Performance issue in Development plateform : one solution clean your BizTalk DB

Performance issue in Development plateform : one solution clean your BizTalk DB

My dev machine works so slowly, so I decided to clean it. I found a guide to perform it. But don’t do it on production plateform, it won’t be supported Here are few steps to clean up BizTalk Message Box Database. 1. There is a Stored Procbts_CleanupMsgboxin BizTalkMsgBoxDb Database. By default this stored proc does […]
Blog Post by: Jeremy Ronk

Service Bus Notification Hubs-Part 2 Improving Customer Engagement

Service Bus Notification Hubs-Part 2 Improving Customer Engagement


In my previous post I introduced Service Bus Notifications and explained why you may want to use it when sending Notifications to mobile devices.  In this post I want to explore its use in a corporate environment and how introducing this technology can improve customer engagement as well as employee engagement.

Use Case

Back in the Summer of 2012, I wrote a couple blog posts on BizTalk and SignalR.  The idea was that BizTalk could provide real time notifications to on premise users.  The notifications provided the current  state of particular events that were flowing through BizTalk. In this post there is a similar theme but this time we will extend the experience onto customers and mobile field workers.

The scenario that we are going dive into is a typical Customer Power Outage scenario.  We have all been there, we get home from work (or wherever) and discover that our power is out.  If you have never worked in the utility sector, you probably have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.  I have worked in the sector for close to 7 years and I can assure you that these scenarios are taken seriously.  At least the places that I have worked have treated them that way.

Each utility will vary greatly when it comes to dealing with Power Outage scenarios.  Some utilities will have very sophisticated SCADA and Outage Management Systems (OMS) others may simply rely upon customers calling their utility to notify them that their power is out.  Sometimes the power outage may be widespread other times it may be only you.  Much like any other company, or industry, the utility companies are looking for ways to provide Self Service capabilities to customers.  Just like you can check your bank account online, why can’t you see your power consumption or inform your power company that your power is off via a mobile application?

In the diagram below, you will see many different key data flows:

  • Notifying the OMS system of devices that have failed via SCADA interfaces
  • Customers calling and talking to a Contact Centre agent.  The Contact Centre agent in turn will leverage a Customer Information System (CIS) to log a ticket.
  • Customers who use an Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) service when live agents are currently servicing other customers
  • Self Service inputs such as mobile applications and  Websites

If an organization is using a Middleware product, such as BizTalk to bridge all of these different inputs with the Outage Management System then BizTalk has access to a lot of relevant, event driven information.

Another interesting fact is when orders are created and dispatched to Field workers aka Power Line Technicians (PLTS) information is often passed back to an ERP system.  This information is often used for Financial or Reporting purposes.  For instance if there is a power outage, then resources will be used to address the power outage.  This will include Employee time and materials such as replacement parts and equipment used such as vehicles to fix the problem. This information is usually passed back once the outage has been completed or maybe as the outage is being resolved in the form of updates. Since ERP systems are usually not part of Outage Management Systems, this information needs to be moved via  Middleware platform such as BizTalk.


Hopefully it has become apparent that BizTalk has access to a lot of important event driven information that is passing through it that may be of interest to other parties such as customers.  For instance if your power was out, would you like to know when the Estimated Time to Restore (ETR) is?  Or if you were the owner of a small business, who relied upon power to run its business, would you like to be notified the minute the outage is over? I am pretty sure you would.  The interesting part is that any decent Outage Management System will have this information.  The problem is that utilities just do not have the people resources to start calling people to let them know. Here is where the opportunity lies to use Service Bus Notification Hubs.

The Solution

Enter Service Bus Notification Hubs.  I think this is a great complimentary technology to BizTalk.  In this case BizTalk is performing traditional On-Premise integration and can easily hook into a progressive service like Service Bus Notification Hubs to deliver better customer engagement with very little effort.

I have built out a fairly comprehensive solution that dives deeper into this problem.  I will be breaking down this problem into a series of different posts.  But, as a bit of a teaser you can see part of the solution in the screen shot below.



Service Bus Notification Hubs – Part 1


This past week the Service Bus team at Microsoft rolled out a preview of their latest offering called Service Bus Notification Hubs.  For those of those of you who keep an eye open for all things Middleware from Microsoft, you may recognize the code name of the project: Iguazu.  You may  have even seen Iguazu presented by Clemens Vasters at one of the recent Microsoft conferences/summits.

What are Service Bus Notification Hubs?

So what are Service Bus Notification Hubs?  Probably the simplest way to explain it is an internet-scale Push Notification Service.  Push Notifications are nothing new.  The major mobile platforms all have them and you have inevitably used them if you use social media apps like Facebook, Twitter or even games.  These notifications are often called “Toast Notifications” in the sense that they pop up and inform you of some relevant event such as someone commenting on a post of yours or informing you that you have been mentioned on Twitter.

If they have been around for a while, why do I care about them now?

Just because Notification Services from Apple, Google and Microsoft have been around for a long time, doesn’t mean that it has been easy to use them.  Often times developers need to manage all of the subscriptions and channels within their own data stores. Developers were also required to deal with the nuances of the  different platforms and managing which subscriptions were running on a particular platform.  This results in a lot of fragmentation.  Finally, dealing with large scale has also been challenging for some organizations.  Imagine if you were a large media outlet with hundreds of thousands or millions of users.  Providing timely notifications to users of this magnitude becomes extremely important.  For example receiving a notification for a touchdown that happened in the 2nd Quarter when the game is already over is not a good user experience. Service Bus Notification Hubs can take care of this by delivering to a wide audience immediately.

Benefits of using Service Bus Notification Hubs

While I am relatively new to this technical domain(mobile notifications), I found building solutions off of Service Bus Notification Hubs was pretty straight forward.  I find it very compelling that I can choose to use Native Notifications that are specific to a respective platform or I can just use one of the many generic templates that ship and can address devices on multiple platforms.  Since the service is currently in “preview mode”, only Windows 8 and IOS notifications are supported but Microsoft is targeting Android and Windows Phone when the service becomes Generally Available.  Another key benefit, and perhaps this is why it is in the Service Bus family, is the service is true Pub-Sub.  I don’t have to worry about specific subscriptions.  I just have to throw the message at the Service Bus and let it figure out who is interested in it.  It could be 1 person/device or it could be 100 000.  It doesn’t matter to my Server code.  This features alone makes the service worth it.

What’s next?

There is quite a bit of content that is already available for this topic and I recommend checking out the following links:

Also stay tuned to this blog where I will be walking through a corporate scenario from the Energy sector where I will combine Service Bus Notification Hubs, BizTalk and Windows 8 Store Apps.

BizTalk 2013 and ReST

BizTalk 2013 and ReST

I am presenting a session on BizTalk 2013 and Rest at BizTalk Saturday – BizTalk 2013 Hands on Days – Auckland on February 9th. I was all set to write a summary of this topic but this morning I woke and found that Steef-Jan Wiggers has just written a very good summary entitled  Microsoft offers […]
Blog Post by: mbrimble

Exclusive Pre-announcement: Oporto BizTalk Innovation Day (14th March 2013 – Oporto, Portugal)

Exclusive Pre-announcement: Oporto BizTalk Innovation Day (14th March 2013 – Oporto, Portugal)

I’m delighted to pre-announce that BizTalk innovation Event is coming to Portugal! The event is called “Oporto BizTalk Innovation Day” and will take place in Oporto, Portugal on Thursday 14 March, 2013. This is the first time in Portugal (also on Iberia) that we are conducting a full day event dedicated to Microsoft BizTalk Server. […]
Blog Post by: Sandro Pereira

BAM_AN packages not executing by SQL jobs

BAM_AN packages not executing by SQL jobs

I recently hit an issue with the BAM_AN packages executed through a SQL job failing with the following message. Object reference not set to an instance of an object. at…. UpdateDataSourceAndGetAnnotation(String cubeName, String asServerName, String asDatabaseName, String ssServername, String ssDatabaseName) The reason was the account under which my SQL jobs were running did not have […]
Blog Post by: DipeshA