BizTalk Server 2013 R2 upgrade – Reasons to upgrade/migrate from previous versions?

|  Posted: June 30, 2014  |  Categories: BizTalk Server

BizTalk-Server-2013-R2

BizTalk Server 2013 R2 was released last week and one of the biggest questions lot of existing BizTalk Server customers have is whether to upgrade/migrate to 2013 R2 or stay in the current version. The answer to this question will depend on various factors, let’s try to understand the scenarios that can potentially require or force you to do the upgrade.

Before going into the details let’s take a look at 2 important piece of information, the history of last few versions of BizTalk Server and what’s new in BizTalk Server 2013 R2. Because these two factors are very important before we make the decision of whether to upgrade to latest version

BizTalk Server history

  • <<previous versions>>
  • BizTalk Server 2006
  • BizTalk Server 2006 R2
  • BizTalk Server 2009
  • BizTalk Server 2010
  • BizTalk Server 2013
  • BizTalk Server 2013 R2

What’s new in BizTalk Server 2013 R2

At a very high level these are the key features that are added in this release.

  • Support for Windows Server 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014, Visual Studio 2013
  • Updates to SB-Messaging adapter
  • Updates to the WCF-WebHttp adapter
  • Updates to the SFTP adapter
  • Updates to HL7 accelerator

For the complete information please refer to Microsoft release notes. Technically you can migrate to BizTalk Server 2013 R2 seamlessly if you are in the last 2 versions of BizTalk (2010 or 2013), but the decision to upgrade is not always made purely based on technical reasons. Let’s see some scenarios.

Scenario #1: Upgrade based on your platform requirements

This scenario is something you cannot avoid and will force you to upgrade to BizTalk Server 2013 R2. Every enterprise will have an internal platform upgrade story both for Windows Server and SQL Server.  The organisation may be currently running on Windows Server 2008 and every 5 years once they might have a platform upgrade across the company. When such things happen they will create a dependency matrix and if they identify any product that can be moved to latest platform, then they will ask the relevant teams to start the initiative. If such scenario happens then you’ll be forced to migrate to BizTalk Server 2013 R2. A similar story can happen for SQL server upgrade across the company.

Scenario #2: Upgrade based on your current version

Based on the current version of BizTalk server you are running in your organisation, you may be forced or it may be a good idea to upgrade to BizTalk Server 2013 R2. The below table gives the BizTalk Server product support lifecycle information with dates for end of both main stream and extended support. As you can see 2006, 2006 R2 and 2009 versions are already out of main stream support

BizTalk Version Support End (Mainstream) Support End (Extended)
BizTalk Server 2006 7/12/2011 7/12/2016
BizTalk Server 2006 R2 7/12/2011 7/12/2016
BizTalk Server 2009 7/08/2014 7/09/2019
BizTalk Server 2010 1/12/2016 1/12/2021
BizTalk Server 2013 7/10/2018 7/11/2023
BizTalk Server 2013 R2 7/10/2018 7/11/2023

There are lot of disadvantages being in extended support,

  • Non-Security hotfix support will require extended hotfix agreement, purchased within 90 days of mainstream support ending
  • You incident support will be chargeable
  • You cannot make warranty claims
  • You cannot request design changes and feature requests

You probably do not want to run your business on limited support, so it’s better to upgrade if your current version is already in extended support or your mainstream support is coming .

Scenario #3: Upgrade based on new features

BizTalk Server 2013 R2 is a small incremental release and it doesn’t come with lot of features. In fact there are no new features, it’s only updates to few of existing ones like SB Messaging adapter, WCF-WebHttp (with good support for JSON), SFTP and HL7 accelerator. We cannot see any compelling reasons to move to BizTalk Server 2013 R2 based on the features alone.

Scenario #4: Upgrade based on your current projects

Most of the time the cost of migrating from one version of BizTalk server to another is not the BizTalk server software cost, because typically you’ll be either covered with annual support assurance (SA) or you’ll have enterprise agreement package (EAP), which will allow you to upgrade and do a true up cost at end of the period.

The biggest cost factor is your functional testing efforts. Even though Microsoft (or any software vendor for that matter) will claim the upgrade will be seamless and will not effect anything. Chances are, something will get broken. If you look at the stack, you are upgrading lot of things Windows, SQL, .NET, BizTalk etc. at one go and you need to be super careful.

The best situation for you to plan for your upgrade and reduce the cost is to do it along with your project plans. If you have a big release coming, and if you are already planning for lot of functional testing, use that as an opportunity to migrate to new version.

If somebody claims their software/tool will magically help you on the upgrade process be cautious. There is no magic bullet here, no one will understand the complexities of the legacy systems you are connecting and their underlying limitations.  Only your QA team can warrant that after verifying their test cases.

Scenario #5: What if we are in the process of buying BizTalk Server

In this case, it’s kind of a no-brainer decision, you just buy the latest version of the product i.e BizTalk Server 2013 R2. Having said that we have seen companies using the policy of always using “Latest Version – 1” formula. They don’t want to risk with some unknown potential problems and wanted to stay with the version that’s in the market for a while. If you are in that situation, it’s perfectly fine to go with BizTalk Server 2013. But keep in mind BizTalk Server 2013 will not run (or supported) in Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014.

Please leave your comments if you have any other reasons.

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

  • Tarun

    Thanks Saravana for this post… 🙂

  • Murugesan Mari Chettiar

    Very handy.

  • Pingback: BizTalk 2013 R2 – Available and ready to work | Nino Crudele's Blog()

  • bala

    Thanks for sharing the information about BizTalk release and clearing the doubts for people who are planning to upgrade.

  • Sajith C P

    Thanks Saravana. We can use your tips as a reference for upgrading from any previous versions and not just 2013.

  • RajeshB Kolla

    Good post, Saravana. Since licensing model is changed from per-processor to per-core with any upgrades to BizTalk 2013+ (and SQL Server 2012+), there could be significant licensing cost increase depending on capacity of servers.

  • There are also a couple of very good reasons to not upgrade to BizTalk 2013 R2. R2 requires the following:

    – Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 SP1.
    – SQL Server 2014 or SQL Server 2012 SP1

    If a company is currently using Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2010 (both supported by BizTalk 2013) then this can be a substantial amount of work for an infrastructure team to upgrade the OS and DB when working with a large production environment.
    As Rajesh mentioned, licensing could also be an issue.

    There appear to have been some fundamental changes to the underlying BizTalk architecture. I am guessing Microsoft are making these changes to better support a hybrid on-premise/cloud based platform. Looking forward to BizTalk 2015 🙂

  • BraveHeart Wallace

    I have modified the EDI 837 schema’s that came with BizTalk 2010. It was ugly but we had a vendor that needed some extra nodes and would not bend. Do we use the same EDI 5010 schema’s in 2013 R2 that are used in BizTalk 2010?

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