INTEGRATE 2020 Remote (our first virtual conference)

INTEGRATE 2020 Remote (our first virtual conference)

I hope you are all keeping safe in these unprecedented times. That’s the number one priority for all of us to protect ourselves and close family, friends, and employees. 

None of us anticipated the changes that we are going through at the moment with COVID-19. Every business is forced to rethink their strategies and adapt to conditions no one has experienced before. 

For the past few weeks, we were closely monitoring the situation and thinking deeply about the INTEGRATE 2020 plans. Until the mid of March, our response was, “things will be normal by June”, “90 days is a long time for this to last” but as the days passed by we soon started to realize the reality watching the daily increases in positive cases and deaths across the world. 

The situation is not going to get any better for another few months, even if it all gets resolved we are going to see a huge difference in the way people are going to interact. Maybe giving handshakes might forever be replaced by India’s way of greeting “Namaste” without physical contact. People may be hesitant to get into crowded spaces like conferences. Social distancing might become the norm of day to day life. We need to wait and see. 

Considering all the factors, we made a big decision to take INTEGRATE 2020 into a virtual conference with a new branding called “INTEGRATE 2020 REMOTE” The same INTEGRATE we all loved but going virtual/remote this year.

INTEGRATE 2020 REMOTE

This is one of the world’s first virtual Remote conference focused on Microsoft Integration Technologies. The event will be held between 1st-3rd June as we originally planned. The complete speaker’s list and agenda are now updated on our brand new website INTEGRATE 2020 REMOTE.

INTEGRATE 2020 REMOTE

Speakers: 30+ (Microsoft Product Teams, Microsoft MVP’s)

Sessions: 29 (pure Microsoft Integration tech)

Timing: 12pm -7pm (UK Time)

Delivery: via Special virtual web conferencing platform

Registration: Register Now

Why I should attend INTEGRATE 2020 Remote?

When we started the idea of the virtual conference, we started the discussion with people to brainstorm ideas including the speakers from Microsoft and MVP’s. One of the questions that came up is, how can we differentiate INTEGRATE compared to just watching videos from other Microsoft Conferences like Ignite and Build.

The principle of INTEGRATE still remains the same. A conference focused purely on Microsoft Integration Technologies. There may be odd sessions here and there on Microsoft Conferences, I can guarantee, you are never going to see a single session on BizTalk Server. 

However, with INTEGRATE, we are consolidating all Microsoft Integration focused content in a single place covering on-premise (BizTalk Server), cloud (Azure Logic Apps, Functions, API Management, Service Bus, Event Grid, Event Hub, Power Platform), and Hybrid in an intense 3 days conference, with its own keynote. 

If you are a Microsoft Integration professional, even if you attend part of the conference here and there, you’ll still see significant value educating and preparing yourself for the future.  Please go ahead and register now

Timing

12pm – 7pm UK Time

Running a global conference brings its own challenges. One of the main ones is picking up a convenient time that’s suitable for the global audience (Do you know? there are 24 timezones in the world). Of course, it will be very difficult to cater to every timezone, so we picked up a time slot that’s convenient to the majority of Europe (since INTEGRATE London is targeted mainly for European audience), the major portion of the USA, Middle East, and Asia. It’s going to be a challenge for people from Australia, New Zealand (that part of the world), but they can catch up with live recordings.  

Pricing

We significantly reduced the pricing of INTEGRATE 2020 REMOTE, we wanted as many people from the world to join and benefit from the conference. We kept the pricing really affordable to everyone. We are assuming at least 2-3 people will join from any company, bringing the price to $100/attendee (for the full 3 days conference), if you are above 6 people it will further reduce to about $80/attendees. 

Why are we charging? In order to run a conference of this magnitude in a professional way requires a lot of effort (even for a virtual conference). Right from the time investment in organizing and executing the event, marketing, and promotional activities to make the event successful, and running a conference with 1000+ attendees requires some investment in the technology.

We are not intending to make a profit out of the event, hence the price is kept at a bare minimum. Register Now

Will the videos be made public?

Eventually, we will make all the video content of INTEGRATE 2020 Remote available to everyone, similar to how we have done previous years (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). However, we will not release the content immediately, it will be at least a few months to respect the people who have paid for the conference to support us. 

So if you wanted to hear the latest and great news, please register for the INTEGRATE 2020 Remote event (it’s affordable). 

What will happen to the existing INTEGRATE 2020 (London) attendees?

We are going to send out a separate email communication to all the current INTEGRATE 2020 (London) attendees. Basically, you’ll get a 100% refund of the ticket price you have paid. You simply buy the new INTEGRATE 2020 Remote tickets based on your requirements.  

Sponsors

We would like to thank the majority of our Sponsors who put their hands together to help us during this difficult situation. We are incurring a heavy financial loss by canceling the in-person event (ex: Venue agreed only for a partial refund).

They simply agreed to move their sponsorship package to the REMOTE event. We greatly appreciate their help, we are trying to compensate for their loss by increasing their brand visibility with greater attendees numbers. We also added a few more choices for the sponsors to match the virtual event.

If you are interested to become a sponsor, please email event@biztalk360.com requesting sponsorship opportunities. 

The post INTEGRATE 2020 Remote (our first virtual conference) appeared first on BizTalk360.

Why you should attend INTEGRATE 2020?

Why you should attend INTEGRATE 2020?

Are you an Integration expert? Want to get up to speed on the Microsoft Integration technologies and stay updated on their vision and road map?  Then, INTEGRATE 2020 is the answer to all these questions. The 3-day event, with speakers from the Microsoft Product Group and from the Global Integration Community, to listen to the leading Integration Specialists and learn what is coming next in integration and to network with your peers.

Any Microsoft events like the Ignite, Inspire, Build, etc will have sessions covering a wide range of technologies, which is overwhelming to some extent, whereas INTEGRATE 2020 focuses on a niche category of people interested in Microsoft Integration space.

Last year INTEGRATE edition was by far the most successful one which means the conference is only getting better year after year. This is undoubtedly the premier event focusing on the Microsoft integration space. Therefore, it is key for everyone in the integration space to attend this event to know the interesting things that are happening and learn what’s coming next from the Microsoft Product Group.

Here I wish to express why attending Integrate 2020 in-person is so important:

 

What’s Microsoft Integration Roadmap?

Here is a list of important announcements made at INTEGRATE by the Microsoft Product team. It would be more valuable for you to connect with the product team over networking to discuss more on the benefits, challenges, and considerations to be followed for these important announcements.

INTEGRATE 2019Paul Larsen, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft made the big announcement “BizTalk Server 2020” and he also announced it will be released at the end of 2019. BizTalk Server 2020 is not just a simple software update it’s a game-changer and beginning of a new era. BizTalk Server 2020 is Microsoft’s commitment to existing customers who invested in BizTalk Server. The new BizTalk Server version will be supported until 2030

BizTalk-Server-2020-announced-at-INTEGRATE2019

Also, the Logic Apps team announced the public preview for Rosetta Net and a few real use cases of Rosetta Net.

INTEGRATE 2018Jon Fancey, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft in his Keynote mentioned the need to embrace change towards cloud adoption. The whole of the conference in 2018 was about what’s the future with hybrid and cloud integrations. There were a lot of announcements from Microsoft on introduction towards Azure Integration Services, Logic Apps, Function, etc.

Paul Larsen announced BizTalk Server 2016 Cumulative Update (CU) 5. He also showed the traditional BizTalk Server life cycle diagram that showed that just a month is left ahead for support to end for BizTalk Server 2013 and BizTalk Server 2013 R2.

De1-jUXkAAEL8v-1024x541

Clemens Vasters – Principal Architect announced Event Hubs for the Kafka Ecosystem.

INTEGRATE 2017 – Jim Harrer, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft Pro Integration team emphasized how Microsoft brings intelligence to its Hybrid Integration Platform. Jim showed the Pro Integration team’s year in review showing how they have progressed as a team in the 4 main departments – Logic Apps, BizTalk, Host Integration Server, and API Management.

Pro-Integration-Year-in-Review-1024x768

INTEGRATE 2016Jim Harrer, Program Manager of the Pro-Integration group at Microsoft announced Microsoft’s integration vision and road map to provide a unified integration experience across on-premises and cloud.

Roadmap-1024x576

Now, are you excited about the important Microsoft updates at INTEGRATE 2020? We are excited as much as you are!

Network and Explore an Opportunity for Partnerships

INTEGRATE is the biggest and best opportunity to build a strong network and explore the opportunities to build a strong business. You certainly not want to miss out on the best possible opportunity to grow your company and network with the community.

nerworking-at-INTEGRATE2019

Pricing

We already opened registrations for INTEGRATE 2020. The early bird registrations for tickets closes on March 31st. Also, given the Public Holiday on June 1st in parts of Europe and our wish to accommodate attendees enjoying a long weekend, all the Microsoft Speaker sessions will take place on Day 2 and Day 3. We have now made available a 2 Day Pass Option for June 2nd and June 3rd only.

If you are planning to attend INTEGRATE 2020, then go ahead and register as this will be the best ticket sale of the year. Be quick as when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Sponsorship

We are also opening sponsorship opportunities for this event. There are sponsorship packages available at different levels. If you are interested to sponsor this event, please contact us at contact@biztalk360.com.

Join with other leading consulting and ISV companies as sponsors:

INTEGRATE-sponsors

Are you still not convinced? 🙂 Don’t miss out, register today and take the early bird offer.

Don’t miss out on the conference which is highly focused on Microsoft Integration space. We look forward to planning your trip to London and joining the community in June.

The post Why you should attend INTEGRATE 2020? appeared first on BizTalk360.

BizTalk Server 2020 – Why it’s a game-changer?

BizTalk Server 2020 – Why it’s a game-changer?

BizTalk Server 2020

On 15th of January 2020, Microsoft announced the release of BizTalk Server 2020. There was a lot of buzz on social media about the release. Pretty much all of the posts were highlighting and excited about the new set of features that got shipped in the product.

Even though the release came with a bunch of exciting new features like any other regular software product updates, there are some important points to note, especially for people who invested heavily in Microsoft BizTalk Server for the past 2 decades.

BizTalk Server 2020 is not just a simple software update it’s a game-changer and beginning of a new era. 

Two decades of past

That’s how long Microsoft BizTalk Server is in the market. 

The first version came in 2000, and now we are in 2020 and excited about the new release “BizTalk Server 2020”. Microsoft consistently released a new version every 2-4 years once for the past 20 years (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2006 R2, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2013 R2, 2016 and now 2020) – i.e 11 major releases. 

There are very few products in the history of software sustained a two decades life span and still going strong. On Microsoft land I can only think of a few products like Windows, Office, SQL Server are the ones which reached this milestone.

 I’m feeling lucky enough to be one of them who worked on this amazing piece of technology for 20 years now. For most of the software developers out there, our career is pretty much determined by our initial few months/years after graduation and where we end up. For some people, you become programmers, again depending on what technology stack you got initial opportunities, some become data guys like DBA’s, IT administrators,  and in the modern era new things like AI/ML, Big Data, etc. For me, it was/is BizTalk Server and Integration in general. 

In the past 20 years, I have seen various technologies come and go. We ourselves were bitten by choosing a wrong one for BizTalk360 in the initial days. Microsoft Silverlight as our front-end, the thing that looked flashy and promised to change the way Rich Internet Applications (RIA) are build quietly died and we ended up wasting full 1 year rebuilding everything in HTML5. We finally released version 7.0 back in Oct 2013 fully revamped in HTML5  

Unless otherwise, the product solves a core problem well, the chances of sustainability for this long is pretty slim.

One decade of future commitment

When Microsoft releases a server product like BizTalk Server, they commit for 10 years of product support commitment. 5 years of regular support and another 5 years of extended support for you to comfortably run your production systems without worrying about the end of life.

BizTalk Server 2020 is Microsoft’s commitment to existing customers who invested in BizTalk Server and future customers the product is supported until 2030.

It’s very important for large enterprises to get this commitment. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot afford to make wrong bets (like what we did on the front-end technology for BizTalk360 using Microsoft Silverlight), you simply end up with wasted time, money and more importantly opportunity. For us, that one year was a very painful period, with limited resources instead of building exciting new features for our customers, we ended up redoing the same thing.

It’s not easy

Even for a large organization like Microsoft, it’s not easy to maintain and improve a legacy matured product like BizTalk Server.

During my long-standing relationship with BizTalk Server in this 20 years period, I have personally dealt with at least 4-5 different completely different sets of teams at Microsoft. This is what I have witnessed 

“People will come, people will go but the product stays.”

I can imagine it will be such a hard job to bring people on board to get up to speed understanding such a vast platform and innovate on top of that mixing the old and new era.   In spite of the challenges, Microsoft still continued and innovated constantly for the past 20 years. 

What goes behind the scene?

On every release, one of the important updates will be platform alignment. BizTalk Server relies on four important underlying platforms, the core Windows Operating System, SQL Server for data, Visual Studio for development tools and finally Microsoft Office for certain dependencies like BAM.

BizTalk Server 2020 supports the following platforms

  • Visual Studio 2019
  • Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows 10
  • SQL Server 2019, SQL Server 2017, SQL Server 2016 SP2
  • Office 2019, Office 2016

Supporting these new platforms is not always just a recompile of your code. For instance, the team had spent nearly 3 years rebuilding the tools for Visual Studio 2019. Some of the BizTalk Server toolings like Mapper and Orchestration designer is complex. Visual Studio 2019 changed the complete plugin-architecture and significant work has gone behind the scene to make it work.

There are few areas Microsoft does not highlight on the release notes, but that takes a significant amount of time for the product group like accelerators and adapters. Microsoft BizTalk Server is a central middleware hub supporting various industry standards like HL7, SWIFT, etc, these specifications change regularly as well, in every release they need to make sure they support the latest standards.

In a similar way, all those connecting BizTalk adapters like SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, Peoplesoft, etc all need to be retested and realigned.

Being a global product there are a ton lot of legal procedures they need to pass through before a 20 year old product like BizTalk Server is released to the public.

You probably are not aware, some of the high-end military/defense teams across the world use BizTalk Server, it’s not that easy to commit a new release when you have such sensitive customers.

I remember having a conversation with one of the product owners of BizTalk Server in the past, how tough the whole legal process before they can get a go-ahead for the release.

Hub for modern and legacy world

If you look carefully at how Microsoft is positioning BizTalk Server 2020, it’s positioning it as a hub/window between the legacy and modern world.

The fact is, however the new cloud technology stack spans out and promises to change the world, there will always be an on-premise dependency. It will take at least another few decades (or never), for 100% cloud-native organizations to evolve.

Oh! Do you know still some of the big bank’s core systems are still running on IBM Mainframes built-in 1960 and ’70s?

For the past 10 years, in the enterprise world, it’s always a hybrid scenario, where certain things are best suited for on-premise and certain things are best suited for the cloud, you mix and match the tech stack that’s suitable for your business.

The below picture depicts how Microsoft BizTalk Server can act as a glue between the on-prem and the cloud world and get most of the benefit out of both.

BizTalk Server 2020

There are a lot of features that shipped with BizTalk Server 2020 supporting this vision.

New customers – is BizTalk Server the right technology?

If you are on a hunt for choosing your middleware platform, it’s not an easy decision to make. With a ton of new products available in the market and each product requiring months of learning to understand the capabilities, it’s never going to be easy to compare and test everything.

But sometimes you need to go with the proven technology and the future vision of the product. BizTalk Server sustained 20 years of constant improvement (a release pretty much every 2-3 years once 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2006 R2, 2009,2010, 2013, 2013 R2, 2016), a lot of features and underlying architecture are robust and scalable to sustain such a long time period.

This long history of the product is such an important decision-making factor.

And the future commitment from Microsoft gearing towards the cloud makes it a perfect candidate for any organization to bet on this middleware platform.

Why BizTalk Server developers and administrators must be excited?

Learning a complex product like BizTalk Server is time consuming long term commitment. It takes years of work and the right projects to fully understand the product and its capabilities. If you have invested your time in the past few years being a BizTalk Developer or Administrator it’s a great time to be excited with the commitment from Microsoft on the future of BizTalk Server. 

BizTalk360 is ready for BizTalk Server 2020

For those of you who are not aware of BizTalk360. I would like to give a short intro and excited to announce after working with Microsoft for the past few months, we are now fully supporting Microsoft BizTalk Server 2020 with our latest release.

We are a 3rd party product providing advanced monitoring and management capabilities for Microsoft BizTalk Server. Out of the box, BizTalk Server comes with a management console called “BizTalk Admin Console”, which does a great job for people to manage and operate your BizTalk Server environments. However, the tool lacks a lot of advanced capabilities like web-based management console, advanced user access security features, advanced toolings like throttling analyzer, topology viewer, messaging patterns viewer, health dashboards, etc.

Monitoring for a platform like BizTalk Server is so crucial, but BizTalk Server doesn’t come out of the box with any monitoring capabilities. The customers need to rely on Microsoft SCOM or 3rd party products like BizTalk360. SCOM management packs for BizTalk Server is not updated for many years and it comes with only minimal monitoring capabilities.

BizTalk360 is a widely used product in the market with over 650 large enterprises helping them to manage/operate and monitor their BizTalk Server environments. BizTalk360 supports BizTalk Server 2013, 2013 R2, 2016 and now 2020.

You can get a 30 days trial version of BizTalk360 and explore the product yourself or arrange for a personal demo of the product.  

The post BizTalk Server 2020 – Why it’s a game-changer? appeared first on BizTalk360.

Thanks 2018 – time to give back

Thanks 2018 – time to give back

One thing I have been doing consistently on the last day of each year since I started BizTalk360 back in 2011 is donating a small amount to GOSH as a way of saying thank you for one more successful year. 

In spite of where I’m in the world, I make a note on my personal calendar to do this activity first thing on 31st December. 

A definition of success is different for different people, for me, it’s pretty simple, being healthy (people around me and myself),  moving forward a few steps ahead from where we have started and try and help others move forward as much as I can. As long as we are not standing still or moving backward and everyone around me is happy then it’s a successful year. 

This year we contributed $10k to GOSH bringing the total contribution to approximately $47,000 in the past 7 years. Here is the summary.

  • 2012 – $1,625
  • 2013 – $2,125
  • 2014 – $5,000
  • 2015 – $10,000
  • 2016 – £5,000
  • 2017 – $10,000
  • 2018 – $10,000

About GOSH

GOSH is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, housing the widest range of specialists under one roof. GOSH opened its doors back in 1852 with just 10 beds, today they get around 600 new patients every day. It was the first hospital in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment of children.

GOSH was supported by some of the great individuals like Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Diana Princess of Wales. 

We feel proud to be associated with such a great organization with such a great cause.

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build ESB Exception Management Portal in BizTalk360?

Why did we build ESB Exception Management Portal in BizTalk360?

BizTalk360 ESB Exception Management Portal

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?

Microsoft shipped the ESB Toolkit back in 2007-2008 that extends the functionality of Microsoft BizTalk Server to provide a range of new capabilities for building SOA/ESB applications that incorporate things like itinerary based invocation for lightweight service composition without using Orchestrations, dynamic resolution of endpoints maps, Web services, exception management and reporting. They also provided a sample “ESB Exception Management” web application along with the toolkit.

The ESB Toolkit created a love/hate relationship with a lot of BizTalk Server customers even though it added a lot of value addition to BizTalk Server (as an add-on) while in some cases it simply complicated the solution.

The one thing that everyone loved about ESB Toolkit is the Exception Management framework and the sample web application that shipped with the Toolkit. Since the Exception Management part addressed two important challenges in an integration solution in an end-to-end Exception management framework, visualizing it in a web portal and ability to edit/resubmit failed messages, which were missing in BizTalk Server core.

What are the current challenges?

Sample Portal: The Exception Management Framework itself is a stable offering and fully supported by Microsoft. However, the portal that shipped with the ESB Toolkit is a “sample web application” built on top of the ESB Exception Database. It’s not fully supported by Microsoft and it’s kind of a half-baked solution with a lot of bugs.

Difficult to Install and Configure: Typically it takes few hours to one or two days to install and configure the ESB Exception management portal. It’s not maintained or updated as required over the years, and it uses certain components like older versions of “.NET Logging Application Blocks” that makes server level changes and affects your main BizTalk Solutions.

Missing Functionalities: As the ESB Exception Portal was shipped as a simple sample web application, it’s not matured and misses some important capabilities like “Bulk Edit/Resubmit” and functional alerting. Bulk edit/resubmit is very important since when there is a failure in your environment, you’ll typically have 10’s-100’s of failed messages for the same reason and you wanted to take bulk action.

The other important missing aspect is restricting users by permission and auditing, an example – you probably do not want all of your support people to have the ability to edit and resubmit messages. Even if they do, you need to have the traceability of who performed that action.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

We wanted to address the challenges highlighted above and also wanted to give a rich unified tooling experience for BizTalk Administrators. Hence we built the ESB Exception Management portal within BizTalk360 from the ground up. All you need to configure the ESB Exception management within BizTalk360 is to simply provide the connection string to your ESB exception database relevant to your BizTalk Environment. That’s it! You are set (takes about 3 minutes).

ESB Exception Management Portal BizTalk360

Since we built the ESB Exception Management portal from the ground up, we have thought through all the challenges in the sample portal and addressed them. It comes with the following set of features

  • Rich ESB Exception Dashboard (utilizing our powerful customizable dashboard framework)
  • Full Search/Filter/Display of exception details
  • Edit Resubmit – both single and multiple records
  • Download Messages – you can either download or email exception messages directly from the portal.
  • Integrated Knowledgebase – you can associate a Knowledgebase article with known exceptions
  • Security – ability to restrict user either to the full ESB portal section or allow them to do specific tasks like edit/resubmit
  • Governance & Auditing – all the core activities like editing/resubmit by the users are audited.
  • Rich Functional alerting – ex: if there are over 30 errors matching a specific error code in an application alert the administrator.

One of the other important objectives of BizTalk360 is to reduce the number of different tools the BizTalk Administrator has to use to support their BizTalk solution – tools such as Admin Console, BAM Portal, ESB Portal, SQL Management Studio, Perfmon and so on. This makes them totally unproductive and switch context between different applications. It is also difficult to on-board new people and bring them up to speed.

By bringing the ESB Exception Management portal within BizTalk360, we eliminate the need to use the sample ESB portal that comes with the toolkit.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

If you are struggling with all the above mentioned challenges, why not give BizTalk360 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.

BizTalk360-Free-Trial

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build Advanced Tracking Manager in BizTalk360?

Why did we build Advanced Tracking Manager in BizTalk360?

Advanced Tracking Manager 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?

Message Body and Message Context (properties) tracking is one of the key characteristics of BizTalk Server. A typical flow in BizTalk Server will involve a message that is received from the source system via the receive port, then transmitted to an orchestration (not always) for some business process, and then finally transmitted to the destination systems via the  send ports. During this journey, the original message might have gone through various processing and transformations. It’s important to keep track of all the state changes by logging the message content and context at each change point. BizTalk Server provides this functionality out of the box through a very rich tracking mechanism at various points of the journey.

You can track the message body, properties and events at various points as shown below.

Receive Port & Send Port (One way)

  • Message Bodies  – before and after port processing
  • Message Context  – before and after port processing

Receive Port & Send Port (Two way)

  • Message Bodies (Request) – before and after port processing
  • Message Context (Request) – before and after port processing
  • Message Bodies (Response) – before and after port processing
  • Message Context (Response) – before and after port processing

Orchestration

  • Message Bodies – before and after orchestration processing
  • Message Properties – incoming and outgoing messages
  • Track Events – Orchestration start and end
  • Track Events – Message send and receive
  • Track Events – Shape start and end

Pipeline

  • Message Bodies – before and after pipeline processing
  • Track Event – Port start and end
  • Track Event – Message send and receive

Business Rule Policy

  • Fast Activity – track instance data
  • Condition Evaluation – true/false results of condition
  • Rule Firing – actions started as result of policy
  • Agenda updates

Schemas

  • Promoted Properties

As you can see, BizTalk Server provides a very rich tracking framework and mechanism to track pretty much anything that goes through the system. It also gives the end customer full control of what data/property/event needs to be tracked at precise points in the message flow.

What are the current challenges?

Even though BizTalk Server comes with a strong framework for Tracking, the management capabilities of tracking settings is not ideal in the standard BizTalk Admin Console.

Central Management: In the BizTalk Admin Console, there is no option for you to visualize the tracking configuration of all the entities (like receive port, pipeline, orchestration etc.) from a single place. If you wanted to view or change a tracking setting, you need to manually visit each entity  and make required changes.

Bulk Actions: You cannot perform bulk actions like changing the tracking settings of all the entities with a single click.

Undesired Tracking Configuration: Often times when the BizTalk applications are migrated from development or QA environments to production, the tracking settings are also copied unwittingly (during export/import binding files). In the development and QA environment you typically have more tracking, but in production you’ll have only required minimum tracking due to performance reasons.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 addresses all the above challenges with the “Advanced Tracking Manager” functionality.

biztalk360-tracking-manager

As you can see from the above screenshot, BizTalk360 provides a single unified view of the tracking configuration in a single place with easy to understand colour coding. You can easily make bulk changes with almost single click. You can visit the Advanced Tracking Manager at any time and see the level of tracking you have for the environment.

We have noticed interesting customer scenarios where they typically turn off all tracking for performance reasons and the moment they need to identify some problem, they enable required tracking via Advanced Tracking  Manager and turn it off once the diagnosis is done.

In another customer scenario, as part of the deployment process check list, they check the tracking settings in the environment after each BizTalk Application deployment. This reduces the risk of having unwanted tracking settings in their production environment.

If you are interested, there is a more detailed article on all the capabilities of Advanced Tracking Manager.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

If you are struggling with all the above mentioned challenges, why not give BizTalk360 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.

try biztalk360 for free

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build Centralized Advanced Event Viewer for BizTalk Administration?

Why did we build Centralized Advanced Event Viewer for BizTalk Administration?

Advanced Event Viewer 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?

When it comes to troubleshooting operational problems in BizTalk Server, the first place the BizTalk administrator or support person will look is the standard BizTalk Admin Console. Once if they can’t find anything obvious in the Admin Console, their next point of search will be the Event Viewer in the physical BizTalk Server machines and sometimes in the SQL Server machines.

Here are few challenges with this approach —

Correlating events across multiple BizTalk/SQL Servers: A typical BizTalk Enterprise production environment will have at least 2 BizTalk servers and 2 SQL servers to make the environment highly available. If there is a problem, you need to look into the Windows Event Viewer of each server and try to correlate and nail down the problem. This is time consuming.

Security Challenge – Administrator Access to BizTalk/SQL Servers: If you want to have access to Event Viewers in Windows Servers, then you need to have pretty much Administrator rights on the server(s). This is something that the organization needs to avoid.

Too much noise in the Event Viewer: Generally, every single problem or logging that happens in Windows Servers goes into the Event Viewer. Even though Event Viewer has the concept of Categories, it will still be noisy and the Administrator needs to have enough knowledge to understand what they are looking for in the Event Viewer. This could be a potential time loss exercise.

What is the current limitation in BizTalk Server?

BizTalk Server out of the box does not have any special tooling to address this challenge. It simply relies on Administrators to use the standard Windows Event Viewer MMC snap in. This will result in all the three challenges highlighted in the previous section. What this means is that people have gotten adapted to certain ways of solving the problems and Microsoft BizTalk Server lacks the proper tooling to address the challenge.

How does BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 comes with a key feature called “Centralized Advanced Event Viewer”.  It periodically collects the events that are related to BizTalk (out of the box we collect certain Event Log Categories, Administrators can also add additional categories) from all the BizTalk and SQL servers in the environment and store them in a central database. The collected data is then searched and then made viewable in the BizTalk360 web based user interface.

biztalk360-advanced-event-viewer

This approach seamlessly solves all the problems we highlighted previously. The BizTalk Administrators or support people need not physically access the servers via RDP (remote desktop) connection. They can easily correlate events in a single place and construct complex filters like for example: events related to Enterprise SSO across all the BizTalk Servers for a time range.

What is the business value?

Address Security Concerns: Businesses do not want too many people logging on/off into their production servers with highest privileges during business hours. This can be rectified using BizTalk360 Advanced Event Viewer.

Reduce time to diagnose issue: It’s much faster to look into the reason for errors in one place rather than looking at many places and try to correlate events. This dramatically reduces the time it takes to solve the problem. In a typical BizTalk Server troubleshooting exercise, this is how the operations/support person loses a ton of time.

Get started with a Free Trial today!

If you are struggling with all the above mentioned challenges, why not give BizTalk360 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.

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Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build the Secure SQL Queries capability in BizTalk360?

Why did we build the Secure SQL Queries capability in BizTalk360?

Secure SQL Queries 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?

In a BizTalk Server support scenario, one of the common things that happen is people accessing the BizTalk System and some custom databases regularly using tools like SQL Management Studio to run some reporting queries. Some of the system databases will include BizTalk Message Box (BizTalkMsgBoxDb), BizTalk Management (BizTalkMgmtDb), BizTalk Tracking  (BizTalkDTADb), Business Activity Monitoring – BAM (BizTalkPrimaryImport).  BizTalk Administrator and support people access these databases for a variety of requirements such as to check tables like spool or host tables in Message Box, Message In-out table in tracking database, looking for some values in BAM database tables, cross reference data, check for large messages etc.

What are the current challenges?

Performance Impact: Some of the BizTalk databases can grow extremely bigger. It’s not uncommon to have over 1 million records in certain tables (ex: MessageInOut table in Tracking Database). Executing some queries like just a plain “SELECT * ..” on those tables without any query optimization or locks can have serious performance impact during business hours.

Productivity Improvement: BizTalk Support Team will typically have a bunch of standard SQL queries they run on a regular basis to get some reporting on BizTalk databases. Each individual team members will have their own set of SQL queries and they manage it in their local machines.  This basically results in two things, useful reporting queries are not shared between team members and maintaining the queries in SQL files and accessing different files for different environment is not productive.

No consolidated tooling: If BizTalk Administrator or support person needs to run some reporting queries, they need to use an external tool like SQL management studio.

What is the current limitation in standard BizTalk Admin Console?

The standard BizTalk Admin Console does not come with any capabilities related to accessing SQL data. This leaves the support people to rely on external SQL tools like SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Tools like SSMS are designed for DBA’s and Developers and it’s not particularly friendly when it comes to pure support and management – a level of technical expertise is required to use SSMS.

How BizTalk360 solves the problem?

We understood the practical challenges of not having an integrated SQL data access tool along with BizTalk Administration and the challenges it exposes (as explained above). This resulted in building “Secure SQL Queries” platform in BizTalk360.

The principles are quite simple — a DBA or someone who understands SQL well writes optimized SQL queries and store them with friendly names in BizTalk360. Ex: “Depth of Message Box Spool Table”. Then, assign who will have permissions to run the queries. May be not all the queries are required for every support person. BizTalk360 can then work like a reporting tool for these custom SQL queries and display them in the web interface directly.

secure-sql-queries-biztalk360

This approach eliminates people from directly running non-optimized queries in production environments and it also simplifies having access to SQL data within a single web console instead of switching tools.

One of the biggest advantage is that useful SQL reporting queries in your BizTalk environment can be centrally stored and shared between team members.

NOTE: The platform is very generic; you can store and execute SQL queries across any databases and not necessarily just BizTalk Server databases as long as the service account has right privileges to access the data.

What is the business value?

The business benefits are very obvious. Providing a secure web based platform for accessing SQL sever data (which is critical to the day-to-day operations of any BizTalk Server solution) increases the productivity of support/BizTalk Admin people and makes it extremely secure. In general, you can keep your database administrators (DBA’s) happy in the organisation.

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: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build Team Knowledgebase feature in BizTalk360?

Why did we build Team Knowledgebase feature in BizTalk360?

Team Knowledgebase 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?

Microsoft BizTalk Server being a middleware platform sitting right in the middle of the organisation connecting all the systems together, it’s inevitable there will be some regular operational challenges. When you are talking to multiple systems, it’s hard to control every end systems. Some of the common problem you encounter will be a partner sending the message that contains some unknown characters, having the format of the date in wrong format etc.

In BizTalk Admin console, when such problems occur and depending on how the exceptions are handled most of the time, it will result in some form of suspended service instances with some error code. Typically a BizTalk support person will start analysing it within the BizTalk Admin console or via the Event Viewers in BizTalk Servers and find a relevant solution.

Over a period, the BizTalk support team will know the answers for pretty much all the known issues and they will be able to solve the problem quickly. However, what happens if someone leaves the team or you bring someone new to the team. It will take equal amount of time for that new person to pick up all the known issues.

Few organisations maintain some kind of internal wiki or SharePoint documents to cover all the known issues, however they are not always updated and in sync, multiple documents, and no one actively look into those documents for solution. They always tend to start from scratch and end up spending time diagnosing the problem.

To address this particular challenge we have built “Team Knowledgebase” capability within BizTalk360.

What is the current limitation in BizTalk Server Admin Console?

BizTalk Server Admin console doesn’t come with any such capability to address this real world challenge. BizTalk Admin Console is designed more for hard-core technical BizTalk people and it expects a level of BizTalk knowledge, it only displays the technical error descriptions whenever there are suspended instance.  There is no option for team collaboration and ability to store solutions to the problem.

How does BizTalk360 solve this problem?

We identified this feature could be a huge time saver when it comes to BizTalk Solutions support and also it helps to bring non-BizTalk people into supporting BizTalk solutions easily.

BizTalk360 provides a platform to store team knowledge base articles for known issues. Example: If an instance gets suspended with some error code “0x34564” for a particular application, the support person can easily write a short knowledge base article saying this particular error happens due to “Known issue with our partner Contoso, their internal systems are not capable of sending date time in the format our system is expecting”, the support person can also set the rules saying this is applicable for Application XYZ, the instance status should be “Suspended-Non resumable”, the Environment should be “Production”, the error description text should contain “Contoso”.

biztalk360-team-knowledgebase

Once the knowledge base article is created with set of rules, BizTalk360 will keep watching for any errors that happens in the system and if it matches an existing knowledge base condition, it will show a small book icon next to the error. This helps the support person to quickly realize it’s a known issue and also see the solution to the issue.

The team knowledge base capability is available for Suspended Instances, Event Viewer, ESB Errors, Throttling Conditions in BizTalk360.

What is the business value?

As you can see the business value of the team knowledgebase feature is huge, it drastically reduces the time taken to troubleshoot the problem, especially for the repeated ones. The feature also helps to mitigate the risk of good people leaving the organisation with the knowledge and also helps to on-board new people into the team and bring them up-to speed pretty quickly.

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.

try biztalk360 for free

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

Why did we build Auditing & Governance for BizTalk Server Administration?

Why did we build Auditing & Governance for BizTalk Server Administration?

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?

In the previous article “Why did we built User Access Policy to Manage BizTalk Server Security?”, we looked at the importance of securing the BizTalk Server environments, what are the limitations of existing security mechanisms in BizTalk Server and how BizTalk360 User Access Policy mechanism helps to address the gaps. The other important aspect that’s more closely related to security is the governance & auditing.

In a nutshell, Governance and Auditing simply means recording all the activities performed by a BizTalk Administrator or Operations person in your BizTalk Server environments. Auditing is such a crucial part for any enterprise software. Let’s take some example scenarios and see how the impact of such activities can cause huge business disruption.

Let’s imagine you have an integration scenario picking up purchase orders from a FTP location, processing it via a BizTalk Orchestration and finally sending it to the SAP system. In this simplest scenario, a BizTalk Administrator can potentially do the following 5 activities intentionally or accidentally —

  • Disabling the BizTalk FTP Receive Location
  • Unenlisting the BizTalk Orchestration
  • Stopping the BizTalk SAP Send Port
  • Stopping the Host Instances that run receive location, send port and orchestration
  • Terminate a BizTalk Service Instance that’s processing the purchase order

Any one of the above activity would have resulted in a business impact of not processing that purchase order.

When such incidents happen, you must have the system in place to look at the audit logs and see who actually performed such activity and take necessary steps. In critical industries like Healthcare and Financial institutions, Auditing and Governance are mandatory and governed by industry bodies like SOX and HIPAA.

What is the current limitation in BizTalk Server?

The standard BizTalk Server Admin console doesn’t come with any in-built auditing capabilities for user activities. Once someone has access to BizTalk Admin Console (i.e pretty much your entire BizTalk support team), they are free to perform any activities without a trace.

As mentioned in the previous section, pretty much every single activity the BizTalk Server administrator or support person performs in a controlled environment like Production will have significant consequences.

It’s a very common scenario in large teams for no one taking the blame when things go wrong. Question like “Do you know who stopped that host instance?” are common. The difficult part is you probably don’t know how long that particular host instance was in stopped state, since you don’t have the audit trace.

How does BizTalk360 solve this problem?

Once we built the web based BizTalk Server Admin console, the first top most priority we addressed in the product is sorting out the Security and Audit capabilities for administrative activities.  As you can see from the below picture, all the actions performed by the BizTalk Administrators are logged/audited.

BizTalk360 Governance Auditing

The actions could be something related to BizTalk Applications like starting/stopping Receive Locations, Send Port, Orchestration, it could be related BizTalk Host Instance like starting/stopping host instances, Service Instance activities like terminating, resuming, suspending, ESB management activities like resubmitting messages, and so on.

For every new feature we add to BizTalk360, we make sure auditing capabilities are also taken care of. The organisations can keep the audit data for however long they want based on their corporate policy; you can easily configure the data retention period in BizTalk360.

In order for us to build a system that’s capable of auditing user activities, we need to make sure BizTalk Administrators can use BizTalk360 instead of the standard BizTalk Admin console, that means covering each and every feature that’s available in BizTalk Admin Console needs a counter part in BizTalk360. Apart from deployment and configuration changes (ex: changing the password of FTP receive location), BizTalk Administrators can perform every activity in BizTalk360 that can be performed in the standard BizTalk Admin Console.

Can we audit user activities if it’s performed via BizTalk Admin Console?

This is one of the common questions we receive when we talk about Governance and Auditing. Unfortunately we cannot capture activities that’s performed outside BizTalk360. The idea is you restrict access to standard BizTalk Admin Console to very few people (super users) and force majority of the people to use BizTalk360 for controlled environments.

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: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.