Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Covered BizTalk Orchestrations today. The ability to model a business process using an orchestration is really appealing to me. Our current BizTalk implementation is entirely messaging only, no orchestrations.

It will be interesting to prototype some of our existing business flows using orchestrations and then some sort of testing like:

  • Benchmark straight messaging implementation with BTS2004, compare with BTS2002

  • Benchmark orchestration implementation with BTS2004, compare with BTS2002

  • BTW, there is an excellent demo, "Building Your First Business Process", by Mr. BTS himself covering some BizTalk orchestration basics.

    Looks like Mariusz Borsa and Erik Leasburg have already begun trying to ease the pain of BizTalk deployment. Their utility takes an example input binding file, and Xpath expression and a value to assign (mapping a logical to a physical value). It got an honorable mention on Scott Woodgate's blog today, so might be worth checking out!

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    Somewhat disappointed in some of the features/enhancements that I was really looking forward in BizTalk 2004. There are two areas that I had hoped to see some immediate relief for: configuration/deployment and document tracking.

    Configuration and Deployment
    I had been told that there would be significant improvements in this area, specifically the mention of being able to create "logicals" and "physicals" (this had been touted for the last year). Its seriously overrated, or I seriously underestimate its potential.

    For starters, with a BizTalk 2002 implementation well behind us, we've long since had a custom process in place for deployment and configuration. This process is not elegant, and its not all that easy, but it works. Its our equivalent of a "binding" file that BTS2004 will use to configure a server.

    Of course, our existing configuration and deployment process will break with the new version of BTS. We leverage an object model that will no longer be available (it has counterparts, but not in its current form).

    I'll be following up on this as I get deeper into the details..

    Document Tracking
    Once again, we have a specialized document tracking strategy that we had to develop because of poor support in previous versions of BTS. Maybe poor support is a bad choice of words, but it certainly didn't meet our requirements.

    The new document tracking, dubbed "Health and Activity Tracking", or HAT, first looks to be what we would want. However, there are restrictions when it comes to running the application (an HTA app, BTW...where did that come from??): the user has to be a member of the BizTalk administrators group, which of course gives perms that you don't want your average BA having in your production environment.

    It wouldn't be too difficult to re-write some of the functionality that the HAT tool provides, but our existing implementation is so much more robust it might be a difficult sell.

    I am still holding out that Business Activity Monitoring, BAM, feature will be enough reason to carry us forward anyway. More on that later..