Do you remember those good old BizTalk 2002 days when you only had to make a couple of clicks through the BizTalk messaging manager to refresh a mapping? Well it’s time to share with you a nice technique that makes BizTalk 2004 mapping updates just as easy to make and deploy:
  • For this technique to work you have to make sure you always compile and distribute your mappings into a ‘mapping only’ assembly – this will simplify things a lot. Do not put your referenced schemas inside this mapping assembly.
  • Keep always track of the version-number your mapping assembly has (by setting the version number in the assembly config file.). Remember that version numbers are in the format “Major.Minor.Build.Revision”.
  • Deploy your finished solution into your production environment. This can be done in a variety of ways: using an msi or you could just deploy assemblies manually using the deployment wizard. Usually you make this decision depending on the complexity of your solution.
  • Now you discover a mapping error requiring an update after everything is already deployed. You are afraid to touch the installed assemblies – you know how complicated things can get when undeploy redploy. You don’t want to break any dependencies or anything…but it’s not a breaking change – just a fix – changing a couple of mapping links…
  • The solution: Just recompile your updated mappings project and up the version number and deploy your updated assembly using the deployment wizard while leaving your old assembly in place. You can deploy your new assembly to the GAC and optionally – not mandotary – also into BizTalk. This makes then a total of 2 versions of your mapping assembly deployed side-by-side into Biztalk at the same time (the original and the updated one). This doesn’t affect your running solution at all, because BizTalk references mappings strongly, it will still keep using the original assembly from the GAC.
  • Now change the .NET assembly binding behavior by inserting a binding redirection into the XML config file.
    You can do binding redirections on both application level (BTSNtsvc.exe.config in our case) and on machine level by updating the machine.config file. You can update config files manually or use the .NET configuration framework mmc snap-in that we will use for simplicity sake. Here’s a sample binding redirecting from my machine.config file:
  • <runtime>
    <assemblyBinding xmlns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1″>
    <assemblyIdentity name=”StoraEnso.Mappings.Fenix” publicKeyToken=”15b134fbf6ea6bf5″ />
    <bindingRedirect oldVersion=”″ newVersion=”″ />
  • Recycle (restart) the BizTalk host instances – to recycle the app domains that use the mapping assembly. Voila: BizTalk is now using the new version!
  • Not happy with the result? Manually remove the binding redirection again or using the snap in, recycle the hosts and you are back to the old version, it’s just that easy!
For the curious: I’ve also tested BizTalk assembly redirections using a publisher policy assembly and it seems to work fine. Remember to up the Major or Minor part of the version for this to work. You now have the capability to create an msi that installs/uninstalls an updated mapping assembly.
Additionally I’d also like to mention that binding redirections can be used for BizTalk schema assemblies too. This, though, creates extra complications because BizTalk will always match duplicate assemblies to a given message type if you have 2 versions deployed into BizTalk. As a consequence you will have to make all your receives/pipelines what I call ‘Strongly Typed’ and this indicates extra property promotion work (the type) and I had to play with SchemaWithNone in my code to make FFDASM and other pipeline components work correctly…
So I guess – never tested this myself – it’s better to only GAC updated schema assemblies – if you’d want to use this technique at all for schema assemblies….
A final word of advice: technically it’s possible to keep on patching forever and ever – though this would make a very bad practice 😉