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Release of BizTalk Services Signals “Cloud First” Transition for Microsoft Integration Platform

by Richard Seroter on Nov 26, 2013 |

After a long incubation period, Microsoft released its cloud-based integration tool called Windows Azure BizTalk Services. While reiterating their commitment to their on-premises integration tools, Microsoft has said that it will push innovation to its cloud platform first.

Microsoft VP Scott Guthrie announced the General Availability of Windows Azure BizTalk Services in a blog post last week. He explained its core EAI and B2B use cases for organizations that want a cloud-hosted messaging engine.

Windows Azure BizTalk Services enables powerful business scenarios like supply chain and cloud-based electronic data interchange and enterprise application integration, all with a familiar toolset and enterprise grade reliability.  It provides built-in support for managing EDI relationships between partners, as well as setting up EAI bridges with on-premises assets – including built-in support for integrating with on-premises SAP, SQL Server, Oracle and Siebel systems.  You can also optionally integrate Windows Azure BizTalk Services with on-premises BizTalk Server deployments – enabling powerful hybrid enterprise solutions.

The released product includes a series of input and output adapters, executable messaging models called “Bridges”, a portal for trading partner management, and infrastructure for scaling integration applications.  Developers build messaging solutions in Microsoft Visual Studio and deploy components to Windows Azure at runtime. There are four available editions of the subscription service: Developer, Basic, Standard and Premium. The Developer Edition – which works with MSDN subscriber benefits – offers all the core capabilities of the service except for the ability to scale or backup solutions. Subsequent editions support more “scale units”, additional on-premises connections, backup and restore functionality, and data archiving. Prices range from $0.13 per hour for the Developer Edition to $8.06 per hour (per unit) for the Premium Edition.

Originally previewed in 2011 under the name Windows Azure Service Bus EAI Labs, BizTalk Services is loosely related to the mature on-premises Microsoft integration product, BizTalk Server. While they share a name, the cloud service contains only a small subset of BizTalk Server’s functionality, and solutions built for one cannot run on the other. However, at a BizTalk Summit last week in Seattle, Microsoft shared its aggressive plans for BizTalk Services that may eventually deliver parity with its namesake product. They expect to fill some immediate gaps by introducing new adapters, making it simpler for 3rd parties to develop adapters, and adding EDIFACT support for B2B scenarios. More ambitious future features include a durable workflow component, business process designer, rules designer, business activity monitoring, and improved management capabilities.

Microsoft plans to update BizTalk Services at least once every three months. This contrasts with the update cadence of BizTalk Server which will see a major new version every two years. Microsoft said that new technology will be first pushed to the cloud service before eventually making their way into the on-premises product. You can find more about BizTalk Services on the product page, and download the developer SDK to experiment with the service.

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Windows Azure BizTalk by Scott Berkin

Our organization has been happy with Windows Azure BizTalk Services. We needed to hire consultants to help create an architecture that blends integration best practices across all of our systems and partners. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here's a great resource: www.innovativearchitects.com/BizTalkEducation.aspx

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