Celebrating 100th Integration Monday Episode – Live Q&A session with Microsoft Product Group

|  Posted: June 22, 2017  |  Categories: Community Events

Background

It all started back in 2006 when Michael Stephenson and Saravana Kumar identified that people in the integration space lack the technical know-how of concepts. In an effort to bridge this gap, they decided to create a strong community where people can share their experience and learning with others. This saw the birth of BizTalk User Group. Later, when the integration scope expanded beyond BizTalk to WCF, AppFabric, BizTalk Services, the community was renamed as UK Connected Systems User Group (UKCSUG). In 2015, as the integration scope grew wider, the community user group was renamed as Integration User Group. You can read the detailed history behind organizing Integration Monday’s in our Integration User Group launch blog.

The 100th Episode- A Milestone enroute!!

Since the launch of Integration Monday on January 19, 2015, it has taken us close to 29 months to hit the milestone 100th Integration Monday episode mark. We have strived our best to consistently deliver one session every Monday (except public and bank holidays).  There is a separate team working to ensure the sessions are slotted out in advance for a quarter, getting in touch with potential speakers and scheduling them, having test sessions before the webinar, getting the registrations, social media promotions, uploading the videos and presentations after the event, and so on.

Statistics

A look at some of the statistics from the Integration Monday sessions.

integration user group

We wanted to make the 100th Integration Monday episode a grand one. After a lot of email conversations and brainstorming, we narrowed down on the option of having a 1 hour Q&A session with the Microsoft Product Group. Then we realized that the 100th Integration Monday episode falls exactly one week before INTEGRATE 2017. So it would only make sense to make the 100th Integration Monday episode to be a prelude to the biggest integration focussed conference starting on June 26th.

Join the community and get to share your knowledge with developers and architects to learn about the evolving integration technologies. Register for our future events.

Preparations for the Special Episode on Integration Monday

Few back and forth emails with the Microsoft Product Group (thanks to Saravana), we were all set for the 100th Integration Monday episode. We learnt that we will have the Pro Integration team presence across the different product offerings from Microsoft such as BizTalk, Azure Logic Apps, Azure API Management, Azure Service Bus.

integration user group

Jim Harrer – ‎Pro Integration Group PM, Jon Fancey – ‎Principal Program Manager (Azure Logic Apps & BizTalk), Tord Glad Nordahl – Program Manager (owning BizTalk Server), Dan Rosanova – ‎Principal Program Manager (Product Owner for Azure Messaging), Jeff Hollan – ‎Senior Program Manager at Microsoft (Azure), Kevin Lam – Principal Program Manager for Microsoft Azure Scheduler, Logic Apps, Azure Resource Manager and other services, Vladimir Vinogradsky – Principal PM Manager (Azure API Management).

Since it was only a one hour Q&A session, we decided to collect the questions upfront from the registrants. So, the team quickly set course to design an event landing page with all the session details and a simple form for users to submit their questions for the Pro Integration team.

Registrations

We received close to 200 registrations for the event and some very interesting questions from the attendees. We categorized the questions based on the product offering and shared it in advance with the Pro Integration team so that they can plan out their responses in the best interest of time.

Recap from the 100th Integration Monday Episode

The stage was perfectly set for the 100th Integration Monday episode. As attendees started to join in, Saravana Kumar started off the broadcast at 0735 BST welcoming the Pro Integration team and the attendees on the webinar. After a round of quick self introductions, it was time to get into the questions from the attendees. I’ll try to highlight some of the key discussions that happened on the webinar in this blog post.

integration user group

Question: What does Microsoft see as the future of Integration and what it means to Microsoft?

Jim Harrer: The past year (since the major announcements at INTEGRATE 2016) has been extremely busy for Microsoft in terms of bringing the team together and respond better to customer requirements, cater to the demands of our partner ecosystem and define the strategy around application integration and enterprise integration. Microsoft has achieved this by building the Hybrid Integration platform. Microsoft has been talking and dealing with “Better Together” strategy when it comes to cloud and on-premise offering. Therefore, the entire team (under the Program Managers on the webinar) has been focussing on the Integration strategy.

The team has really stuck to be Hybrid Integration platform and delivered some awesome stuff around it — Feature Pack 1 for BizTalk Server, Logic Apps and BizTalk Connector to connect the on-premise and cloud solutions, first class experience with Azure Service Bus and API Management. The focus for the future is to extend these offerings into other Azure services in order to have a Better Together strategy across all product offerings. In the last year, the key highlights were the GA of BizTalk 2016 and the Feature Pack 1 (totally a new concept from Microsoft) that received a lot of positive feedback from the community.

For more “exciting” information on the future of Microsoft and what’s lined up, you may have to wait one more week for INTEGRATE 2017 where the Pro Integration team will be releasing their vision, strategy and roadmap for the upcoming year. So stay tuned for our further blog posts from INTEGRATE 2017 🙂

Question: What kind of solutions are customers using Microsoft’s offerings? In other words, what kinds of features are customers leveraging Microsoft technologies for?

Tord Glad Nordahl: Customers are moving into the Digital Transformation world. Say, for eg., BizTalk server being used in scenarios where we would have never thought of in the past after release of Feature Pack 1. Customers have been able to define their workflows and build their own integration solution. BizTalk customers have started taking advantage of (for eg.,) Powerapp to manage their BizTalk server environment, connect BizTalk to SignalR, etc., and make their integration solution more interesting, smart and predictive.

Jim Harrer: “Integration is HOT. We are enjoying the hotness of this concept”. All Microsoft’s products are seeing the growth and the customer numbers are on the rise. Customers no longer can have siloed applications; instead they need to extend them out and maximize the value by integrating with different other systems. Vlad’s team (API Management team) have enjoyed the success where legacy systems are now starting to put their API into the API Management platform.

Vladimir Vinogradsky – Previously, customers were exposing APIs for mobile apps, partner integrations (closed connection). The way customers expose their APIs is now changing. These days, companies use API Management to manage both their external and internal APIs across the organization.

Dan Rosanova – Enterprise integration has got the right meaning over the last few months or so. Earlier it was within a team, department or business. Previously, for instance, someone may have only used Service Bus and some compute to perform all their integration. Nowadays, you need not write any code to use all the functionalities in Service Bus as Logic Apps gives you the complete control by means of its connectors.

Jon Fancey – Customers visit the Microsoft platform from different locations for different reasons. The general feedback is that they value the fact that they can get started from one place and then expand using Microsoft’s Integration Portfolio (rich services that are available on-premises and on Azure).

Question: How is being “Serverless” helping Microsoft?

Jeff Hollan: Serverless is the next step of evolution with Platform as a Service (PaaS). It does not mean there are no servers! There are servers, but, as an operator/developer, you need not worry about the servers. No worries about the server being secure, scalable etc!!

In Azure, there are few core offerings that are serverless – Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps. The unique advantage in the serverless story when it comes to Azure is that integration and serverless are treated as “hand in glove”. With Serverless, customers feel they can get something into production really quick and connect it to the system/API that I am concerned about. This helps the project IT to move faster to get into the speed of business.

Question: How is Microsoft BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1 being received by the customers? What’s the plan moving forward?

Tord Glad Nordahl: It was a complete team restructure that we had to go through during the release of Feature Pack 1 and the release process (from once in every 2 years for a major release). Feature Pack 1 was mainly intended to help customers do the better integration. Most suggestions for the features for Service Pack 1 actually came from customers through the Uservoice (Customer Feedback) portal. With Feature Pack releases, customers can do more with the services provided by Microsoft and improve on what they already have in store.

The plan is to continue the investment and working on the features that were shipped as a part of Feature Pack 1. For what’s coming more in upcoming Feature Packs, stay tuned for INTEGRATE 2017 announcements in a week’s time 🙂

Question: We see updates for new ServiceBus Library for a .Net Client to use Azure AD Authentication. What will happen to the existing Library that uses Connection String from Shared Access Policy. Will that continue to be in use with new updates added to them?

Dan Rosanova: Yes, both the libraries will continue to use SAS as it is very useful for high messaging scenarios. For the new library, the team is working on implementing Active Directory MSI (Secure Managed Identities for Services).

Question: I have a multi-cloud environment. Are there any Logic App AWS connectors that are in the pipeline?

Jeff Hollan: At present, there are no out-of-the-box connectors in the library (of the available 160+ connectors). If you would like to request for this connector, you can go to the Logic Apps Connectors Uservoice page and search if the request for the connector is already available. If yes, vote for the request so that the team knows which connector to work on priority. If not, you can create the request for the connector and the team will assess the demand based on the votes.

Request from the Pro Integration team – If you require any new connector or a feature in any of the products, the best place to request/show your support is through the Uservoice page for the particular product.

Question: Should I hollow out my EDI exchange running on BizTalk Server 2010 and move into Azure Logic Apps, or should I upgrade to BizTalk 2016?

Tord Glad Nordahl: This completely depends on where you are doing the workflow/integration. If it’s all on the cloud and you are communicating with your partners on the cloud, then Logic Apps is the best way to go forward. However, if you are doing a lot of stuff on-premise, then BizTalk is also the right choice. If there is a hybrid scenario where you do processing both on-premise and the cloud, then you can use both in conjunction. Therefore, it all depends on the need of the customer. So Microsoft’s responsibility is to provide features and products that customers ask for!

Question: When will we see a true PaaS implementation of API Management, with a corresponding price model?

Vladimir Vinogradsky:  There are thoughts behind getting a PaaS implementation of API Management, but no concrete timelines on the availability of this functionality.

Question: My question is around using SQL Availability groups in BizTalk setup. Currently with BizTalk Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016, it needs atleast 8 SQL instances to run BizTalk HA environment with SQL availability groups. With the announcement that SQL Server 2017 supports distributed transactions for databases in availability groups, does it mean that the minimum number of instances required will reduce from 8 to 2?

Tord Glad Nordahl: Definitely, yes! This will be addressed. The BizTalk team is working hard with the SQL team to get this addressed.

Question: Now that BizTalk Services is dead we are certain that the two tools that will be kept are BizTalk (On-Prem) and Logic Apps (cloud)?

Jon Fancey: A common question received by the Logic Apps team was “When should I use BizTalk Services and when should I use Logic Apps?” Since its absolutely ridiculous to have the same offering in multiple features, the team worked hard over the last 18 months to make sure all features that are a part of the BizTalk Services are shifted to Logic Apps. This has ZERO IMPACT on BizTalk Server. Although the name has the word “BizTalk Server”, it does not mean the end of the road for BizTalk Server. It’s just a shift to the capabilities and what the team is focusing on – BizTalk Server, Logic Apps, and Enterprise Integration.

Question: What’s the Future of Service Bus On-Premises?

Dan Rosanova: This was announced in January. The future is very well defined that it goes out of mainline support in January 2018. There are no plans to replace it. The On-premise roadmap involves Azure stack for better alignment with other services.

Question: Is Logic Apps a mature technology or not considering that it’s pretty much a new concept?

Jeff Hollan: Reading through the customer stories where customers talk about how they have been using Logic Apps in their environments and the different scenarios that they have implemented, it’s only unfair to comment on the maturity of the product as a whole. Logic Apps is just about 12 months since it went GA and seeing the number of customer success stories and numerous blog posts on how the community have been using Logic Apps makes us feel that we are in the right direction. Therefore, if there is any chance that Logic Apps ended up not having a great SLA, it’s not only for Logic Apps but around 10-12 other connected services/products in Microsoft’s offering feeling the ripple effect.

Logic Apps has been built very consciously by taking the learnings from BizTalk server and used the learning to build a very strong cloud platform for our customers.

With that, it was almost close to one hour since we started the session! Time just flew in the blink of an eye, but boy! what an engrossing discussion that was from the team. You can watch the video of the session here –

 

 

Final Question: What’s the roadmap for Healthcare companies to move to the cloud?

Jim Harrer: The Pro Integration team is already working on improving the vertical strategy given that a real good functionality exists around the product. The team is challenged to put together different solutions for different verticals, healthcare being one of them.

Jon Fancey: Microsoft is keen to developing and building a solid stable platform to provide a lot of general purpose integration capabilities across the board so that people can build mission critical integration solutions.

If you have any specific questions related to any vertical, get a chance to meet the same team next week at London at INTEGRATE 2017.

Feedback from the Community

Here’s what the community had to say about the Integration User Group initiative and on reaching the 100th episode –

Integration User Group Evangelises Microsoft Integration developments

Dedicated people, talking about things they love; The sessions stimulate me to try new things

Big kudos to BizTalk360 team for doing an amazing job in evangelizing Microsoft Enterprise Integration.

Feedback like this drive us to move forward and deliver the best content to our attendees. If you have not registered for our event updates, we recommend you to register for the upcoming events on the Integration User Group website.

Final wrap up of the session

Jim Harrer thanked the attendees who joined the webcast, congratulated the team behind Integration User Group for reaching their 100th milestone episode and the speakers who presented sessions on Integration User Group.

You can watch the previous episodes of Integration Monday on the Past Events section, and register for the upcoming events.

Author: Sriram Hariharan

Sriram Hariharan is the Senior Technical and Content Writer at BizTalk360. He has over 9 years of experience working as documentation specialist for different products and domains. Writing is his passion and he believes in the following quote - “As wings are for an aircraft, a technical document is for a product — be it a product document, user guide, or release notes”.

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