A year on, ~224,000 words and over 600 pages later, and Professional BizTalk Server 2006 has finally gone to the printers!  This book has been a mammoth undertaking for all involved, but having just reviewed the entire book end-to-end I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved.

The final cover is shown below with all of the authors photos!

I’m also pleased to announce that Patric McElroy who is a Product Unit Manager (PUM) for the BizTalk Server Team, kindly wrote a great foreword for the book and we included the following fantastic quote on the cover:

“This book is an indispensable resource for solution architects and developers who want to dig deeper into BizTalk. It is valuable material that has been written by insiders with deep experience in architecting and delivering solutions for our most demanding enterprise customers.”
-Patric McElroy, Product Unit Manager, BizTalk Server, Microsoft Corporation

A big thanks to Yossi Dahan and Jon Fancey who both reviewed the entire book and provided some great comments and suggestions, we also included a very kind comment from Yossi on the back cover:

“This book provides a fantastic insight into the inner workings of BizTalk, making it an invaluable resource for all those things you would otherwise never know. As you learn the ’tricks of the trade’ from these experienced engineers, you quickly realize why everyone who has anything to do with BizTalk simply MUST read this book.”
-Yossi Dahan, Managing Consultant, Sabra Ltd.

The final back cover text is shown below:

This book provides insight into how industry experts have successfully architected, developed, and maintained Microsoft BizTalk Server in mission-critical environments. Authored by highly-regarded consultants with a wealth of knowledge on designing, building, and operating enterprise applications using BizTalk, this comprehensive guide gives you the techniques and best practices you’ll need to develop effective projects.

Darren Jefford is a Principal Consultant with the Microsoft UK Application Development Consulting (ADC) team who has extensive real-world experience with BizTalk Server and the broader Microsoft platform. Kevin B. Smith formerly worked as a Technical Lead Software Design Engineer for the BizTalk Server Product Team and helped ship three versions of BizTalk Server. Ewan Fairweather works as a Premier Field Engineer for Microsoft, providing onsite support to enterprise customers, including maintaining and optimizing their BizTalk Server solutions.

Achitects, developers, testers, and administrators will achieve instant success when they apply the deep technical information covered in this book. They will better appreciate the internal workings of BizTalk Server and will understand detailed solutions for challenges often experienced with BizTalk-based systems.

My initial plans were to co-author the book with Kevin Smith but he (sensibly) was reticent due to the sheer amount of work required.  I therefore started the book as sole author but as the writing got underway I began to realise my limitations, BizTalk is a huge product and it’s impossible to know everything about everything, especially in enough depth for a book.   I finally persuaded (nagged to death) Kevin to author 3 chapters on topics that he knew extremely well, especially as he was part of the BizTalk product team and responsible for the design and implementation of the messaging engine. 

As the writing continued the Administration chapter loomed into view and being a developer at heart – Administration is a very weak point!   I managed to talk an (admittedly tipsy) Ewan Fairweather into writing the chapter at the Microsoft UK summer party, he pulled out all the stops against tight deadlines to write some amazing content on Administration which given his background (supporting customers real-world BizTalk deployments) will be of great value to customers and I must admit to learning an embarrassing amount whilst reviewing his chapter.

So, your all probably wondering – why on earth did I decide to invest so much personal time writing a book on BizTalk?   As ever it’s a long story, but the following fragment from the book introduction explains it nicely:

The compelling drive for me to create this book resulted from two main factors. First, after working with these customers I had a clear view of what worked, what didn’t, and the things to highlight early on to avoid problems later in the development life cycle of a BizTalk solution.

The next compelling drive was that such real-world, best-practice advice was tied up inside a small number of people’s heads. This clearly doesn’t scale to help the broader base of BizTalk customers, and it’s often frustrating (to both sides) to be called on site to see the same issues crop up again and again.

These problems, in my experience, are not the fault of the product or the customer per se but instead represent the learning curve required for enterprise software development. It’s a hard problem space, and tiny mistakes or oversights have big consequences. This book is positioned to help address this. It’s a fusion of how the product works under the covers and cutting-edge best practices designed to enable you to make best use of the product within your solution.

The decision to write a book was a tortuous one. I loved the idea of writing a book, but I was given a number of reality checks by colleagues with regard to the effort required – something that (with a young family) I wasn’t sure I could commit to, and I decided to shelve the project.

The final straw, however, came in late in 2005. While onsite with a customer, I was asked the following question: “Why does it take Darren Jefford or Kevin Smith to come in to help us understand these problems and highlight the types of things we should be aware of? This type of information isn’t in the documentation.”

The book is now off being printed and should be available in early May I’m reliably informed, based on my experience with the Team System book it will be available in the US first, followed by the UK a few weeks later so you should expect delivery by the end of May. 

Ewan and I will be presenting at TechEd US (Orlando) so look out for us there if your attending, I believe Wiley will probably be setting a book signing opportunity up if your interested, once the session titles are formalised I’ll post them here.

Phew!  Now back to reality and spare time!  I hope you enjoy the book and the blog should hopefully get back to normal and I can post some of the interesting WCF bits and pieces I’ve been up to.