Integrate 2016

By jpsmit
May 16, 2016

I already knew it was quite some time ago since my last blog post, but man, more than 9 months since! Shame on me.

The main reason I picked up blogging again is because there is so much going on in the integration space. This became especially visible during lasts weeks conference, which is the largest integration focused and Microsoft oriented conference in the world: Integrate 2016 in London, organised by the BizTalk 260 team.

There are so many recaps available, like from Steef-Jan Wiggers, Rob Fox, Eldert Grootenboer, Kent Weare and of course BizTalk360 itself, so I won’t go into that. The purpose of this blog post is to add new insights, or rather my insights based on the sessions and discussions during the conference.

BizTalk Server 2016

First of all the session on BizTalk Server 2016 (scheduled for RTM in Q4 of 2016). Microsoft clearly mentions their on-premise tool for integration is BizTalk Server and that they will continue to invest in it, but the (only!) session about BizTalk 2016 was quite disappointing. While 45 minute time slots were available, the talk only took 32 minutes. True, some demos were shown as part of the keynote, but if there is so much love for BizTalk Server, it shouldn’t be a problem to talk for hours about it. Main take aways from this session:

  • SQL Server AlwaysOn support
  • Platform alignment (Windows Server 2016, Visual Studio 2015, SQL Server 2016, Office 2016)
  • New adapter for interfacing with LogicApps (available in CTP2), which is cool by the way
  • Lots of customer asks and pain points solved (which ones remain quite unclear, besides “the BizTalk mapper Schema dialog window is now resizable”)
  • Nothing mentioned on ESB

I would expect to get to see the ‘lots of customers asks and resolved pain points’, but I guess it still isn’t possible to generate a multi-input message map from the map creation wizard……
Sorry for being sarcastic but this really didn’t show a lot of love for the product.

Microsoft Flow

One thing that couldn’t be skipped is the recently introduced competitor of Zapier and IFTTT: Microsoft Flow
This is a lightweight version of Logic Apps and is meant for business users. It won’t be directly part of the integrators toolkit, but it contains some easy to do integrations you should know about. Rule of thumb would be to use Microsoft Flow ‘when you can do development in production’. This means no need for source control etc. Although this is very conventient for business users, I fear the management around this as long as there is no tooling available to maintain the endless integrations the business users will create. Microsoft said that when this goes GA there will be tooling available to maintain, monitor, limit and create blue prints of company flows.

Azure Functions

One topic that really caught my eye is the power of Azure Functions which was demonstrated by Chris Anderson. You can do great things with it! It allows for creating (preferably) small logic components exposed as HTTP endpoints, for example functions to convert currency or perform calculations. Besides other things like triggers and schedulers, it is easy to create small API’s with it without having to host them yourself. From that perspective you can look at it as API Apps light and like with Flow I think some best practices are needed for the ALM part of this integration option.

Digital Transformation

This session on the role of the integration expert by Michael Stephenson was outstanding in my view. He clearly showed the fact that we as integration experts can no longer be on an island and need to transform into integration coaches. We passed the times where the ‘integration team ruled the company’ (or blocked the company!) and we need to be aware that other (.NET) developers will do integration work as well. This doesn’t mean we’re obsolete, but it means we have to adjust and take up the role of integration coaches and take care of the governance as we have great expertise and experience in that area. For complex integrations we’ll still be needed, but buiding API Apps or even Logic Apps will also be done by non-integration people. We have to define the blue prints and govern the integrations in the company.

Nick Hauenstein

I really don’t know where to start: with his performance or his session content. Man, both where awesome! He had a great story on the tools we have and that we should look outside our boundaries because there is a lot of greatness out there. BizTalk isn’t the only tool to do integration, so get out of your comfort zone. He demonstrated a solution where he built a BizTalk like solution (including correlation) in Logic Apps and API Apps. The well known BizTalk Pipeline is just another Logic App where we have full flexibility on the content and are no longer bound to the stages (nor be limited to a single component in a stage!). You can download the entire solution here. Last but certainly not least his performance. He was by far the most enthousiastic speaker at the conference. His energy blew me away!

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