CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog News Feed 
Wednesday, July 11, 2007  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

Two new whitepapers have recently been authored and will be posted to MSDN shortly.  These are full of key information on the primary issues customers may face when using the SQL and SOAP adapters with BizTalk Server.


They can be found at: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/biztalk/aa937652.aspx.


Best Practices for the SQL Adapter


Sample Design Patterns for Consuming and Exposing Web Services from an Orchestration


Kudos to our fantastic Support Engineers who continue to publish relevant content back to our customer base!


Enjoy,
- Doug

Wednesday, July 11, 2007  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

Two new whitepapers have recently been authored and will be posted to MSDN shortly.  These are full of key information on the primary issues customers may face when using the SQL and SOAP adapters with BizTalk Server.


They can be found at: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/biztalk/aa937652.aspx.


Best Practices for the SQL Adapter


Sample Design Patterns for Consuming and Exposing Web Services from an Orchestration


Kudos to our fantastic Support Engineers who continue to publish relevant content back to our customer base!


Enjoy,
- Doug

Tuesday, October 31, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

BizTalk Server 2004 Service Pack 2 is now released to web.  All BizTalk Server 2004 customers are encouraged to read the release notes carefully and install the service pack as soon as possible. 

English:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=en

Chinese (Simplified):
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=zh-cn

Chinese (Traditional):
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=zh-tw

French:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=fr

German:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=de

Italian:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=it

Japanese:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=ja

Korean:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=ko

Spanish:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D20B4510-E5A6-4D7B-87A1-4BD52BDD57B8&displaylang=es

A fix list can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/924330/en-us

Tuesday, September 05, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

BizTalk's September theme on TechNet is performance and there have been several new whitepapers created and published as part of this theme.  BizTalk Server 2006: Managing a Successful Performance Lab was a collaborative effort between the BizTalk TAP team, Product Team, Ranger Team, and MCS, and an attempt to establish a canonical process around managing a performance lab that can assist the field, partners, and end customers tackling such an engagement.  Inevitably, we hope this will lead to more successful implementations of BizTalk in the future:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Part of every application’s pre-production testing should include performance and stress testing.  You should know the limits of your platform and your applications with certainty prior to ever receiving or sending a live message in production use.<o:p></o:p>

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Performance and stress testing can also intersect with capacity planning.  Understanding upfront what type of hardware you’ll require and how much will be critical for your business.  Also, if your company has very strict requirements for volume or latency with constraints on hardware, proving that the system can meet the required goals with expected hardware will be key.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

This document exists to provide some general guidance around approaching performance labs with BizTalk Server 2006.  For specifics, we have made reference to correlated documents that already exist on the web or in the product documentation for additional assistance.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Another interesting read is the BizTalk Server 2006 Comparative Adapter Study whitepaper which describes the results of a comparative adapter study—a set of tests that compared each adapter that ships with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 against its BizTalk Server 2004 SP1 counterpart under identical conditions.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 17, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

A new BizTalk Server 2006 whitepaper has been posted on the subject of developing a transactional BizTalk Adapter using the Microsoft Base Adapter Classes.

You can find the paper here:
http://download.microsoft.com/download/3/7/6/376a6f6c-8c97-4ab5-9d5a-416c76793fbb/Transact_Adapter.doc

Monday, July 17, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

A new Business Process Management (BPM) site was recently launched by Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/bpm.

Visit this site to learn how integrated, easy to use business process management solutions from Microsoft make it possible for organizations of all sizes to increase sales, reduce costs, optimize existing customer and supplier relationships, and recognize and react quickly to changing conditions to gain a real business advantage.

Monday, July 17, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

Some new scripts and utilities have been posted to the BizTalk Server 2006 Scripts site. 

One is a command-line utility (provided with code) to purge local and remote MSMQ queues and send sample test messages to these queues.  This could be very helpful when conducting performance lab engagements, resetting queues in between runs.

Another is a diagnostic tool that can help troubleshoot ESSO setup problems.

Enjoy,
- Doug

The sample scripts and utilities are not supported under any Microsoft standard support program or service. The sample scripts and utilities are provided AS IS without warranty of any kind. Microsoft further disclaims all implied warranties including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or of fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk arising out of the use or performance of the sample scripts, utilities, and documentation remains with you. In no event shall Microsoft, its authors, or anyone else involved in the creation, production, or delivery of the scripts be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or other pecuniary loss) arising out of the use of or inability to use the sample scripts or documentation, even if Microsoft has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

 

Saturday, July 08, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

A new BizTalk Server 2006 customer evidence video has been produced and published for Oncology Hematology Associates of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on">Southwest Indiana</st1:place>.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

See how OCA raised revenue by 15 to 20 percent by using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 and BizTalk Accelerator for HL7 to exchange patient data in real time between the practice management software, the billing system, an internal lab facility, and an external lab vendor with only two developers.<o:p></o:p>

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Video | Case Study | Solution Brief

 

For more BizTalk Server 2006 customer evidence, see:

http://blogs.msdn.com/CSDCustomerExperience/archive/2006/03/27/562292.aspx

Friday, June 23, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 will add several new features to the BizTalk product such as native EDI B2B services and RFID Framework plus it will include enhancements to improve compatibility with Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 products.

Summary of new features include:

·         Microsoft’s B2B EDI/HIPAA Solution

·         Microsoft’s RFID Framework

·         BizTalk Adapter for Windows Communication Foundation (formerly called Indigo)

·         .Net Adapter Framework

·         .Net Line-of-Business (LOB) Adapters (formerly BizTalk LOB Adapters)

·         BizTalk Dev Environment Compatibility with Windows Vista

·         BizTalk WSS Sharepoint Adapter Compatibility with MS Office 2007

BizTalk Server 2006 R2 TAP nominations are open through July 31, 2006 and space is limited.  This program is filling up quickly so if you would like to participate we would encourage to submit a Nomination form now.  Nomination forms and additional program details are available from BizTalk Server 2006 R2 TAP website.

To access this website please follow these instructions:

  1. Sign in using a valid passport account
  2. Select  Available Connections
  3. Look for  BizTalk Server 2006 R2 and select the Apply link on the right hand site
  4. Note: The BizTalk Server 2006 R2 program will not appear unless you are signed in with a valid passport account.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
  5. Select I Agree
  6. Complete the Registration form
  7. Once logged on to the BTS 2006 R2 Site select Downloads
  8. Select the BizTalk 2006 R2 TAP Nomination Form link

Please mail your questions to btsr2tap@microsoft.com

<o:p> </o:p>

Best Regards and we look forward to hearing from you,<o:p></o:p>

The BTS 2006 R2 TAP Team!<o:p></o:p>

 

 

Wednesday, June 07, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

Thanks to your input, we've created and published a new BizTalk Server 2006 whitepaper.   

This paper describes some key product enhancements of interest to Developers and IT Professionals which are included in Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006.  Of particular interest are improvements made to the application deployment and application upgrade experience via the platform’s application concept, the new BizTalk Server Administration Console, and developer redeployment enhancements made in Microsoft Visual Studio.

We hope you find this useful.
http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/3/b/53b9f43a-66e2-4b89-aca6-2577e71512f7/UnderstandBTSAppDepl.doc

Download more BizTalk Server 2006 whitepapers here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

Microsoft IT's BizTalk Server implementation acts as the hub between internal and external business transactions at the company, from the production and manufacture of the Microsoft Xbox® video game system through the movement of more than US$20 billion in treasury funds each month. How were these mission-critical applications running on BizTalk Server 2002 and BizTalk Server 2004 migrated and upgraded to BizTalk Server 2006? And what were the benefits to upgrade? Read the technical white paper and watch the new video.

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Technical White Paper | Video

 

For more customer evidence, see:

Microsoft Case Studies

BizTalk Server 2006 RTM and BizTalk Customer Evidence

Tuesday, June 06, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

You can find more information here: 

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060606/sftu068.html?.v=51 <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Saturday, June 03, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

<?xml:namespace prefix = o /><o:p><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p>

Are you interested in user groups and attending Tech Ed Boston?  If so, you might want to look into the following sessions:<o:p></o:p>

.NET User Group Open Forum<o:p></o:p>

Day/Time: Tuesday, June 13 7:45 PM - 8:45 PM<o:p></o:p>

This forum is setup for developers who have organized a .NET User Group in their local area and would like to discuss techniques of driving membership and promoting good content.<o:p></o:p>

Session Type(s): Birds of a Feather<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Culminis Open Discussion

Day/Time: was not noted on TechEd site

Come discuss Culminis operations, benefits, and plans with its leaders. Bring your recommendations and hear what others have to say. Bring your questions and see why Culminis is becoming so popular among the user groups. <o:p></o:p>

Session Type(s): Birds of a Feather<o:p></o:p>

Also, New England BizTalk User Group is having their next User Group Meeting on Wednesday, June 14th at 5:30pm at the <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 /><u1:place u2:st="on"><u1:PlaceName u2:st="on"><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Boston</u1:PlaceName></st1:PlaceName> <u1:PlaceType u2:st="on"><st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Convention Center</u1:PlaceType></u1:place></st1:PlaceType></st1:place>.  To register email moderator@btugne.org or call 617-832-9228.  <o:p></o:p>

</o:p></o:p> 

Friday, June 02, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

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If you are a world cup fan, you would appreciate this! 

 

You can download s+ for all games and put them in your outlook calendar: http://bcentral.co.uk/worldcup/default.mspx<o:p></o:p>

 

Enjoy!<o:p></o:p>

</o:p> 

Friday, June 02, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

BizTalk Server 2006 Best Practices Analyzer is used to automatically examine a BizTalk Server 2006 deployment and generate a list of issues pertaining to best practices standards for BizTalk Server deployments. The primary use of this tool is to examine BizTalk Server production and staging environments, although it will still be useful on Dev machines.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

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The Best Practices Analyzer performs configuration-level verification by reading and reporting only. The Best Practices Analyzer gathers data from different information sources, such as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) classes, SQL Server databases, and registry entries. The Best Practices Analyzer uses the data to evaluate the deployment configuration. <o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Downloads (live on 6/2):<o:p></o:p>

Thursday, June 01, 2006  |  From CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog

BizTalk product team is holding a series of focus groups at Tech Ed Boston.  Our goal is to have our best customers and partners have a chance to provide direct input to the BizTalk Server product group while we’re in early planning stages for future versions of the product.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

There are six sessions in total.  Details are provided here: http://www.microsoft.com/events/teched2006/focusgroups.mspx

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<o:p>We encourage you to participate and invite your colleagues and customers.  We want to hear your feedback!</o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

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</o:p>

 CSD Customer Experience Team's Blog News Feed 

 Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk News Feed 
Monday, May 07, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

In my previous post i had outlined my first attempt at creating solution templates using the Visual Studio vstemplates technique. I have now gone one step further and built an add-in that allows the user to apply solution wide settings to all the projects. The settings that can be specified are as follows

  • RootNamespace : Namespace prefix upto and not including the solution. This usually follows the format Company.Product. ProductGroup. (e.g) Microsoft.IntegrationPlatform.Services.
  • Solution Name: Taken from the active solution, but can be changed to anything needed - for example CustomerService. The reason this is provided is because some teams like to keep the entire namespace in the solution name but while generating assemblies, the prefixes could be superfluous
  • SolutionNamespace: Namespace comprising the rootnamespace and the solution. (e.g) Microsoft.IntegrationPlatform.Services.CustomerService where CustomerService is the functionality provided by the components of the solution.
  • Application Name: This is the Biztalk application name to be applied to the biztalk projects. Sometimes this is the same as the solution name but need not necessarily be so.
  • Key File: This allows the user to select an existing key file or to create a key file and have it applied to all the projects including the non biztalk projects (which is needed to allow them to be GACed). 

Acknowledgements
The strong naming functionality is borrowed from the work done by Jon Flanders and Carlos Medina . In Jons tool you can generate and apply a strong name to a biztalk project on the fly and with Carlos' enhancements,you can generate and apply the strong name to all projects, or if you already have a strong named project you can copy those settings across to other projects. You can also apply the ApplicationName to the active configuration.

In this tool, the extra functionality is that you can
(1) apply the application Name to ALL configurations - deployment/development/debug/release etc (i usually add in the debug and release configurations to my biztalk projects to make it easy for my automated build scripts to move between biztalk and non-biztalk projects and
(2) choose a strong name file from anywhere on the machine and opt to use a hardcoded path to the key file or a relative path. At this time the relative path can only be calculated from the solution root so the program copies the snk file to the solution root and calculates it from there. Technically it is possible to calculate relative paths to anywhere in the source tree, but right now the code does not support this.

You can download the add-in from here.

As always, your feedback will be appreciated and welcome to help make this tool better. I am looking at trying out some wizards next which will be more flexible and allow more settings and options to be specified.

Thursday, May 03, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Just a quick note to say that Kevin has a beta release of BizUnit 2.3 on  http://www.codeplex.com/bizunit. I had a look at the alpha version earlier and i must say that it looks pretty good. Theres a bunch of additions to the BizUnit() and Context() classes including the ability to pass a Stream to the BizUnit constructor which looks like a nice way to break the dependency on the raw XML. We now have the chance to use the Context in more depth including setting up property values into the Context and passing that into the BizUnit constructor.

I've queried about the documentation and whether CHMs will continue to be the only sources there. If so, then i plan to write more articles in the BizUnitExtensions project to cover the new stuff.

I havent had a chance to test extensions against this release, but there is definitely a breaking change in that the Context HasKey() and Change() methods that are used by some extension steps are not available anymore, but the good news is that the ContextManipulator step appears to work, so i guess i can change the code in the appropriate steps to use this step instead of Context Change, or i can move the context change and haskey() into the extension steps. Lets see how it turns out. I should be able to re-release an updated version of extensions as soon as 2.3 is complete.

Anyway, grab your copy of the latest BizUnit and test it out and post your feedback on the codeplex site. Enjoy...


Friday, April 27, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

I've always been fascinated with the concepts and technique of automating VS development through macros, add-ins, templates etc.By now at my clients site we have more or less standardised what our Biztalk "services" look like but since we are still in Biztalk 2004 I didnt want to waste time with VS2003 automation as things have become so much more polished and advanced in later versions. I recently spent a couple of days at another client site with v2006 setting up the solution tree and MSBuild scripts and then sat back and wondered why i didnt have a tool to set the whole thing up in 5 minutes. It would have saved so much time that could have been spent on more significant issues. So today, after much procrastination (and collecting links on the subject), I finally decided to take the plunge and create my own multi-project template.

There's a wealth of material on creating Visual Studio Item and Project Templates and one of the best I've read is How to create starter kits (including multi-project templates). I gleefully put in the .net class library and test projects, schemas, maps etc and ran the Export Template Wizard. Imagine my horror when i found that it would not pick up Biztalk projects!!. So i got stuck for a while. I did have a look at Jon Flanders awesome videos on his Pattern Wizards including the facility to create biztalk project wizards from your own projects. I say, that guy is really something!! Anyway, that helps to some extent in that we can now "export" existing biztalk projects and use them later (and make them highly dynamic through wizards etc), but it still doesnt help create a multi-project template.

So I went ahead and decided to try and experiment. With the starter-kits article in hand I created the basic .NET projects and then decided to take a set of biztalk projects and add them in. I removed all the unncessary items, except for the btproj file. I then added in a .vstemplate file and a icon file (from the exported .net projects). I then edited the vstemplate file to set the links to the btproj files and so on. Ultimately having put them all together and zipped it up and dropped it into the Templates folder, voila, it worked. I have a multi-project solution with Biztalk projects in it.

In the btproj files i can set macros such as $safeprojectname$.Unfortunately no matter what I try it will not accept items such as schema files, maps etc. VS always complains that it cannot find the files even if they are included in the package. So i gave up that route and left the projects empty. I would like to try to set the Application Name as the name of the Solution in all the btproj files, but there doesnt seem to be a template parameter to do that

You can find the results of my handiwork at my new codeplex project site here . Feel free to play with it and let me know your thoughts and suggestions.

I'm thinking of extending this with add-ins and macros to create msbuild scripts to build and deploy the solutions. This would give projects a good kick start. Of course, people modularise Biztalk in many ways, some have multiple schema projects, some have multiple orchestration projects and the layout is not always the same. And of course, once you start using Jons tool, then the solution will morph into something very different from what the starter kit looked. So the Build and Deploy script generator tools must be capable of running at anytime and regenerating stuff from scratch. The codeplex site should see some growth very soon. It would also be interesting to hear how others lay out their projects especially how branching is done.

I've also written up another little tool to generate my source tree, taking inspiration from tools like TreeSurgeon. I should put that up soon. For now , i guess these tools will work together, but in a slightly disjointed fashion and in time i'll get a deeper understanding of VS automation and with stuff like GAT, theres a lot that can be done.

The big limitation right now is that doesnt link in with Jons work in any way. All my project templates that i made are sitting in the Biztalk Project Wizards folder, but the vstemplate only shows its own collection of btproj files which arent dynamic in any way. If anyone has some experience on linking VStemplates with wizards and would like to sharet the info please let me know. I'd love to be able to link my templates to Jons wizards, thus making it a highly dynamic and rich experience in creating multiproject solutions.

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Just to inform users of BizUnitExtensions, that Kevin Smith (creator of BizUnit) and I have been having some extensive discussions on the BizUnit codeplex site (here and here) on how these two projects will continue to work together going forward since BizUnit is now active once again and Kevin has lots of plans for it and a new release with lots of good stuff is imminent.

Once the new release of BizUnit comes out the Extensions project will no longer release the core as part of the distribution but will continue to release test step libraries as it is doing now (perhaps with some structural or namespace changes), so we will have our own release schedule. I'm hoping that the changes we made to the core to allow some of the extensions to work will be retained by Kevin and that other changes we are proposing such as making all the properties publicly accessible to support tooling plans will also be acceptable.

If you would like to influence these decisions please do weigh in on the discussions at the BizUnit site. I have had some good feedback about the extensions roadmap but do continue to send us messages on what would be the most useful features.

Saturday, April 07, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Martijn Hoogendoorn has re-posted the link to his utility to programmatically generate orchestrations (now that he is working for Microsoft the old link on his previous blog no longer works). Check it out at:  http://blogs.msdn.com/martijnh/default.aspx . He has used the Microsoft.Biztalk.IMS.dll which contains interfaces such as IBtsVsDocument and the Biztalk Object Model dll to do most of the generation. This is quite different to Jon Flanders Pattern Wizards which have a wizard written over a bunch of VS2005 templates to generate what you need. In this codebase, Martijn has one class which generates a sample akin to the SDK CallOrchestration sample. Its pretty nifty and demonstrates how one can use the Biztalk TypeSystem to generate ports, message references etc. One thing which puzzled me is where he got the Biztalk.IMS.dll from!! Jon has that in his codebase too but i couldnt find that anywhere on my machine! Does anyone know where we can get that or where some documentation would be available?

So when would you want to code gen orchestrations? After all, using the orchestration designer isnt exactly rocket science and now that there is a wealth of community wisdom in the realm of patterns (encapsulated in Jons tool), why do we need this? I look at this technique as facilitating one layer of abstraction over the designer itself. Take the "Solution Designer" that Eddie Churchill demo'ed in a channel9 video  If you look at that, it shows how the Team Architect AD surface can be used to sketch your solution end to end and then generate the solution structure with stub orchestrations, schemas, maps etc. Thats a good application of DSL technology (although in the demo version it used windows forms, not the DSL toolkit which wasnt stable enough to be used at that time).

Anyway, back to the discussion. One thing about good architectures is that they should also be consistent (along with being flexible). So if you have a bunch of backend systems that expose similar interfaces to be integrated with (WS, queues, file ports etc) and if you have a choice of which interface to use, while you are well within your rights to use any way of connecting to them, IMO, a better way would be to establish a consistent pattern of connecting to them so that you can make sure your bases are all covered, your development team knows whats expected and you have a standard base for delivering estimates. So if you do this, then you can fairly well predict exactly what your "connector" looks like and then, if you have worked out the contract for your schemas etc, then you can just go ahead and code gen the entire lot. Use the VS automation model to generate the solution structure, add the various projects in programmatically and then inside each of them, use these utilities (like Martijns) to generate the rest (and in a future version of BizUnitExtensions, autogen your tests as well). This way we can maximize our "design contracts".

I do wish the Biztalk team would make the WebService Publishing Wizard available programmatically. (I guess the WSE publishing wizard is probably on its way out now that WCF is in production). This would help even more code generation. By the way, i heard that Eddie has left the BTS team and so the solution designer has been discarded. Anyone know the skinny on this? I would be terribly disappointed if this is the case because to me, that was the most compelling feature in the "future/vNext" Biztalk release (perhaps it was post R2).

By the way, I also came across another tool named BridgeWerx sometime ago that used a custom interface to sketch your biztalk solution and generate the codebase. I wonder if they have moved into the Microsoft DSL space now.

I've asked Martijn about the possibility of making this into a CodePlex project (although the source code is available with the download, putting it up as a project would make it more visible and get more collaboration). I'm sure that with more hands and more time (overall) there could be much more powerful things that could be done with the tool.

Saturday, March 31, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Hey everyone, I've finally managed to upload the v2006_R2 release. Its actually a rather small release and i know i've got to sort out my version numbering really soon. I promise to do that in the next release. I've been struggling with a VPC from hell that just crawls all the time and doesnt let me write any code at all and combined with the general lumbering behemoth that is VSTS, i'm just about stuffed  Since i dont have anything installed on my base laptop(and the workstation in the office wont allow me to connect to CodePlex)   i'm forced to work with the VM and i've spent long nights just disabling services and trying to get it to perform, but it wont. Ok, thats enough of my rant for the day.

This new release has the first cut of entlib logging added in and a new "MapExecutingStep" to test maps. The AltovaXmlValidateStep has also been enhanced and it now allows the user to specify whether the file is expected to fail or pass the validation (to cater to scenarios where we need to test invalid files). I've also added in some strongnamed EntLib2.0 dlls and a snk file into the References folder. You can of course choose to use your own entlib dlls. There is no separate test as such for entlib logging and the same test base is run and the system logs to a logfile specified in the config file for the tests.exe. I'm thinking of making the core libraries as exe's because we can add references to exe's now and this way i can supply a set of entlib config files with the library if people are interested.

Check it out and let me know if you encounter any problems. If you open the solution and the system complains about not being able to locate TFS just let it remove all the bindings.
When you run the tests the perfmon test still fails but thats because there are some hardcoded paths in the tests that i inherited and i still havent had time to fix them. But the step works so ignore the failing test.

The next version will incorporate the latest from Kevin Smiths core code base and i will make all the modifications needed to the BizUnit() and Context() classes, or i may just add another BizUnitEx() class and a ContextEx() class so i can continue making my changes without breaking any of his code. I'll also try and make all the properties public. From reading the description on his releases page and blog, it appears that Kevin is planning to do more stuff with BizUnit and im still waiting to hear from him about the possibility of collaborating. If i dont hear soon, then i guess it will be time to make a hard decision about whether to continue with the "extensions" tag for this project or just move to a completely separate code-base. Do stop by on the forums and let me know what you think about this.

Anyway, i hope you find the latest code base useful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

 I know its been rather quiet on the BizUnitExtensions front, but never fear, theres lots of stuff to come. But firstly, i do hope Kevin Smith responds to my comments on his workspace on joining forces. Im still waiting patiently. Although its good to see a new BizUnit core release with bug fixes and changes, its actually beginning to get problematic now because we have made changes to the core of the BizUnit class and other classes such as Context and now we have to port everything to the latest BizUnit codebase in order to keep things consistent and doing this to a code base which has now structurally changed is not easy. Added to that is the fact that we also wanted to change the structure of the code base (so we keep the standard test steps in one, biztalk specific things in another, msmq in yet another etc) so thats got to match up as well. I suppose these are the kind of scenarios where the C# 3.0 extension methods would come in really handy. Maybe its a good time now to break away from the BizUnit label and move to the more generic integration testing framework. What do BizUnit (and Extensions) users think about this?

Anyway, a good discussion has started on the forums at the extensions site (www.codeplex.com/bizunitextensions) with one of the new users querying BizUnits actual value (Why BizUnit) and finding some answers in the roadmap. I guess the reply to the question would be worth a blog post on its own!

So whats cooking with the Extensions project? Well, first of all I need to put down a release calendar showing whats coming up (based on the roadmap) in the next few releases, but right now the target is to get all the step properties, constructors etc public and to get entlib logging working. I have finished the entlib logging and will make it available as soon as possible. Its rather raw right now (ie) its a simple log format that more or less mirrors the console log but to a text log sink. i hope that this will stimulate some discussion in the community so we can improve the kind of logging (to event logs, perf counters etc).

Making the properties etc completely public is proving to be rather involved and raises lots of questions. For instance, if one could execute a step (for example, filecopy)  independently (by just setting the properties and calling Execute) and could do the same for all steps in the test case, then the question arises as to what value does the BizUnit testRunner provide ? Some possible answers are that it provides
(A) Execution context (but this could also be set and passed in) and the ability to keep a constant thread of logging through all the steps and
(b) also provides parallel execution (but MbUnit could provide that). (Speaking of MbUnit, it definitely looks much better than NUnit and i should try running BizUnit inside MbUnit to see what extra stuff i can squeeze with MbUnit.)

I think it might be a better option to provide the ability to set step properties in code but once we create a collection of steps, we would pass the collection to BizUnit and say RunTest(TestStepCollection). This way BizUnit can manipulate context and keep full control. The Execute() methods would all then become "internal" and available to friend assemblies rather than public. If you are using the tool currently or planning to then head down to the codeplex site and post your thoughts on this or email me.



Saturday, March 10, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Well, what do you know, looks like Kevin Smith has turned up again after a long hiatus. The BizUnit project has now been moved to CodePlex and i just pinged him to check if he wants to collaborate with the Extensions project as well. Hope something good comes of this. The extensions project has had a huge number of hits since the content and structure got revised and i'm still trying to squeeze some time from my schedule to write up the tutorials and all that, so if you've been waiting, dont give up, or better still, email me and let me know you're waiting. The last time someone did that, i wrote up the Context tutorial immediately so let me know if you want some information to be put on the site.

I should have taken Jon Fanceys advice (on his blog) seriously and "sacrificed chickens to the demo gods". I had to give a brief workshop on Biztalk to some new clients a couple of days ago and took the classic messaging & CBR example of mapping an employee message to an executive message. As with most demos, this simplest of scenarios failed miserably. Why are demos always like this? Being still stuck in the 2004 world for my current project(s) and demo-ing 2006 for the new project might have contributed,but its really the same product with a rather more shiny interface on top so i guess i had to chalk it down as one of those unexplainable things.

The problem we had was a weird one. Initially when designing the schema, one of the fields (Salary) which i promoted, was a string and then as i refined the schema i changed it  to a "long". Unfortunately the property schema had already been set by then and that took me into a rather long loop of re-deploying, changing the prop schema etc since i needed to check the value of that field and set another element in the target (using a scripting functoid). The messaging error that popped up continually was "cannot convert string to long". We just couldnt understand it because we literally wiped the schema and started again and the system seemed to have cached that message and kept throwing the same error. Even disabling the send port which did the mapping and retaining another port which forwarded the incoming message to another folder didnt work. Anyway, ultimately we just gave up in disgust cos we were running out of time and there were other things to work through.

Still, i wont take "no" for an answer from Biztalk and i gotta probe this and get to the bottom of it. Its kinda embarassing to see things like this happen  after you have been working with the product for quite a while, but hey, i've seen it happen to well known gurus in the community so why should i be an exception!!

Next time you are planning a demo, dont forget the chickens!!

Sunday, February 11, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Okay, so thanks to everyone who has downloaded the RC1 bits of the extensions library. It seems to be working fine and i havent recieved word of any problems (except for one small bug in the string formatter step which will be fixed in the next update. We've got a list of things we want to work on to make the framework more of a proper product and make it really tester friendly and we'd like to invite feedback via email and on the discussion forum at http://www.codeplex.com/bizunitextensions. Let us know what you think.

Right now its rather developer focussed and involves lots of code. Do you like it the way it is or should we aim to put in some fancy GUI? what other steps do you think are missing that would be valuable for us to add in? how about steps you might have written that could be added in to the main code base?

As for those of you who arent using this tool, what are you using to test your Biztalk projects? I've heard that lots of folk have just rolled their own custom framework steps based on NUnit and most do lots of manual testing. Is that really sustainable? what are the pain points you are facing especially when using Biztalk ? (Would also be interesting to know what other products such as TIBCO, webMethods etc provide in the way of testing) Perhaps we should open up some discussion on approaches to testing and what works and what doesnt? Integration testing is definitely one of the areas where there is little in the way of best practice published and available.

Saturday, January 13, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Although there are lots of differences between these systems (notably one being a product and the other just being a framework), there remains quite a lot of confusion for some people in trying to choose which to use. I came across a couple of good articles with information to help you make a decision between Biztalk and WF for certain projects where it may not be crystal clear.

1.  David Chappells excellent Introduction to Windows Workflow Foundation at : http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnlong/html/WFIntro.asp
and
2. Irena Kennedys post on Biztalk or Workflow at :http://softlogger.com/4314/BizTalk/SYSK-216--BizTalk-Orchestration-or-Windows-Workflow-Foundation.aspx

Hope you find these articles useful if you are at such a decision point.

(If anyone knows how to make firefox retain the hyperlink in the rich text editor or IE7 to display the rich text box instead of an ordinary text box, then please email me. Otherwise my only option is to go back to IE6).

Thursday, January 11, 2007  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Happy New Year to you all. Both the main contributors to this project coincidentally ended up ill over Christmas so it took a really long time to get this out the door, but the release candidate for V2006 R1 is now live. Grab it from the releases page.

We have also added in some steps that make use of EntLib v2.0 so you would need the Jan 2006 version if you wish to compile the source code. The binaries are in the bin folder and in another folder named References so you can repoint them if you have any issues in VS. I think it is possible to run these without actually installing EntLib but you may run into some performance counter errors. There are workarounds such as Installing the services for only the binaries used and setting the permissions for the perf counter user group, but generally on a development machine, you might as well install EntLib (unless you hate it or cannot use it for other reasons). Of course, you dont actually have to use the EntLib steps if you dont want to and you can get by with the others.

Do send us feedback and we will see how best to make use of entlib while keeping the core as lightweight as possible.

By the way, theres some good stuff on BizUnit snippets at  : http://blogs.msdn.com/yjhong/archive/2006/05/04/589611.aspx
and : http://www.biztalkgurus.com/blogs/biztalk/archive/2006/07/20/How-To-Add-BizUnit-Snippets-Into-Visual-Studios-2005.aspx

The snippets were done a long time ago by Young Jun Hong and they dont cover all the steps and of course, they dont include the new extensions, but we're trying to contact him to see if we can bring in these snippets into the project so we can keep them updated for all new steps.

(Do excuse the pasting of the links rather than embedding. For some reason firefox  removes the embedded links if you use the hyperlink tool and stupid IE7 does not even render the rich text box for blog entries).

Monday, December 11, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

I've just made an update to the R1 BETA release. Now instead of the multiple MSI's, the source code is packaged in a simple zip file and the bindings to source control have been removed. This should make this easier to use in your own directory structures. Also note that the Altova XML package has been removed from this download although it is still a pre-requisite to compile the package. If you do not wish to use AltovaXMlLremove the step from your copy of the source code.

Friday, December 08, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

I've finally made a release of BizUnitExtensions. R1 BETA is targeted at Biztalk 2004. It consists of the core BizUnit product (source and tests) as well as the Extensions (source and tests). The core code base has been bug fixed (for all steps we used in our projects). The tests for the core code base have been completely revamped. All XML comments were thoroughly revised (again, this was done only for steps that we used and we fixed warnings in all other files as well).

If you want to run the provided unit tests please remember that the unit tests are provided as a indicative sample of what may be achieved and not guaranteed to run on your machines. This is because unlike NUnit tests which test the assembly in question and can be assisted by mock libraries, the BizUnit assemblies actually control real orchestrations and other Biztalk artifacts which it is impossible to mock and provide.

The core product for v2006 comes with a sample solution but the v2004 does not (we inherited these products and only bug fixed the code where necessary) so dont accuse us of inconsistency!!We have run a couple of the test steps against the SDK samples and the documentation indicates which these are and you should have them deployed first before using the tests. 

The main thing is that the product works for all the steps we used (and there were quite a few that we used). But we didnt use ALL of the steps so it is quite possible that there are still some errors in the code base. Do report them and we will try and fix them. Or alternately if you can step through the code (which is very easy to understand) and provide a fix (and possibly a unit test-if it does not depend on your project assemblies) that would be very useful and we will include that in the code base.

As soon as a few people have used this and are happy that the product basically installs and works fine, we will upgrade it to the RTM release and barring bug fixes, we should be concentrating on v2006 after that, but 2004 WILL NOT be abandoned.

The changes to the core prooduct in v2006 would be a bit of a challenge because we have to merge our fixes from 2004 into the stuff that Kevin has written in 2006 and not lose any fixes he might have made.

We have fairly amibitious plans for v2006 including tests against the official MS tutorial scenarios that are more in-depth as well as some good tutorials based on our projects (without any confidential info of course), so please do support this effort. Theres actually a lot more on the cards, but we will reveal that when we make more concrete progress.

Another thing which would be useful for the community is people writing in to let us know how you are using BizUnit in your projects. Even if you cannot contribute code and support tools (for IPR and other reasons) it would be nice to know how its being used out there.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

A quick note to say thanks to all those folks who attended the webcast i gave yesterday on "Introduction to Biztalk" for VBUG. There was quite a good turnout and i enjoyed giving the presentation  Slides have been sent to VBUG and you can get copies from there. The WMV should also be available soon. Do email me if you have more questions on Biztalk, BizUnit and the stuff discussed in the webcast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

My BizUnit Extensions project is finally live on CodePlex . Check it out here . Okay, so there are no releases yet, but this is a start and coupled with my context tutorial on codeproject means i have finally started giving back to the Biztalk community. The first release should be ready very soon and if you are interested, post comments there or email me and join up and lets see how far we can take this tool.

Saturday, November 18, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

So after several cribs and rants about BizUnit, a while ago i decided to take matters into my own hands and went through the code base with a fine tooth comb and worked out what exactly it does and doesnt do.  I then wrote up a tutorial on the context object and have been intending to post it here for a long time. Finally i got round to it this evening as i was prodded by an email from someone who wants to check it out. So i have put up an article on this site and its available at this link

From the introduction :

BizUnit is a very extensible testing framework. One of the core elements of BizUnit is the Context object. Unfortunately the documentation does not explain how users can take advantage of it and it is left to developers to try and understand it from NDoc samples scattered around in the documentation.

This tutorial introduces the Context object and how it can be used in BizUnit based testing. It uses examples from the official documentation wherever applicable and supplements it where the information in the documentation is not very clear. It will not replicate the list of methods and properties etc, so for an exhaustive reference, please refer back to the documentation. This is the first in a series of articles on BizUnit.

Disclaimers & Misc stuff

The word template i used was really cool but the formatting available on this site is very limited so it looks rather poor and there is no provision for attaching entire documents, so please excuse the appearance of the article.  I have applied for a CodePlex project where I intend to put the articles and other tutorials as well as the code for the new steps we have written. As soon as that is available i will let you folks know.

I welcome any comments on this article and suggestions for improvement.

(Btw, I wonder if its my browser, but something appears to have happened to the rendering on this main page. All the posts are skewed in format)

UPDATE: The article is now live on CodeProject (while i wait for a space on CodePlex) . Check it out and rate it / send me some feedback.

Monday, September 11, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Got a great tip from a colleague that i wanted to share with you. Do the following steps

  • Open up a command prompt at "C:\Program Files\Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004\Developer Tools"  and
  • do a Regsvr32 BTSAsmExt.dll

Now in Windows Explorer along with Control Panel etc, you can see a new option titled "Biztalk Server Assemblies". Double click the assembly and it shows you the dependencies on the left pane and the components on the right hand side. For assemblies which contain schemas double clicking the XSD will open up a little browser to view the XSD.

This is pretty cool and saves the bother of having to open up the Biztalk Server Explorer every time and gives more info this way too.

Oh and by the way, before i forget, if you havent looked at the documentation for the Biztalk.ExplorerOM.dll, do that now. Its waay coool and shows how powerful and deep the object model is. We made use of it recently when writing some custom steps for BizUnit (more on that later , its almost midnight and i gotta go crash) and it really grabbed me. Now i've got plans for that baby!! :-)

Monday, September 11, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

A personal milestone.Following on from my talk at the VBUG local meeting a couple of months ago, I've now been invited to present an "Introduction to Biztalk" session at the VBUG 2006 conference. Im really excited about this. I think the timing is quite perfect too. We are currently exploring a move to v2006 and looking at how it can be used with VSTS, Software Factories etc and i think theres just about enough time to find out some useful stuff and present it along with the experience we've had so far with v2004. The session will feature both Biztalk 2004 and 2006, since the development experience is pretty much the same, with some improvements overall in 2006 (flat file wizard, publishing orchestrations as webservices, consuming webservices returning arrays, error message routing and so on). The major area however is the changes in deployment so that should get some coverage as well. We've also been working quite a lot with BizUnit and have written some custom steps in an 'extension' DLL project and im hoping to put that up for download after the conference. Stay tuned for more info.

Friday, August 11, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

For anyone following my second BTS Diary and wondering whats going on with the prolonged silence, do not fear. Theres a lot to come.

I've been in the planning stage for a rather sizeable project, the second phase of my current integration project. This part will stretch over a couple of years at least and should get me poking into the furthest recesses of Biztalk 2004/2006. The immediate piece of work is in integrating 3 or 4 systems and passing documents securely through webservices building on the architecture of the integration hub we started implementing a few months ago. Theres definitely going to be a fair amount of WSE involved so I picked up the MS Press Web Services Security Patterns p&p book on Amazon recently. Its so much easier to read than printing off a 1000 page PDF.The architecture in its current draft is beginning to appear a bit like an ESB with a whole of lot routing, distribution trees and dynamism built in.

Speaking of ESB, check out Brian Loesgen's blog for some work he did recently on a ESB system involving Biztalk 2004. Theres some really cool stuff that he's posted in terms of things to consider and how to educate developers in using the stuff you build. There was also quite a bit of a furore in the integration world recently when apparently a tech forum witnessed heated debate on the subject of ESB between some MS folk and Sonic folk. Ah!! nothing like a good fight to warm the heart !!

I've also been trying to get my head round some of the material on the SOA Blueprints that have been floating around the net. Theres some publicly available material on OASIS which is very interesting. You can also download the MS implementation of the Generico blueprint somewhere on MSDN , (cant remember the URL offhand). Im chewing the fat now on distinguishing Identity Services, Directory Services and  Security Services and trying to see whats the best way to position them and their relationship to each other. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2006  |  From Santosh Benjamin : BizTalk

Just finished watching a webcast on Enterprise Single Sign-On integrated with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004
and Microsoft Host Integration Server 2004
.
If you havent already seen that or arent familar with how SSO works and how AD and password synchronization can be used together with SSO, then check this out. Its really well presented with good demos. Since the transcript and PPT are also available if you dont have time to watch it all, then read the transcript. The SSO management story has improved a good deal in BTS 2006 and this should make the solution even more compelling. It should also be interesting to see how far they have progressed in linking this with ADFS and MIIS now.

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Last edited Dec 7, 2006 at 10:16 PM by codeplexadmin, version 1

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