Difference Between BizTalk360 And BizTalk Health Monitor

|  Posted: August 21, 2015  |  Categories: BizTalk360

BizTalk Health Monitor

You can download the entire article as a PDF document.
Difference Between BizTalk360 And BizTalk Health Monitor

Microsoft released “BizTalk Health Monitor” (BHM) in Jan 2014 after the BizTalk Server 2013 R2 release. From time to time, we receive queries from BizTalk people asking “What is BizTalk Health Monitor and how is it different from BizTalk360?” We do understand the fact that not everyone has the time to look into all the tools out there to draw out the comparison. As product owners of BizTalk360, it’s important for us clearly explain the difference.

Brief History About BHM

Majority of the people who worked with BizTalk for a long time would have come across “Message Box Viewer” (MBV) — a fantastic tool created by one of the Microsoft support engineer (Jean-Pierre Auconie – JP). The basic idea of the tool is to analyze BizTalk Message Box database (also other BizTalk databases like DTA DB, Management DB etc.), plus bunch of WMI queries against various health parameters, and produce HTML reports spotting inconsistencies in your BizTalk environment.

Over a period this tool was improved with more and more rules, which pretty much captured all the operational problems in your BizTalk environment. Examples: “SQL Server Agent not Running – BizTalk jobs can not run”, “Windows 8.1 Enterprise : BizTalk Server 2013 is not supported” etc.

MBV became a de-facto tool for every single BizTalk person to analyze any problems in the BizTalk environment. In fact if you raise any support case with Microsoft, the first thing they will ask you to do is to run MBV and send them the report.

Later Microsoft released another tool called “Terminator” which basically helps customer to clean up the mess in your BizTalk Message Box Database (ex: too many zombie messages,bulk terminate etc.) and bring it to a healthy state. Both Message Box Viewer and Terminator worked in conjunction. After analysis, MBV produced a clean-up XML file (mbvcleanupscripts.xml), which is fed into Terminator for execution.

Due to the popularity of both the tools, Microsoft decided to give some more importance to MBV and Terminator. They re-branded it as a single tool and called them “BizTalk Health Monitor”. Some big improvements were also made, for instance, instead of a standalone windows and console applications, they made it as a MMC snap-in which allows you to configure existing BizTalk Admin Console, Event Viewer and BHM in a single console. They also brought some nice features like dashboards, out of the box console for watching all the BizTalk performance counters (pre-loaded scenarios), and so on.

In a nutshell, BizTalk Health Monitor is an enhanced version of (Message Box Viewer + Terminator)  + Perfmon (with pre-loaded BizTalk scenarios) combined into a single application.

The below picture shows the BHM MMC console, and you can clearly see the 3 main sections of BHM.

BizTalk Health Monitor

Is BHM Really A BizTalk Monitoring Product?

The answer clearly is NO! As you can witness from the history and birth of BHM, when Microsoft decided to re-brand MBV+Terminator, they accidentally chose a name that contains the word “Monitor” in it. People shouldn’t confuse it with full blown BizTalk monitoring solutions like BizTalk360 or SCOM.

BHM is capable of running MBV analysis where you can schedule it to run on a periodic basis like Every XX day, hour, minutes etc., and send the report via email. But BHM clearly cannot monitor your BizTalk systems to see whether your Receive Locations are enabled, Send ports/Orchestrations are started, whether BizTalk host instances and Web end points are in desired state, disks, CPU, Event Logs, NT Services etc.

In our gentle opinion, “BizTalk Environment Analyser” or something similar should have been the appropriate name for BHM. That’s exactly what it is  doing under the cover.

Can You Compare BHM vs BizTalk360?

In reality there is no comparison between BHM and BizTalk360. It’s like comparing apples against oranges. Some people have the misconception that BizTalk360 is just a BizTalk monitoring product. But BizTalk360 is more than that. The idea behind BizTalk360 is to provide “One single operation and monitoring solution for your BizTalk environment”. It comes with over 60 features like enhanced security for access, basic to advanced monitoring solutions for BizTalk, various dashboards, productivity tools (like advanced event viewer, integrated knowledge base, Business rules visualizer), graphical message flow, EDI parties/agreement management, ESB exception management (edit/resubmit messages), Throttling analyser, Backup/DR visualizer, Auto-Healing of state-based artifacts, etc., etc..

As you can clearly see you shouldn’t confuse between BizTalk360 and BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM).

You can download the entire article as a PDF document.
Difference Between BizTalk360 And BizTalk Health Monitor

MBV Integration In BizTalk360

If in case you are not aware, Message Box viewer is deeply integrated into BizTalk360. Below is the screen shot from BizTalk360 user interface showing the message box viewer reports directly.

BizTalk360 - Message Box Viewer Integration

As a part of MBV integration, we achieved things like scheduling to run MBV on a periodic basis, storing the reports for future references, and even very sophisticated monitoring and notification based on MBV report. Example: You can get alerted if MBV execution reported more than xx- critical errors and/or xx-warnings. We also have maintenance tasks like purging out old MBV reports after a certain configuration period.

All these were implemented in BizTalk360 few years ago. Long before the current BHM brought these capabilities for MBV. If you are interested, you can read more about BizTalk360 – Message Box Viewer Integration here.

BizTalk360 Integration With BizTalk Health Monitor

Microsoft had clearly mentioned that the standalone version of Message Box Viewer (MBV) will not be enhanced anymore, and moving forward, all the functionalities of MBV will be available in BHM.

Many of our customers who are aware of MBV and BHM story were asking us about the integration of BizTalk360 with BizTalk Health Monitor. This is something in our pipeline and we will eventually change the current MBV integration into BHM integration. Since BHM uses the same engine underneath to run the queries and generate reports, few minor changes at our end will allow us to make the integration. Stay Tuned for more updates regarding this.

Hope this short article gives a clear picture of the scope of BHM and BizTalk360. If you are interested, you can try BizTalk360 for free in your own environment.

You can download the entire article as a PDF document.
Difference Between BizTalk360 And BizTalk Health Monitor
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.

  • michael stephenson

    very clearly explained as usual saravana

  • Toon Vanhoutte

    Nice article! The scope of BizTalk360 is indeed far beyond BHM, almost impossible to compare. However, BHM is very powerful and extensible, which could be valuable for smaller projects. What’s exactly meant with “BHM clearly cannot monitor your BizTalk systems to see whether your Receive Locations are enabled, Send ports/Orchestrations are started, whether BizTalk host instances are in desired state”? BHM contains queries that return the state of ports, orchestrations and host instances. This can be used to write custom rules on top of that, which could be scheduled every 5 min.

    • saravanamv

      I fully agree BHM is powerful offering, no one can deny the power of MBV + Terminator. As mentioned in the last part, BizTalk360 has first-class integration with MBV, it definitely solves a problem no one solves it.

      There is always an option to home grow everything :-), you can write custom SQL queries, C# code, WMI queries etc to poll all the state information like receive locations, orchestration, send port, host instances states etc and write piece of code to notify someone. The initial effort to build a simple monitoring solution will look like a straightforward weekend project, but to get it reliable, robust and ease of use takes time and effort. It’s all about how much time customer would like to spend on non-core business activities like this building a homegrown monitoring solution and overhead of managing it.

      It’s a simple analogy of whether you are going to use Excel for your accounting needs or going to invest in proper accounting packages like Sage, Xero etc. both will do the job.

      We thought it will be very easy for people (especially someone new) to get confused about BHM, hence I’ve put together this short article.

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