I opened up day two with a session involving Connecting to Line Of Business (LOB) systems in 15 minutes

We saw:

  • A demonstration of the BizTalk mapper activity in WF
  • Many questions from the audience regarding the licensing model.  Some people questioned that if you had to buy a BizTalk Standard license to use the Mapper and LOB adapters then why wouldn’t you just use BizTalk.  The response was that there may be some scenarios where you still want to avoid the BizTalk message box but want to connect to LOB systems like SAP without having to write a lot of code to transform data between the two systems.  The BizTalk Mapper will easily pay for itself over time as it allows you to convert data through a GUI tool instead of writing a lot of code.
  • You will not have to install all of BizTalk in order to use these two new activities in WF.  Microsoft plans on providing a “AppFabric Connect” feature that allows you to just install the BizTalk bits that you need
  • Licensing for these components will be based on the same model that BizTalk standard edition uses so you will be paying per proc(and not by the core)
  • Oracle adapter exposed as WCF service that SharePoint BCS (Business Connectivity Services) consumed…no code is required.
  • Connecting to IBM lob systems in a similar manner.  Use the BizTalk HIS components outside of BizTalk and connect to legacy IBM systems without BizTalk.
  • I got the sense that a lot of .Net developers were excited to see these capabilities but not so excited that they needed to pay for BizTalk licenses in order to use these bits.

Another interesting session I saw involved extracting SAP data so that it can be used by Microsoft BI tools.  The tool is called Simplement Data Liberator.  We heard from one of their customers who uses a blend of SAP and Microsoft tools.  They explained some of their Roadblocks to “True BI”;

  • SAP tables difficult to understand
  • SAP tables difficult to extract
  • Need too many experts
  • Explicit skill set required to use a SAP BI tool
  • Needed real time access to SAP data
  • Needed SharePoint integration
  • Better value with Microsoft Consultants
  • Wanted wider talent pool

SAP has over 50 000 tables so trying to extract data manually or through Custom code is a daunting experience.  The Simplement Data Liberator tool has solved this challenge. The Tool replicates SAP data into SQL Server. You can get both German and English Meta data  and SAP Security  info is also replicated.  This tool eliminates the need to write ABAP for reporting in SAP.  Surface SAP data into Microsoft BI products by using SQL queries.

Other features:

  • Work with only tables you need
  • Load into SQL server via replication
  • Manipulate/Transform data such as dates (ETL)
  • Attached meta data so that you can use English Table names
  • Use SharePoint, Excel services or SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to query data

We saw a demo where a customer was updated in the SAP GUI system and within seconds (3-5) the data was in the SQL BI system.  I must say that I was impressed by the demo, it seems like this vendor understands SAP very well and has figured out a way to lower customer costs when consuming SAP data.

View from the BizTalk Booth 

More great questions and conversations about BizTalk:

  • An excellent conversation about End to End Message Security.  You always want to trust your developers to do the right thing, but how do you prevent a developer from adding their own receive location, or subscription in BizTalk for malicious purposes; to prevent a rogue developer from depositing money into  their Bank Account via BizTalk.  If anyone one has thoughts on this type of scenario and have figured out a way to solve it I would be interested in hearing about it – use comments below.
  • Whether BizTalk is truly pub/sub due to the polling nature of the Host instance connecting to BizTalk MessageBox looking for more work.  This attendee was looking for more Event Driven processes inside BizTalk.
  • A DBA was interested to know how BizTalk will connect to their Database and some of the “gotchas” to look out for
  • A few people that closed the door on BizTalk after BizTalk 2004 that are now back taking another look at BizTalk 2010.  I can’t say this enough, the product has matured significantly over the past and it is worth taking another look at
  • Connecting BizTalk to the AppFabric Service bus in order to connect with other external parties