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Microsoft Launches BizTalk Server 2016

| by Kent Weare Follow 10 Followers on Nov 16, 2016. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

On October 27th, Microsoft launched their 10th release of BizTalk Server. This launch follows-up the March 30th release of BizTalk Server 2016 Community Technical Preview 1 (CTP).

BizTalk Server has historically been used by organizations looking to perform Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), business to business (B2B) integration including EDI protocols and building loosely coupled interfaces. With this release, Microsoft has further invested in hybrid and cloud connectivity for BizTalk Server. Frank Weigel, principal director, program management at Microsoft explains why hybrid and cloud connectivity is important for customers:

We realize that every company is undergoing digital transformation with the proliferation of applications, data and services. Whether your applications run in the cloud or on-premises, you should have the flexibility to seamlessly connect applications, unlock data and automate business process anywhere.

For customers who may be considering a BizTalk Server 2016 upgrade, Microsoft has identified some of the benefits:

  • Hybrid connectivity: With BizTalk Server 2016, customers can now connect to cloud native applications, web and mobile back end systems, and custom applications through the Azure Logic Apps adapter. This acts as a bridge to rapidly integrate numerous SaaS applications using pre-built, out-of-the box connectors. Azure Logic Apps adapter uses enterprise messaging in the cloud across partners and vendors and leverages the Microsoft Cloud to help you build holistic integration solutions. Customers can now take advantage of Azure Services like Functions, Cognitive Services, Machine Learning and more to gain actionable intelligence on their data and make informed business decisions.
  • Integration with the latest Microsoft products such as Windows Server 2016, Visual Studio 2015, SQL Server 2016 and Office 2016. Leverage first-class integration experience with the latest Microsoft products and services to enable seamless integration through BizTalk Server 2016.
  • SQL Server 2016 Always On Availability Groups offer a highly available solution in Azure, and on-premises. The traditional log shipping mechanism is now enhanced with an automated, faster and better way to achieve high availability and disaster recovery.

InfoQ recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jon Fancey, principal program manager at Microsoft about the release. Here is what he had to say:

InfoQ: This is the 10th release of BizTalk- what can you attribute to the success of BizTalk over the past 16 years?

Jon Fancey: I think BizTalk’s strength has always been its ability to solve real-world problems despite the complexities often faced. The real world is messy and many times elegant architectural solutions just don’t fit cleanly due to pre-existence of non-negotiable, customer-critical technologies – BizTalk has always, and continues to be,  great at cutting through these challenges and creating robust integration solutions. With 2016 we’re providing even more reach and capability for BizTalk to simplify connectivity to the cloud and simplifying BizTalk configurations themselves with SQL AlwaysOn support.

InfoQ: BizTalk 2016 supports SQL Server 2016 Always On Availability Groups. How do you envision customers taking advantage of this new feature?

Fancey: BizTalk has always done things ‘right’ but in the past that hasn’t necessarily meant the most convenient. In 2016, with our support for SQL Server 2016 and AlwaysOn Availability Groups (AG) support we’re really improving on this by providing organizations and DBAs a consistent approach to dealing with high availability (HA) without needing to rely on log shipping or exotic and expensive synchronous replication of their storage layer. Our support for AlwaysOn AG also opens a very important door to running HA in Azure on IaaS as well, something that many of our customers have been wanting to do to simplify their portfolios and improve agility through faster scale out using our cloud resources.

InfoQ: Hybrid connectivity continues to be a feature customers are demanding. How is Microsoft addressing these scenarios?

Fancey: Stepping back, Microsoft’s rich enterprise capabilities and connectivity options, from (Azure) Active Directory to Azure Service Bus are significant assets when dealing with the reality of hybrid integration. We know and understand that customers want to use the cloud on their own terms and at their own pace and that often means that they cannot or don’t want to move some applications or data – and that’s perfectly fine. So what we’ve worked hard on is making it as easy as possible to bridge that on-premises / cloud divide as seamlessly as possible. I think the new adapter for Logic Apps with BizTalk Server 2016 really simplifies connectivity and opens up a whole new set of opportunities for BizTalk customers to leverage the power of the cloud from their existing integration platform. The ability to extend to the cloud, integrate with the myriad SaaS services with new connectors appearing every month is something our early adopter customers are already telling us is very appealing.

 

InfoQ: Microsoft recently released connectors for Cognitive Services, how do you envision BizTalk customers using this new capability?

Fancey: Well, with the new Logic Apps adapter and BizTalk connector in Logic Apps, allowing bi-directional communication between the two, Cognitive Services used in a Logic App can trigger workloads in BizTalk or vice versa. A demo I did at Ignite recently showed how this might work, where I had a simplified order processing system in BizTalk communicating with various data sources on premises. However, I extended the existing orchestrations very easily such that when I received an order from a new customer, I pushed their information to a Logic App. This in turn used Cognitive Services and Bing Search to perform some analysis of the customer and provided a ‘score’. This is a simple example but hopefully you can see how powerful this is with the ability to enrich existing processes with data from new cloud sources, such as Bing, but also to perform real-time analysis on data such as determining sentiment and infusing these processes with that data.

InfoQ: You, personally, have been in the Microsoft Integration space for several years. What excites you most about this release?

Fancey: Several years- you’re too kind. One way or another it’s been the best part of 20. I’ve spent what feels like my entire career getting things connected with one another, whether it was Windows front-ends to mainframes or web service facades over multiple backend LOB systems, to integrating smart technologies into my home integration has always been in my life. I think this is probably the reason why it has always attracted my interest – it’s ever evolving and there are always new things that need to be connected to. And this is one of the features of BizTalk Server 2016 that I really am excited about. With the Logic Apps connectivity the boundaries are literally limitless and we’re working super-hard across the board to make ease of use a feature in all of this great technology. The cloud connectivity to on-premises is amazing, and I’m having such a great time working with and talking to customers, helping them see the possibilities. BizTalk Server customers now get the power of the cloud through our industry leading hybrid connectivity, on their terms, in their datacenters with their existing applications. That, to me, is game-changing.

 

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