BizTalk 2006 deftly connects enterprise apps
Boasting across-the-board improvements, BizTalk 2006 carries on product line's rich EAI heritage
Developers who struggled with installation of BizTalk 2004 will appreciate how far it’s come. In one afternoon, I was able to install BizTalk 2006 from a DVD onto my 3.2GHz Pentium 4 computer with 1GB of RAM, already running Windows XP SP2, Visual Studio 2005, Internet Information Server (IIS), and SQL Server 2005. During most of that time, the BizTalk installer ran automatically, while I worked on a different computer.
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Many of the configuration decisions will be transparent to developers. You do need to know whether an end point is a database, flat file, Web service, or line-of-business application, but not the exact URL or location of the production end point; that can be configured at deployment time by an IT professional using the 2006 Administration Console and then modified when external conditions change.
Developers also don’t need to know whether a BizTalk application will run on a single computer along with its SQL Server message store or be deployed to a separate cluster. An IT professional can independently design and modify the deployment details later based on the application monitoring information.
In many organizations, business analysts determine much of the logic of an integration project. Analysts are often uncomfortable writing code in any programming language, or even running a development tool such as Visual Studio. BizTalk addresses this audience with a stand-alone Business Rule Composer and a downloadable Orchestration Designer for Business Analysts that acts as a Visio plug-in.
Something for everyone
The BizTalk 2006 Administration Console makes life relatively easy for IT pros responsible for BizTalk monitoring and deployment. By right-clicking on an application, you can start it; stop it; delete it; configure it; import another application or set of bindings; export this application, its policies, or its bindings; and add assemblies, scripts, resources, policies, or references. I was impressed with its ability to import and export whole applications packaged as unified MSI files. The Group Hub view gives you a high-level overview of all your applications and allows you to drill down to any items of interest.
Many business processes require human intervention; the classic example is purchase-order approval. BizTalk’s Human Workflow Services (HWS) is implemented using Web services that can be used by many clients, including ASP.Net Web sites, Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel, and InfoPath. It essentially offers a way to create BizTalk workflows for approvals and rejections by authorized parties. Developers can include HWS workflows by connecting the human actions to send and receive ports in their orchestrations.