Category name:ServiceBus

The status of the Windows Azure Pack

Until now my focus was not really on the private cloud, but I was triggered by the fact that it was mentioned at Integrate 2014 conference in Seattle which I attended. During the conference I realized I didn’t know a lot about the Azure pack, while it will become very important. The current on-premise BizTalk version will eventually be replaced by what Microsoft is building at the moment. The future Azure version of BizTalk (orchestration engine, connectors, BizTalk microservices, etc) will be deployed on-premise by means of the Azure Pack. By the way the product team indicated a preview will be released around the BizTalk summit in London on 13/14 April 2015.

Then the blog post from Sven van den Brande about this topic came by and that was the trigger to actively take a look at it. I started my 6 year old server to take the first step, install Windows Server 2012 R2.

There are quite some blog posts about installing the Azure Pack like:


I took the ‘express route‘ to quickly install Azure Pack. This installation is meant for single server installs, where a typical Azure Pack production install requires multiple servers to host features you find in Azure like IIS for websites, SQL servers for databases, Active Directory servers for authentication and Hyper-V servers for VM’s.

Especially this blog post I found very helpful for guidance:

I followed this blog post to install everything necessary to run Azure pack on a single server, using SQL Server 2014 Express edition. Installing the Azure pack via the Web Platform Installer is pretty simple. You can check all screenshots in the blog post, as it wouldn’t make sense to add them here again.

After installing and configuration you get this interface (after a bit of playing around), which is pretty familiar but also far behind in features compared to Microsoft Azure today.

Azure Pack

The documentation is dated October 17, 2013 and the Azure Pack feature installers are from October 21, 2014. Also for example the Windows Service Bus hasn’t been updated since October 2013.

So why would you install Azure Pack in a production environment at the moment, if it is so behind in features and it doesn’t get regular updates?

Asking the question is answering it. I think the private cloud is going to become very important as replacement for current Windows Server farms, but for now it is not an option. It is fun to play with but that’s about it. I wouldn’t advise a customer to use this in production.

It is my guess that Microsoft is putting no effort in the current Azure Pack anymore, but is building a new Azure Pack for Windows vNext Server, which is scheduled to be release in 2016, even after Windows 10 server. Or even better, Windows vNext Server will be build to support a private cloud. The timeline for this will be aligned with other Azure features like Servicebus, API Management and BizTalk micro services. Like with the new BizTalk developments, the private cloud will just be an instance of Microsoft Azure which results in feature parity between the two.

We have interesting times ahead!

Dutch BTUG meeting with the BizTalk product team

Yesterday we had a special Dutch BizTalk User Group meeting. The guys from the BizTalk product team were in The Netherlands because of the BizTalk summit tour and they came by to talk about BizTalk.

Three presentations were given about the upcoming release of BizTalk Server 2013: one overview and two deep dives. Much of the overview stuff was already known. If you’re curious about the features and want to download the BizTalk 2013 beta, you can take a look here. One important take-away is that BizTalk will be available as Azure virtual image, and pay-per-use will bring BizTalk closer to smaller companies because the licensing costs will no longer be a barrier.

The other presentations were deep-dives about BizTalk 2013 adapters and the Azure BizTalk Services.

The adapters talk discussed the new SharePoint 2013 adapter, which is using the SharePoint Client Object Model (COM Winking smile ). No longer do we need to install something on the SharePoint server if we want to use the WSS adapter. Also the cloud adapters were discussed and demoed. More details can be found in this blog post. It is clear that the focus will be more and more on cloud connectivity.

The next deep-dive covered Azure BizTalk Services. This was formerly known as Servicebus EAI/EDI. Like discussed in this blog post it is the next step to bring BizTalk to the cloud. It is clear that BizTalk and Servicebus still are separate products. Both have transformation capabilities, but BizTalk is focused on XML-to-XML transformations using XSLT, where the Servicebus is capable of much more. It is likely that both products will merge.

The evening ended with Q&A. Some nice discussions about the direction of BizTalk. I asked a question about a long time rumor of replacing BizTalk’s XLANG/s engine with Workflow Foundation. Answer: currently there is nothing that you can’t do with the XLANG/s engine that you can do with WF, but the developer experience of WF is much better. It is unlikely that the XLANG/s engine will be replaced by WF soon, but the product team is working on enhancing the developer experience in future versions of BizTalk. Another question from the audience was about low latency scenarios. Because every message travels through the messagebox, it is difficult to implement a low latency scenario. The response of the product team was clear. BizTalk is designed with guaranteed delivery in mind, not low latency. Of course they’re working on improving performance, in BizTalk 2013 and SQL 2012 the team managed to improve performance of for example ordered delivery with 700%, but the motto is guaranteed delivery over guaranteed performance.

It was great talking to the guys that actually build the product and know every edge of the product!

Didago IT Consultancy

Azure Service Bus EAI/EDI April 2012 Refresh, What’s new?

Back in December 2011 Microsoft released the first CTP of the Azure Service Bus EAI/EDI. It showed what direction Microsoft is heading with bringing BizTalk like functionality to the cloud. Or to quote Microsoft:

“Windows Azure Service Bus EAI and EDI Labs provides integration capabilities for the Windows Azure Platform to extend on-premises applications to the cloud, provides rich messaging endpoints on the cloud to process and transform the messages, and helps organizations integrate with disparate applications, both on cloud and on-premises. In other words, Service Bus EAI and EDI Labs provides common integration capabilities (e.g. bridges, transforms, B2B messaging) on Windows Azure Service Bus”

If you want to read more about this, please take a look at my two previous blog posts about this topic:

BizTalk in the Cloud, one step closer (part 1)

BizTalk in the Cloud, one step closer (part 2)

Now Microsoft has released the second preview:

Service Bus EAI and EDI Labs – April 2012 Release

Download the April 2012 Release

So what’s new in this April 2012 release?

Regarding the EAI Bridges, we’ve got the following enhancements. BizTalk developers will recognize parts that currently only are available in BizTalk….

  • FTP Source Component. In the December 2011 release it was already possible to connect WCF endpoints via the publish/subscribe pattern. In this refresh another endpoint type has been added: FTP, which can be used as a source component on the configuration bridge. In the BizTalk world this would be the FTP adapter, but so far it is reading only.
  • Flat File Support. This is also a familiar concept in the BizTalk world. Combined with the FTP source component, flat files for example can be read and converted into XML now. But also via HTTP flat files can be read and processed. The available flat file wizard looks quite the same as currently can be found in BizTalk Server.
  • Schema Editor. Previously only available in BizTalk, now also part of the Service Bus EAI/EDI release. Used to create and edit XSD and flat file schemas
  • Service Consuming Wizard. Also straight from BizTalk Server, the possibility to generate the necessary artifacts to be able to consume WCF services. The difference with EAI is that it only generates an XSD and no other output files like binding info and an orchestration.
  • Operational Tracking of messages processed by the bridge. This is also something from BizTalk Server. Within a bridge, a message undergoes processing under various stages and can be routed to configured endpoints. Specific details of the message such as transport properties, message properties, etc. can be tracked and queried separately by the bridge developers to keep a track of message processing.

For Service Bus Connect, there are the following enhancements.

  • Support for Windows Authentication while connecting to on-premise SQL Servers
  • User Interface enhancements
  • Support for SSL

The transforms also have been improved.

  • New map operations. In BizTalk this is called ‘Functoids’ but are named operations here. Added are:
    • Number format operation, to format an input number using a given format
    • Date/Time operation, to manipulate date/time
    • Generate ID operation, to generate a unique ID of a given length
  • Runtime behavior configuration. This is also interesting for BizTalk developers, because like Microsoft says:”In this release, users can configure the runtime behavior for how the transform handles exceptions, errors, null values, and empty data input. This configuration can be done for each transform”. This sounds exciting and probably something we’ll be seeing in the next version of BizTalk Server.

Finally the EDI or Business to Business Messaging, which now has support for:

  • Processing batched EDI messages. You can now use the TPM portal to configure agreements that can process batched messages coming from trading partners
  • Tracking and archiving EDI messages. You can now use the TPM portal to track messages as they are processed using the agreements

I’m looking forward dive into the details! BizTalk Server in the cloud again one step closer!

Didago IT Consultancy