Book review Getting Started With BizTalk Services

Recently I was invited to take a look at the Packt Publishing book ‘Getting Started with BizTalk Services’ by Karthik Bharathy  and Jon Fancey.

This is the first available book on Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services and for that reason alone an interesting read. I’ve already played with BizTalk Services so I was curious to measure my knowledge against the book, moreover because the book assumes no prior BizTalk knowledge. The Microsoft Azure platform is expanding at a tremendous rate so I was also interested to see how up to date this book is, as it was published in March 2014 (although that’s only 3 months ago, the release rate of Azure features is quarterly).

To start with the last question, the book is still very up to date. No major changes or new features have been announced that directly impact BizTalk Services. So from that point of view it is still a reliable source of information (besides that WABS is called MABS now J).

The book is organized like this. It starts with a generic overview of what Azure is and for what scenarios it would be useful. It also covers the basics of BizTalk Services.

Next chapter is about the Mapper and from a on-premise BizTalk Server perspective it has been seriously improved. One thing the book briefly touches is the fact that the mapper is not based on XSLT behind the scenes anymore; it’s using XAML. One other thing is the ability to have some sort of exception handling in the map. This has been one of the missing pieces of integration regarding to BizTalk Server. For each operation you can specify what to do in case of an exception, fail or continue and output a null value. Of course this is not really exception handling, but it’s better than nothing.

Then a chapter about Bridges. I knew a bridge was comparable to a BizTalk pipeline but I was surprised to read that behind the scenes a bridge is using Windows Workflow Foundation. This is an indication that the announced workflow engine for BizTalk Services most probably will be Workflow Foundation as well.

Other chapters cover topics like

  • EAI scenarios
  • B2B scenarios (EDI with X12/EDIFACT)
  • Using the BizTalk Adapter Service to connect to on-premise LOB systems
  • Using custom code in bridges
  • Maintaining BizTalk Services using the API via PowerShell or REST service
  • Tracking and Troubleshooting
  • Moving current BizTalk Server investments to BizTalk Services (and when not to)

Especially the chapter about B2B is comprehensive. The X12 standard is used quite often in the US so it makes sense to dive deeper in that part (european customers are using EDIFACT). Besides that the B2B market is the most suitable to move to the cloud first, because it involved integration with other companies which is typically a cloud-scenario.

Everything in the book is described in clear language and doesn’t only scratch the surface. Some topics are explained in more detail including some background as well.

For anyone interested in BizTalk Services and wishes to be quickly up to speed, this is a perfect start.

Didago IT Consultancy