About 10-12 years ago (around 2004-2005), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) was a big topic in the enterprise world. Massive projects were initiated to align enterprises to be more service oriented with a middleware/ESB platform like BizTalk Server in the middle.
When we talked about SOA implementation using Microsoft technologies during this period, only two technologies/platform stood out –
- Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), and
- Microsoft BizTalk Server
WCF was set of libraries built on top of the .NET Framework that helped to build SOAP based (later REST support was added) web services. WCF was more of a platform that shipped along with the .NET Framework and evolved gradually along with the .NET releases. BizTalk Server, on the other hand, was a full blown Enterprise Server Product that acted as a Middleware platform mainly addressing the challenge of not creating an integration spaghetti between those services (represented as APP in below pictures) created using WCF.
|Without BizTalk Server||With BizTalk Server|
BizTalk360 journey between 2011 – 2016
When we started BizTalk360 back in 2010, the objectives were pretty straight forward. Nearly 10,000 medium to large organisations have invested in Microsoft BizTalk Server to address their integration requirements.
We spotted a lot of gaps in BizTalk Server when it comes to BizTalk Server day-to-day administration and monitoring. It looked like a straightforward bet to build a world-class product that can help these 10,000+ customers to improve their operational efficiency.
We started off initially with BizTalk360 as a monitoring solution for BizTalk Server and the product slowly evolved into addressing various operational and analytics needs of the BizTalk Server. There are over 100 features in the product now covering various aspects of day-to-day operational needs like Security, Governance/Auditing, Monitoring, Analytics, Productivity Tools, Knowledge Base, Rich Dashboards, etc. making it a must have add-on product for any Microsoft BizTalk Server customers.
BizTalk360 currently has over 500 enterprise customers, and we are proud to say that Microsoft itself is one of our biggest customers. Microsoft internally uses BizTalk Server for all of their IT and Supply Chain requirements and they rely on BizTalk360 for their day-to-day operations. You can read the case study “Why Microsoft chose BizTalk360 instead of SCOM”
What is the state of Integration today in Microsoft Stack?
In the last 5-6 years, the innovation around technology exploded in all directions. Cloud and mobile became mainstream and companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google and IBM pumped a lot of investment into the cloud. On the other hand, SaaS (Software as a Service) based products exploded in other direction. Today, no one really wants to buy off-the-shelf software products, run their own servers and manage upgrades and patches. They simply want to use software or services provided by the third party rather than owning them. About 10-15 years ago, SIEBEL was the leader in CRM space, however, today that segment is ruled by technologies like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Similar story exists in all software segments like Source Control (GIT and Visual Studio Team Service), Productivity Tools (Office365, Google Apps), Email (Office365, Google) etc.
With all these changes, it’s natural for Integration Platforms and Products to evolve as well. The role of integration has become so immense in the last 5 years due to the above mentioned reasons. Today, companies buy/use multiple software products which do one thing really well rather than living with a monolithic beast software which claims to do everything but not good at anything.
This change in attitude also means all these independent software product/services need to talk to each other, which created a new segment of integration products in the likes of IFTTT, Zapier, Azure Logic Apps, SnapLogic, Dell Boomi, etc
Microsoft responded well to this growing challenge in the integration space, addressing the requirements of: Hybrid Integration solutions (the combination of Cloud + On-Premise integrations), Quick & Easy integration solutions, Business Users (aka citizen integrators) integration solutions etc.
If you look at Microsoft Integration Stack today, it’s not just BizTalk Server and WCF anymore. There are at least a dozen products/services that are mainly geared towards Integration in Microsoft Stack.
- Microsoft BizTalk Server
- ASP.NET Web API’s
- Azure Logic Apps
- Azure App Services (Web Jobs)
- Azure Functions (Serverless Compute)
- Azure API Management
- Azure Service Bus (Queues/Topics)
- Azure Stream Analytics
- Azure Event Hubs
- Microsoft PowerApps
- Microsoft Flow
- Azure Gateway (Hybrid Connection)
BizTalk360 – 2017 and beyond
One of the key aspects of a product company like us is that we need to be on the forefront of technology all the time. We need to adapt quickly to the change and understand the fact “change is the only constant”. We cannot just sit back and relax saying BizTalk360 is doing well. We have been closely monitoring the trend what’s going on, what will happen to the existing BizTalk Server customers in the next 10-15 years.
We are fortunate enough to build up a close relationship with Microsoft and the Integration community and are fully aware of the changes that are happening around Integration.
BizTalk360 is now slowly evolving into a product that will cater for the big picture. We wanted to create a single unified tool that will help any customer who invested in Microsoft platform for their integration needs.
We can clearly see the challenges that are building up when you have so many technologies included in a solution. There is no single management tool that will cater for the day-to-day operations. Customers might end up using BizTalk Server Admin Console for some of the activities and Azure Portal for some of the other activities, which is not productive and you are never going to be confident you set up access rights correctly across multiple tools, educating support people how to operate and monitor your solutions.
There are various other challenges like, for example, for Monitoring, you will need an end-to-end monitoring solution that covers both on-prem and cloud, you will also need tracking and analytics solution that will stretch between on-prem and cloud etc. We predict customers might end up building management tools, exactly like what they did 10 years ago for BizTalk solutions. BizTalk360 was born to address the challenge faced by BizTalk Server customers.
Today we are at a juncture where we see the same challenge at a bigger level and BizTalk360 is well positioned to address that challenge since we are already halfway through covering the on-premise solution.
What available and what’s coming in BizTalk360
We realized this situation almost 2 years ago and started expanding BizTalk360 to cover both on-premise and cloud technologies that fall into the Integration bucket with a vision of creating a single unified management and monitoring tool for Microsoft Integration.
Today, BizTalk360, in addition to its full blown support for BizTalk Server, can also manage and monitor related Azure Integration Technologies like
- Azure Logic Apps: Management and Monitoring (available now)
- Azure Service Bus Queues: Monitoring (available now)
In the upcoming 8.5 version (planned for July 2017), we are bringing in support for Azure Integration Accounts, App Services, and Azure Stream Analytics.
We are also working on a secret project with a bigger vision, which I cannot talk much at this stage (stay tuned).
We will continue our investment in this direction and make BizTalk360 a single must have tool for anyone using Microsoft Technologies for their Integration Requirements.