BizTalk vs Dublin – Do Not Get Confused

I was reading an interesting blog post today called Will Dublin Replace BizTalk?

It got me thinking more about this and I wrote up the response below.  I would love to hear other peoples comments and thoughts on this.  I see a clear separation on when you would use BizTalk vs when you would use Dublin.  I see a great story going forward with both technologies working together.  

I welcome comments and feedback on this. 

Comment on “Will Dublin Replace BizTalk?” blog post:

“I like your article on Dublin and BizTalk but wanted to comment on a few parts.

As someone who makes a living working with BizTalk Server my ears perk up when I hear “it is going away”. I heard this same kind of talk three years ago when Microsoft introduced Workflow in .Net 3.0. I for one was confused about how Workflow would fit in with BizTalk. And now, BizTalk is bigger and stronger than ever.

Why? Because it does a great job inside the enterprise for the scenarios it is designed to address such as system and application integration, connectivity, transformation, and monitoring, just to name a few.

What I see Dublin (and .Net 4.0) doing is taking some of the best features of BizTalk and making them accessible to other parts of the enterprise that might not have requirements that call for a full and robust Integration Server. With Dublin specifically, it is the management and monitory concepts from BizTalk that we can see inside the Dublin code from PDC.

Will there be scenarios that now make more sense in a Dublin environment than BizTalk? Of course. Will all scenarios fit into Dublin – not a chance.

Even today I hear the question, “Why would we pay for BizTalk?” And for some customers BizTalk is not the right answer. For those customers they will now have Dublin to look at rather than having to custom build a solution.

It often comes down to a cost to buy vs. cost to build analysis. On an individual project basis this sometimes becomes a difficult decision. When you think enterprise wide, typically the cost to buy a supportable product with a core set of features is the better answer. With BizTalk, you get adapters, high availability, robust development tools, EDI, RFID, flat file parsing, administration, BAM, etc. While some of these items are being moved further down into the stack, not all of them will be.

The buy vs. build analysis will become more difficult. I think that is a good thing. The end goal is to do more with less and to lower the cost for consistently delivering supportable and maintainable code that meets the requirements. I think Dublin (and .Net 4.0) helps us down that road. In my mind, I’ll always see a need for BizTalk and will continue to recommend it to my clients as a core component in the enterprise when it makes sense.

I do not foresee a world without BizTalk, but I am excited about the world with options that include BizTalk and Dublin.

If you are looking for more information on Dublin, I have a screen cast available (https://www.biztalkgurus.com/media/p/21919.aspx) and a high level visual review of Dublin (https://www.biztalkgurus.com/blogs/biztalk/archive/2008/11/10/first-look-screen-shots-of-windows-application-server-dublin.aspx) available on my web site.

Stephen W. Thomas
www.BizTalkGurus.com

First Look Screen Shots of Windows Application Server – Dublin

Make sure you check out the video content on Dublin available on BizTalkGurus.com:

First Look at Windows Application Server (Dublin)

Dublin is the code name for the new Windows Application Server components.  At the core, Dublin is designed to be a hosting environment for Windows Workflow and Windows Communication Foundation based applications.  It integrates into IIS and provides eight new features out of the box. 

If you have worked with BizTalk Server 2006 in the past, as we walk through the next few screen shots keep saying to yourself…. “this is not BizTalk this is a new Application”.  The likeness to BizTalk 2006 will make adoption by fellow BizTalkers straight forward.

Setup and server configuration of Dublin is done though the Windows Application Server Configuration tool.  This is seen below.

Drilling down into a specific section on the left (such as Runtime) will show the specific configuration for that item.  The look and feel of this configuration is just like it is inside BizTalk Server 2006.

Once setup and configured, Dublin is currently managed though IIS.  The picture below shows these eight new features.  These are added under the WCF/WF Services section.

We will take a closer look at each new feature.

Application Export – This is used to export an Application.  You get a nice simple interface as seen below.

Application Import – This is used to import an Application.  You have the ability to configure parameters during import as seen below.

Database Configuration – This is used to configure the default Persistence and Monitoring database for this instance of Dublin.

Diagnostics – This is used to set up Tracing and Message Logging. 

Persisted Instances – Clicking the Persisted Instances icon launches the window below.  This is an organized view of the count and status of workflows for a given application.  All the items listed are links that can be clicked on to drill down into a specific section.  This view is just like the BizTalk Server Admin tool.

Services – Based on the selected scope, this will show you the Services inside the Virtual Directory.

From the Services Pane you can drill down into more detail by right-clicking and selecting Persisted Instance from the context menu (this can also be done from within Persisted Instances view above).  You have the ability to Suspend, Terminate, Abort, or view Tracking Data about specific instances as seen below.

Selecting View Tracking Data will view available tracking data for this workflow, as seen below.  Double clicking on a specific tracking record will give more details on that specific item.

Tracking Configuration – Tracking configuration lists the available profiles that can be applied to an application.  Out of the box are three profiles, Basic, Verbose WCF, and Verbose Workflow.  In the picture below, BestPetServiceTracking is a custom tracking profile used to track user specific values.

Tracking Profiles – Custom tracking is just a few clicks away inside Dublin.  Once a custom tracking profile is created, it can be uploaded and made available to use for tracking.  Inside the labs, Microsoft provided a Tracking Profile Editor (just like the one in BizTalk) that can easily create custom tracking profiles based on a workflow.

 

I hope this gives you a quick overview of Dublin, Microsoft’s new Application Server.  For anyone that has worked with BizTalk in the past, working with Dublin will come naturally.  Enjoy.

First Look Screen Shots of Microsoft’s Modeling Platform – Oslo

Make sure you check out the video content on Oslo available on BizTalkGurus.com:

First Look at Quadrant – Oslo’s Modeling Tool

First Look at M – Oslo’s Modeling Language

Oslo is the codename for Microsoft’s Modeling Platform.  The end goal of Oslo is to increase productivity by promoting the use of model-driven applications.

Oslo is composed of three pieces: a Tool, a Language, and a Repository.  In this blog post, I will share some features and screen shots of the tool and language. 

The Tool for Oslo is called Quadrant.  Quadrant is a universal modeling UI with robust features.  The main windows is called a workspace.  You can have multiple workspaces open at any given time.  Single windows open inside a workspace are called a workpad.

Below is a picture of Quadrant with a workpad open in the workspace. 

 
(Click picture to enlarge)

Quadrant has a top level ribbon bar much like Word.  This is shown below.

(Click picture to enlarge)

In the bottom left of the main Quadrant windows, you have an Explorer button and Search Box.

The Explorer window expands as items are selected with the sub-results displayed to the right.  A hand with 5 fingers shows how to select items.  Scrolling is identified by a mini-scroll bar to the right of the hand.  To add new items to the workspace, move to the left icon of the items you want to add.  The hand will turn to 3 fingers.  Hold the left mouse and drag the items to the workspace.  You can also drag-and-drop from the top ribbon bar as shown below. 

Many models will have relationships to each other.  In these cases, available fields from other models will be show in a populated drop down as seen below.

 

This should give you a high level overview of the look at feel of Quadrant.

The second key component of Oslo is M – the new Modeling Language.  To code in M you use an awesome, lightweight tool called Intellipad.  Intellipad with a completed model are shown below.

 
(Click picture to enlarge)

Looking a little like Wordpad, do not be fooled.  This is full featured, complete with red underlines for real time validation.

Going to the M Mode menu on the top toolbar, generating actual SQL based on your model is only a click away.  Below, is the same model with a side by side view of the model and the SQL to generate that model inside SQL Server.

 
(Click picture to enlarge)

Running this model would produce these results inside SQL Server.

One of the core concepts that make up Oslo is the idea to define models using Domain-Specific Language (DSL).  In fact, using M you can create you own DSL!  Below, you can see how I created a AllMyPets DSL to track the name of my pets.

The third piece of Oslo is the Repository.  This repository is a SQL 2008 Database.  Using a database as the repository allows for easy access to the stored data and a way to share it.  Security, backups, and scaling are all included using SQL Server.  This will not be covered in any more detail in this blog post.

Make sure you check out these other Oslo Resources:
Oslo – PDC-08 CSD Bits Review

MSDN Oslo Dev Center

Models Remixed

Videos on Modeling (Oslo), Windows Application Server (Dublin), and .Net 4.0 Workflow

Today is a great day to be a BizTalk Developer! Why? Microsoft has introduced .Net 4.0, Windows Application Server (Dublin), and Microsoft’s Modeling Platform (Oslo).  These new technologies compliment the existing Connection System technologies.

As you look though the various technologies one thing is consistent: Take the best things of BizTalk and allow others outside of BizTalk to leverage it!

I’ve put together over an hour of first look videos to help show the new features of Microsoft’s latest offerings.

The following videos are now available on BizTalkGurus.com:

First Look at Windows Application Server (Dublin) – If you do not watch anything else, watch this video! This video takes a look at the new Windows Application Server features. It shows how to export existing applications and import them into another host on another server, how to set variables inside Workflow 4.0 to be tracked, how to create a custom tracking profile, and how to configure your service to use this custom profile. (Download WMV)

First Look at Quadrant – Oslo’s Modeling Tool -This video is a quick overview of the new modeling tool Quadrant. It walks though the basic user experience. It shows how to work with and edit exiting models, drop workpads onto the workflow surface, add and edit data, and edit existing models. (Download WMV)

First Look at M – Oslo’s Modeling Language – This video walks though creating a simple model using the new M Modeling Language. A simple Domain-Specific Language (DSL) model is also looked at. How often do you get to see a new language? (Download WMV)

Consuming WCF Services in Workflow 4.0 – This video takes a quick look at the new designer experience for Workflow 4.0 inside Visual Studios 10. A simple application is created to communicate with an existing WCF Service. This demonstrates the new interface for Workflow and WCF interactions. (Download WMV)

Flowcharts and Rules in Workflow 4.0 – This video walks though creating an application using the new Flowchart style of workflow. Inside the flowchart workflow, the new Workflow 4.0 Rules are used to evaluate input data. (Download WMV)

It is important to point out that these sets of technologies are not designed to replace BizTalk but rather enhance the rest of the framework. BizTalk still serves a mission critical need as the Microsoft Integration Server and Adapter provider.

Have fun and enjoy!

Oslo meet BizTalk, BizTalk meet Oslo

Today at the SOA Conference in Redmond Microsoft publicly announced Oslo.  The next generation of Service Oriented Technologies that will be included in the next major wave of product releases.

Oslo will focus on two core areas: modeling and services. 

While Oslo itself is not a product, it will most likely have modeling tools specific to building, monitoring, and deploying Oslo based solutions.

Oslo will introduce new service offerings with a strong focus on "cloud" based technologies – using BizTalk Services.  But clients will still be able to leverage in house solutions.

Oslo will be part of upcoming releases of major software platforms including:

Visual Studio “10”

System Center “5”

BizTalk Server “6” (a.k.a. BizTalk vNext)

BizTalk Services “1” (yes, it will come out of beta someday)

.NET Framework “4”

What to do if you are an an existing BizTalk Developer?

I've heard it from many BizTalk developers I've worked with in the past years.  What should we do with Work Flow replacing BizTalk?  I'm sure the same people will be thinking… What should we do now with Oslo on the way? 

I think this statement from the Directions on Microsoft document says it best:
"The most important product in the Oslo initiative is BizTalk Server V6, which will deliver a new messaging component based on Windows Communication Foundation and a new workflow engine based on the Windows Workflow Foundation"

Right now: Keeping working with BizTalk!  With the understanding that down the road BizTalk will have enhanced support for WCF and WF.  Make sure you give the Directions on Microsoft document a read and remember it is still early on in the cycle so really anything is possible right now.

Don't get scared…  but we have to face the music that most likely Business Processes as we know it (Orchestrations) will be phased out and replaced with Work Flow.  As I see it, this is a huge step forward and expands the boundaries on what is possible inside BizTalk Server.

Not since the release of BizTalk Server 2004 have I been so excited about an upcoming Microsoft product release! 

We can expect to see some type of beta releases starting in 2008.

Full press release is here.