Taking Maximum Benefits of the Operations Dashboard

From time to time we go on a call with our customers because they raised a support ticket, or simply to explain a particular feature of the product. During such sessions, in most cases, the Operations Dashboard is the first screen which will show up after starting BizTalk360.
Unfortunately, quite often we find that dashboard in its out-of-the-box status. In this article, we will explain taking maximum benefits of the Operations Dashboard.

The default dashboard looks similarly like shown below.

Taking Maximum Benefits of the Operations Dashboard: The default dashboard

Of course, it is up to our customers to leave the BizTalk360 Operations Dashboard to its defaults. However, there is a big opportunity to make the Operations Dashboard much more informative about your BizTalk environment. In this article, we will show some examples on how to improve the Operations Dashboard.

What is the Operations Dashboard?

The Operations Dashboard, the Home Page of BizTalk360, is designed to provide its users with valuable information about their BizTalk environment. The advantage is that each user has its own homepage and can shape it to his/her own requirements. For example, you can think of showing information in the following categories:
• Suspended/Running Instances
• Status of BizTalk artifacts
• EDI Interchanges and Transaction Sets
• ESB Faults, Itineraries and Resubmissions
• Customized information based on REST API’s
• Shortcuts to BizTalk360 features

All the information is shown in, what we call, widgets. For most widgets, you can decide on matters like:
• Location on the dashboard
• Size of the widget
• Refresh interval of the widget

In summary, by choosing the relevant widgets from the available set of widgets, rearranging and resizing them according to your needs, you can create a highly usable and effective dashboard which gives you a good overview of the health of the environment.
You can read more about Widgets and Widget Operations in the Documentation Portal of BizTalk360.

Before I joined Kovai.co, I was a BizTalk consultant and mainly had developer and administrator roles at many different companies. During that time, I frequently helped these customers out by installing and implementing BizTalk360. Obviously, setting up the Operations Dashboard was a part of that kind of assignments.
In many cases, I ended up with a dashboard like the one which is shown below.

Taking Maximum Benefits of the Operations Dashboard: Example of an optimized dashboard

Above dashboard is divided into the following 5 different sections:

1 – Shortcuts to BizTalk360 features
As BizTalk360 has grown over the years to a very rich-featured product, it can be hard to find your way through all the features. Because we want to make navigation throughout all the features a bit easier, we have added pinpoints to most of the features. By clicking on such a pinpoint, a shortcut to the feature is added to the Operations Dashboard. This first section contains several such pinpoints.

2 – Status of BizTalk artifacts
Part of providing an overview of your BizTalk environment is being aware of the status of your BizTalk artifacts. You can think of your Receive/Send Ports, Orchestrations, Host Instances and depending on your scenario, also the EDI Parties & Agreements. BizTalk360 helps you in providing the status of these artifacts in one glance, after you have added these artifacts from the widget library to the dashboard, resize them and drag them to the position you want them to show up.

3 – Some miscellaneous widgets
This section shows the following 2 widgets:
Monitoring status – this widget reflects the status of the BizTalk360 Monitoring Service. This Windows NT service is used for amongst others performing the actual monitoring, sending notifications, etc. Because this is such an important component, it makes sense to show its status on the dashboard.
Link to the documentation portal – to help our customers, we put a lot of effort into the maintenance of the documentation portal. Besides topics like Release Notes for all its releases, you will also find detailed information about all the features of the product. That’s why it is handy to have this portal easily accessible from the dashboard.

4 – BizTalk runtime information
Another important category of information to have at hand is the runtime information about Running and Suspended instances. BizTalk 360 contains widgets for both categories and for aggregations like Service Class, Service Name, Error Code, Host Name, BizTalk Application and few more. These different aggregations enable you to take the aggregation you prefer the most.
Besides the Runtime information, the section also shows the BizTalk Environment Properties, which you will find handy to have at hand.

5 – Alarm information
This last section shows information about the two different kinds of alarms. With BizTalk360, you can setup Alarms, being:
Alarms – used for threshold and health monitoring. The widget shows information about the number of created alarms, how many are Enabled/Disabled, how many alarms contain mappings to (BizTalk) artifacts and how many still need to be mapped to (BizTalk) artifacts
Data Monitoring – used for monitoring the processing of messages by BizTalk. This widget shows the number of monitors created for each type of monitor.
The purpose of these widgets is to provide the insight if, for example, alarms have been turned on/off for maintenance or few alarms are just empty containers and still need to be mapped to artifacts.

The described set of widgets is just an example. If you feel like some of those widgets are not helpful for you, it is totally fine to select different widgets from the library.

Custom widgets

From time to time, we see customers experimenting with the so-called Custom Widgets. A Custom Widget consists of HTML and JavaScript. By creating such widgets, you can make calls to REST API’s and show the output of such REST API’s in the widget. This leads to an enormous range of capabilities! We have seen customers making calls to BizTalk360 API’s to show the result of for example SQL queries, or the status of the BizTalk related SQL Server jobs, but we have also seen customers are embedding Power BI views directly in their BizTalk360 Operations Dashboard!

In the Documentation Portal, we have written an article about creating a Custom Widget for showing the results of a SQL query. We have seen that this is something quite useful. Read this article in the Documentation portal, or this blog post, if you want to know more about how this is done.

Global and private dashboards

The Operations Dashboard is the home page for the BizTalk360 user. However, having one dashboard might not be enough for your requirements. You might need to show a lot of different information on a dashboard, and having that information on a single dashboard would make it messy and you’ll lose the overview.

To help you out, you can create additional dashboards in BizTalk360. Additionally created dashboards show up in the Operations menu, under Dashboards.

Taking Maximum Benefits of the Operations Dashboard: Additional dashboards

In addition, you can choose whether a dashboard is Global or Private.

A Global dashboard can be accessed by anyone who has access to BizTalk360. A Private dashboard can only be accessed by the BizTalk360 user who created the private dashboard.

User Policy limited access to information

The data which becomes shown in the dashboards depends on the permissions which are provided to the user. This means that:

  • there are no limitations for a Super User
  • a Normal User will only have access to the information according to his/her User Access Policy. A few examples:
    • if the user has no permissions to EDI, the EDI related widgets will not show up nor be accessible for that user
    • information about BizTalk Applications (Ports, Orchestrations and Service instances) for which the user has no permissions, will not show up in the dashboards

Conclusion

With this article, we intend to encourage you to think about your Operations Dashboard. It is not hard to customize your dashboard and you will benefit from a nicely customized dashboard immediately!

If you want to discuss your Operations Dashboard or need some help to properly set it up, feel free to contact us at support@biztalk360.com.

 

Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 30 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently, he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

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