Introduction to Microsoft BizTalk Server

Microsoft BizTalk Server (or simply “BizTalk”) is an Inter-Organizational Middleware System (IOMS) that enables companies to automate business processes, through the use of adapters which are tailored to communicate with different software systems used in an enterprise. Created by Microsoft, it provides enterprise application integration, business process automation, business-to-business communication, message broker and business activity monitoring.

BizTalk Server was previously positioned as both an application server and an application integration server. Microsoft changed this strategy when they released the AppFabric server which became their official application server. Research firm Gartner consider Microsoft’s offering one of their ‘Leaders’ for Application Integration Suites. While there is discussion of the product direction of BizTalk, especially with cloud software becoming more common, Microsoft continues to support and update the product and offer coverage at their popular conferences such as Worldwide Partner Conference. The Azure iPaaS (integration platform as a service) equivalents to BizTalk are API Management, Logic Apps, Service Bus, and Event Grid and between 2013-11-21 and 2018-05-31 included “Azure BizTalk Services”. The successor to BizTalk 2016 is on the product roadmap and slated for completion approximately 9 months following the general availability of Windows Server 2019.

In a common scenario, BizTalk enables companies to integrate and manage automated business processes by exchanging business documents such as purchase orders and invoices between disparate applications, within or across organizational boundaries.

Development for BizTalk Server is done through Microsoft Visual Studio. A developer can create transformation maps transforming one message type to another. (For example, an XML file can be transformed to SAP IDocs.) Messages inside BizTalk are implemented through the XML documents and defined with the XML schemas in XSD standard. Maps are implemented with the XSLT standard. Orchestrations are implemented with the WS-BPEL compatible process language xLANG. Schemas, maps, pipelines and orchestrations are created visually using graphical tools within Microsoft Visual Studio. The additional functionality can be delivered by .NET assemblies that can be called from existing modules—including, for instance, orchestrations, maps, pipelines, business rules.

The following is an incomplete list of the technical features in the BizTalk Server:

  • The use of adapters to simplify integration to line of business (LOB) applications (Siebel, SAP, IFS Applications, JD Edwards, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics CRM), databases (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database and DB2) and other Technologies (TIBCO and Java EE)
  • Accelerators offer support for enterprise standards like RosettaNet, HL7, HIPAA and SWIFT.
  • Business rules engine (BRE). This is a Rete algorithm rule engine.
  • Business activity monitoring (BAM), which allows a dashboard, aggregated (PivotTable) view on how the Business Processes are doing and how messages are processed.
  • A unified administration console for deployment, monitoring and operations of solutions on BizTalk servers in environment.
  • Built-in electronic data interchange (EDI) functionality supporting X12 and EDIFACT, as of BizTalk 2006 R2.
  • Ability to do graphical modelling of business processes in Visual Studio, model documents with XML schemas, graphically mapping (with the assistance of functoids) between different schemas, and building pipelines to decrypt, verify, parse messages as they enter or exit the system via adapters.
  • Users can automate business management processes via Orchestrations.
  • BizTalk integrates with other Microsoft products like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft SQL Server, and SharePoint to allow interaction with a user participating in a workflow process.
  • Extensive support for web services (consuming and exposing)
  • RFID support, as of BizTalk 2006 R2. Deprecated in the 2016 release
  • Support for Application Insight, as of BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1
  • Automatic deployment through Visual Studio Team Service, as of BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1
  • Exposed management REST APIs with full Swagger support, as of BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1
  • Exposed operational data with Power BI support, as of BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1

The above is a brief about Microsoft BizTalk Server. Watch this space for more updates on the latest trends in Technology.

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