMonitoringData
You can use the BizTalk360 API documentation to test your parameters and then view the output response.

In BizTalk360, navigate to Settings -> API documentation -> Select Alert services from the dropdown and then select GetLatestMonitoringData.

Customer Feedback getting Answered: Custom Alarm Monitoring Widget in Operations Dashboard

Current Alarm Monitoring Dashboard View

This is how my Alarms current state is in the Monitoring dashboard is currently.

Custom Alarm Monitoring Widget in Operations Dashboard

And now to view the same data in the Operations Dashboard, we need to create a custom widget which will use the API call as shown earlier. All you need to provide is the <Environment ID> & <Alarm Id> to pass as parameters which you can retrieve from the SQL tables. (Environment ID is provided at the top of the API Documentation page already)

Then you can use this code for the widget which I wrote to have a basic widget for a specific alarm to show on the Operations Dashboard.

Custom Alarm Monitoring Widget in Operations Dashboard

Thus, you can see for the Alarm – Demo Alarm, I have displayed all the artifacts and the state they are in.

This can be crucial for those who use their dashboards a lot. Rather than switch to the Monitoring dashboard, you can view the same data as a widget on the Operations Dashboard, along with other useful information.

Hopefully, this blog gave you some more ideas on how you can use the API & Custom widgets to customise the data displayed.

If you have any questions, contact us at support@biztalk360.com. Also, feel free to leave your feedback in our forum.

Author: Rochelle Saldanha

Rochelle Saldanha is currently working in the Customer Support & Client Relationship Teams at BizTalk360. She loves travelling and watching movies.

Have you Backed up your BizTalk360 Database?

Have you Backed up your BizTalk360 Database?

Think about all the information that is stored in your BizTalk360 database – Alarms, Knowledge Base, various Settings. This data is very important for many reasons. Now imagine if all of the information just disappeared.

Although it is a scary thought, it is highly unlikely that your company is not backing up your database. Let’s talk about how you can setup a Database Maintenance Plan.

Continuing with the Support Series to discuss common occurring issues with our customers and how others can benefit from the knowledge gained when we helped them resolve the same I will now focus on 1 key issue – Maintenance and Backup of your BizTalk360 database.

The Issue

Customer just found out that the SQL transaction logfile is taking enormous amount of space

Back up your BizTalk Database

If you check your SQL, the SQL transaction log file of our BizTalk360 database is very large (over 19GB).

Back up your BizTalk Database

The Solution

The quick Support reply in this scenario would be to refer to this article and resolve the issue by Releasing unused space and forcing a backup.

https://assist.biztalk360.com/support/solutions/articles/1000142821-huge-sql-log-file-size

Identifying the Issue

The transaction log grows to be inordinately large on a database that’s in FULL or BULK_LOGGED recovery mode. This happens after a database backup has been taken, which switches the log into a mode where it won’t truncate until it’s been backed up.

In these circumstances, if you don’t take a transaction log backup, the log will continue to grow.

Our purging policies in BizTalk360 are as follows (defaults):

backup biztalk database

BizTalk360 purging will not stop the transaction log files from growing. In order to maintain healthy BizTalk360 Database please ensure you have maintenance plans configured:

One to backup BizTalk360 Database and Log every week and a second one to delete backup files which are older than 2 weeks.

You may also face this problem when you configured quite a large number of alarms and these alarms are monitoring a large number of artifacts.

Setting up BizTalk360 Database Maintenance Plan – Backup

I am using the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

  1. Select the Maintenance Plan Wizard.backup biztalk database
  2. Select Single Schedule and then Click the Change Button.

backup biztalk database

  1. You can select probably a backup of your BizTalk360 database every week – on a day when you are not expecting too many transactions.

backup biztalk database

  1. Select the Back-up Tasks Tick boxes.

backup biztalk database

  1. Select the BizTalk360 Database for each Screen (Full), (Transaction) backup.

backup biztalk database

Setting up the BizTalk360 Database Maintenance Plan – Clean-up Task

Now we need to do the setup for a Clean-up Task. We suggest that you can make this run every 2 weeks, and we need to select the Clean-up Task instead of Backup in the Maintenance Wizard.

backup biztalk database

Lastly just provide the details for deleting the files (File Age) as shown below.

backup biztalk database

NOTE: Make sure your SQL Server Agent is running on the server.

You can adjust the schedule depending on a load of your environment.

So I hope this Blog has given you some helpful information to ensure that your Transaction Log size doesn’t increase when the backups and clean-up Tasks are managed and run properly with BizTalk360.

If you have any questions, contact us at support@biztalk360.com. Also, feel free to leave your feedback in our forum.

Author: Rochelle Saldanha

Rochelle Saldanha is currently working in the Customer Support & Client Relationship Teams at BizTalk360. She loves travelling and watching movies.

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

Imagine having just purchased BizTalk Server, and you need to get it up and running with all the monitoring setup for the various artifacts, etc. You are just finding your legs and can find it difficult to understand all the various aspects of the product.

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

When our new customers on board with us they often want to get started with the product immediately and see it in action. They want the alarms setup and see how the monitoring features works.

Being a part of the Support & Client Relationship team, often when introducing new customers to our product BizTalk360 we have encountered this question –

Do you have a quick Alarm setup that will setup some alarms for us, for each of the applications?

So, it has been in our pipeline for some time now to bring something useful in Alarm creation to help our customers.

One of our technical Leads – Lex Hegt had already written an article sometime back to achieve the same. I thought a fresh blog on it might help those who have not come across it.

Kovai.BizTalk360.CreateAlarms.exe is a windows application which uses some Nuget-packages.

All you need to have to run this application is

  • URL of BizTalk360
  • A BizTalk360 authorized Windows Account

Typically, in your BizTalk environment, you will manually create your BizTalk360 Alerts after the BizTalk application has been deployed. Most of our customers use BizTalk360 Alerts to monitor the state of the different artifacts.

To minimize the amount of effort required, or if you are new to the product …  there is a way to automate the alarm creation which will save some of your productive time.

This application has been specifically designed with that goal in mind. It will go through your applications and create Alarms with all the Send Ports, Receive Locations & Orchestrations mapped for monitoring.

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

Setup Steps

  1. You can specify the state you are interested in monitoring in the ‘Create Alarm’ setup page when you start the Application.
  2. You can also ensure that the alarms are Disabled so you can go through them to check if they are as per your expectations before you enable them for use.

NOTE

Any existing alarms created with the Application Name only will be deleted, as this is the alarm that the application generates (It creates Alarms based on the Application name).

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

  1. You can also setup certain parameters that you generally setup in the Alarm creation page – E.g. Violation persists (minutes) & ‘limit the no of Alerts’ & ‘Notify on success’.

The alarms created will be Threshold Monitoring Alarms.

With this kind of monitoring, you get notified in case a threshold occurs. For example, that can be a Receive Location which was Disabled, while it should be Enabled or any other artefact which is mapped in the alarm and is in an unexpected state.

While the original application along with its code is still available, we have provided this downloadable exe with a few changes, as the API’s for BizTalk360 have changed since then.

Automate Alarm Creation in BizTalk360

So, I hope this executable helps those who are looking for a quick Alarm setup for all the basic artifact monitoring. Of course, once these alarms are created per application, you can edit them and then add more artifacts as required so you have a fully monitored BizTalk server environment.

You can write to us at support@biztalk360.com. Have a try at our latest version by downloading a 14-day free trial of BizTalk360.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Recently in one of our support tickets, a customer enquired on whether Microsoft Teams as a notification channel would be implemented in upcoming releases, as he heard of it in the INTEGRATE 2017 event, where Saravana introduced ServiceBus360 and Teams was one of the notification channels there.

Therefore, I thought if I could provide an alternate workaround to achieve the same in BizTalk360. This often occurs in Support where if we don’t have the functionality currently in the product, we do strive to provide a similar working functionality by discussing it with the development team. Here is my implementation of the feature request by using Logic Apps & WebHook Notification Channel.

Create the Channel in Microsoft Teams

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Once the Team has been given a suitable name and was successfully created, then we can create a new channel for that Team. (Click the … near the newly created Team and choose ‘Add channel’.

Once the Channel has been created we can use the Team name & Channel Name in the Azure portal as the destination for the Post Message (Teams).

This can be achieved via Logic Apps or by creating a custom Notification channel. We will have a quick look at both the implementations.

1. Implementation via Logic Apps

Configuration in Logic Apps:

So I created a Demo Logic App, and here is a screenshot of the design used.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

I’ve used a Request-Response and added an Azure function to help Parse the JSON response received from the BizTalk360 Notification channel and then passed that composed message to a Post message action for Microsoft Teams. Azure will ask you to authenticate your login (Teams) and then allow you to select the specific Team and Channel from Microsoft Teams.

In the 1st Request, you will also need to supply the Request Body JSON Schema or use sample Payload to generate the schema. Please refer to this code for the Schema I used.

Azure Function Code implementation

To access the code used for the Azure function, please access this code at Github website.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Configuring BizTalk360 WebHook Notification Channel for the Logic App

Please refer to this article which describes how to set up Webhook notification Channel.

https://assist.biztalk360.com/support/solutions/articles/1000245561-adding-a-webhook-notification-channel

You can get the URL for the Web API from the Logic App – refer to the screenshot earlier provided and the arrows identify where to get the URL from. Use that in configuring the BT360 webhook notification channel.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Once the WebHook Notification Channel is configured, you can select it as the notification option in the specific Alarm
Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

Receiving the Notifications

Once the Threshold is violated, similar to the Email notifications, you will now see a notification in Microsoft Teams.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360
While I have parsed the JSON message and only displayed the Application Name & Artifact Name that has the error, you can choose and customize your error messages as required.

2. Implementation via Custom Notification Channel

You can read these articles which show how to create a custom notification channel.

https://blogs.biztalk360.com/introduction-custom-notification-channel-sdk-biztalk360/

https://assist.biztalk360.com/support/solutions/articles/1000217940-adding-a-new-custom-notification-channel

You need to select the WebHook Connector from Microsoft teams. You need to copy the WebHook URL which you will then enter the code in the custom notification channel.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

You then need to setup the Custom Notification Channel as mentioned in the blogs.

Then you only need to add this code to the FileChannel.cs file either instead of after the successful completion of File notification completed. Again I have only output Alarm Name and an Error string. Please customize as required.

Integrating Microsoft Teams as a Notification channel in BizTalk360

So I hope this blog gave you a good idea as to how you can integrate Teams with BizTalk360 Notifications.

Get access to a great range of BizTalk360’s Value added services

Get access to a great range of BizTalk360’s Value added services

At BizTalk360, we provide some essential services which benefit the customers and our partners immensely. Businesses trust and use our expertise to assist them on a wide range of projects relating to their BizTalk needs. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Setting up our monitoring product BizTalk360 and integrating their BizTalk servers.
  • Advising on the best practices used in the community for monitoring.
  • Helping in BizTalk migration projects via support and licensing discounts.
  • In-Depth training and advice on end to end BizTalk solutions.

There are 3 types of services we offer, namely:

  1. Product Demos
  2. Best Practice and Installation service
  3. In-Depth Training for BizTalk360

Product Demos

request biztalk360 demo session

Demos can turn prospects into customers. They combat client concerns and provide proof what the product can do for you (our customers). Customers often want to see it in action before they commit to a purchase. We also offer a Free Trial as well.

Free Trial of BizTalk360
It gives the customer the best opportunity to experience what it would be like to own the product

Most of the times, we are approached by the customers themselves who googled and came across our product BizTalk360 and want to know more about it.

Sometimes we are approached by consultants who say “We love your product and need your help to convince Management to get it for our company”.

We also give Demos to our Partners as well to keep them well-equipped and confident in the product.

BizTalk360 Demo – Request one today!

We avoid giving generic demos. We try to learn about our audience’s specific challenges and what they want to achieve and tailor the demo accordingly. We want customers to feel empowered and be confident of the product they are going to be purchasing. The customer should be happy that BizTalk360 is going to be a good fit for their requirements.
We have also printed some documentation which outlines all the main features of BizTalk360 – What’s the business value of using Biztalk360, which we will be giving out at our upcoming INTEGRATE 2017 event.

Best Practice installation and configuration

important troubleshooting steps

Customers like hearing about best practices, especially if they’re easy to implement and will result in an immediate benefit. We provide this service to help set up BizTalk360 at the customer site. While the actual setup can be quite simple and quick to setup, depending on your environment you might face some issues. We provide a 2-hour service (chargeable) where we set up the product (via a web call) and go through a few basic setup tasks

  • SMTP settings – These are the first thing to setup to ensure that the notifications for any alarm are successfully sent.
  • User access policy – Add user specific permissions to view different parts of the product.
  • Setting up Alarms/Monitoring Dashboard – Monitoring artifacts is the core of our product. We explain the types of alarms available, which are more suited to certain scenarios. The dashboard helps you to see all the status of artifacts mapped in 1 look.
  • Monitoring of SQL Servers
  • Event Log setup – This will enable you to view Windows logs across multiple BizTalk servers
  • Purging Policy – This will help set up purging to avoid bloating of the database.

Often a simple task can also turn out to be complex when dealing with multiple environments. A lot of our customers also take this opportunity for their BizTalk administrators to get a quick crash course in the product to see how they can utilize the product in the best way possible.

Some important troubleshooting steps during installation

Best Practice installation and configuration

  • Try to run the MSI using logs, so if any issues occur they are detailed in the logs.
  • Once the installation is complete successfully, if the home page is not displayed and you see any errors like Icons/images missing – Check the ‘Static content’ tickbox is activated under ‘IIS’ in Server Manager -> Add Roles & Features
  • If you are Installing BizTalk360 on a complete standalone server and there is no trace of the remote BizTalk environment we are going to configure. Simply enter the corresponding values for BizTalkMgmtSqlInstanceName and BizTalkMgmtDb columns as shown below.trouble shooting steps in biztalk360
  • If it doesn’t help, kindly run the troubleshooter tool on the machine where BizTalk360 is installed. Troubleshooter will help you to find any permissions missed.

We are soon releasing a ‘User Guide’ of around 400 pages for the basic setup tasks required when you install BizTalk360 – written by Eva De Jong and Lex Hegt. Please look out for it at our ‘INTEGRATE 2017’ event.

BizTalk360 Training

BizTalk Server & BizTalk360 Product experts training

BizTalk360 has a lot of features which can be quite overwhelming for someone new. Many companies appreciate an in-depth intensive BizTalk360 training. This is an 8-hour training that we provide and is given by our BizTalk Server & BizTalk360 Product experts.

This session is covered over 4 days in 2-hour slots (or as desired by customer). The main idea is for customers to get a better understanding of how the product can help them achieve certain scenarios. Our experts interact with the audience and understand the environment and architecture and what customizations they want to achieve.

Initially, they go through the various features available in BizTalk360, then on subsequent days the trainer does a deep dive and goes through more technical complicated scenarios and how the customer can benefit from the product. Many customers use this as a training session for their technical staff. This is conducted via a remote webinar session (GoToMeeting) and is a very interactive and a good learning experience for most customers. The session is not a straightforward monologue but it provides plenty of space for the customer to pose questions regarding their own circumstances.

Exciting upcoming Services/Training

We also have a new training for ‘BizTalk Server Administrators’ run by our very own BizTalk expert Lex Hegt.

The audience would be Systems Administrators who deploy and manage (multi-server) BizTalk Server environments, SQL Server DBA’s who are responsible for maintaining the BizTalk Server databases or BizTalk Developers who need to support a BizTalk environment.

During this course, attendees will get a thorough training for everything they need to know to properly administer BizTalk Server.

Some of the course topics are:

  1. Installing and configuring BizTalk Groups
  2. Operating and monitoring BizTalk Server
  3. Deployment of BizTalk applications
  4. Periodical administrative tasks and best practices.

Keep tuned to our website for more such information or contact support@biztalk360.com to arrange the same.

BizTalk360’s New Approach To Client Relationship

BizTalk360’s New Approach To Client Relationship

Client Relationship is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential future customers, which tries to analyse data about customers’ history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention.

Building customer relationships is one of the main customer retention strategies you can use to improve customer service and reduce customer churn.

We at BizTalk360 want to learn more about our existing customers, we want to make them feel appreciated. Hence this new initiative – ‘Client Relationship Management’ to look after our customers.

biztalk360 support process

The main idea is to build a rapport with the customer and understand their needs.

We aim to stay close to our customers after they have purchased our product, ensuring they use BizTalk360 to its full capacity and helping them overcome any obstacles that may arise. By maintaining this relationship and close collaboration, we can make BizTalk360 better together.

One of the best comments we received from a customer via support feedback was,

“I am glad that the BizTalk360 support team keep up the pace and put their best efforts to help customers out to resolve their issues. We are not left alone like other integration tool vendors in the market.”

The Client Relationship process has just begun but already we are getting lots of helpful information such as – common customer issues, how the product is being put to use at the customer end, feedback on the existing features and request for new features. We can now direct our efforts at resolving those issues and also maximizing the satisfaction of our customers by giving them what they need. (e.g. one customer required MSMQ monitoring but didn’t know it was available on BizTalk360 until we pointed it out; result – one happy client).
We always try to make communication as seamless as possible, acknowledging, acting on and following up on the feedback where necessary (by discussing with the Technical Team the feasibility of customer requests and issues and providing alternative solutions).

Today’s customers are no longer passive and they want to be listened to.

The key to maintaining a good relationship with our customers is to stay in regular contact. We look after our customers so they stay with us for a long period of time. We have touch points throughout the subscription at regular intervals.

What we are trying to achieve via these sync ups is quite simple –

client requirements and satisfaction

  • We arrange a call with the customer to understand how they are using the product, get real case scenarios of how the customers use the product (which areas of the product they are using) Are they having any issues? If so, we always have a technical member on hand to provide any solutions if possible. We also advise on how the product can be used better.
  • We enquire how was their experience dealing with the support, licensing teams of BizTalk360 – so we can improve our interactions and customer support.
  • We provide a lot of information regarding company news.
    • Inform the customers about our roadmap.
    • We are an innovative product company and from time to time we add new products to our repertoire. We take this opportunity to inform our customers of such additions. (ex. recently we launched our new product ServiceBus360).
    • We keep them updated with the latest releases and encourage them to upgrade to the latest version. We are currently sending out Webinar invites for the 8.3 release to inform our customers of the new product features.
    • We inform our customers of forthcoming events (ex: Integrate 2017).
  • We set up another follow up call in the next quarter to discuss any issues to be brought to our attention. In such calls we ensure we keep updated with any changes in client structure and personnel. In many of our calls, the clients were happy to talk and had lots of feedback but due to daily priorities they were unable to approach us. This different approach where we reach out to them now gives them a platform to discuss issues.

happy customers

In conclusion, BizTalk360 is always innovating; not only the product but also our customer support to enable us to keep our clients happy.

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