Friday, February 6, 2009

Migrating BizTalk 2002 to 2006

Recently I was involved in migrating a BizTalk 2002 solution to 2006 for a large Candian customs and brokerage firm. With continued growth in the past few years and equally high growth forecast for future, the transaction load on the company's BizTalk Server 2002 environment had grown over many years
to a point where some transactions were taking close to 2 minutes to process. With future anticipated growth, it had become absolutely necessary that the environment be upgraded immediately, but the immediate need was to remove congestion and remove the single point of failure - which is the biggest Achilees heel of Biztalk 2002 - the lack of failover and clustering for redundancy.

BizTalk 2002, for those not familiar with it, is really a small subset of the functionality of what BizTalk 2006 today has grown to become. BizTalk Server 2006 is a significantly different product than BizTalk Server 2002. It not only provides a rich set of new features, but it provides new ways to do things. For example, imagine you have a business rule that must be invoked from numerous business processes. With BizTalk 2002, you can solve this challenge in one of two ways. You either implemented a decision shape in each orchestration or implemented the business rule in a custom object that is called from each orchestration. In BizTalk 2006, you may now choose to implement the business rule to execute within the Business Rules Engine that is called from each orchestration. The question then becomes, when I migrate this area of my BizTalk 2002 solution to BizTalk 2006, do I take advantage of the new Business Rules Engine?

The migration effort is riddled with issues like this. To help with the migration, I have attached a presentation comparing BizTalk 2002 and 2006 artifacts:

Comparision of BizTalk 2002 and 2006 artifacts


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Microsoft Data Access strategies

Lately, there is a lot of buzz around two technologies from Microsoft about representing and querying data. The first is the new Entity Data Model exposed as part of the ADO.NET Entity Framework, and the second is a set of extensions to the .NET Framework for integrating queries into the programming language known as LINQ.

What are these technologies, how do they relate to one another, and what role do they play in Microsoft’s Data Access Strategy? How do they compare with the current ADO.NET which is widely used? How does XML data access feature in the new world? What about the community projects like NHibernate and Repository Factory - how do they fit it?

See my PowerPoint presentation DATA ACCESS STRATIEGES - 2008 to get an idea of what to use where and how Microsoft's data access strategies have evolved.


Migrating SeeBeyond integration to Biztalk

Integration migration projects are humbling in their complexity. You are likely to run into daunting communication, management and operational challenges which can conspire to defeat your march.

But what happens when you need to migrate an integration, probably quite complex (say hundreds of interfaces) and settled in the organization to another platform, with minimal disruption of business continuity?

We faced such a challenge with migrating a SeeBeyond project at a large US client to a BizTalk platform. The project's achilles heel was the original SeeBeyond project built by a large consulting company (EDS) did not have a scrap of documentation.

SeeBeyond has historically been around as an EAI tool for over 15 years or more and was one of the pioneering tools in the realm of EAI (even before the EAI buzz word was coined). It was brought by SUN and the new version of its e*Gate tool redesigned so Java can be used for development. BizTalk is the relatively newer kid on the block with a different vision and is part of the .NET family.

How do you begin to approach this problem when a large multinational's business critical applications depend on this integration? Consider that professionals with a functional skills in both platforms (SeeBeyond and BizTalk) are imposssible to find. How do you assess the project scope, get the “big picture”, peek into many technical details and eccentricities early, and foresee upcoming challenges – not to mention planning ahead for infrastructure and performance?

As with most complex and large IT projects, there is no one magic bullet. We evaluated a range of strategies for project management and technical solutions. Planning for a migration strategy is key to a successful project especially when it is a complex, mission-critical EAI migration. Certain approaches are low-risk while others hide spiralling costs and technical pot holes. It is essential to identify the project roadmap and migration strategy blend before launching on this difficult path.

In the attached white paper, I share some project management strategies that worked for us for this project, which was a success.

Technically, SeeBeyond and Biztalk don't have a clear one-to-one mapping of features, and it is apparent at the outset that these are separate organisms from different lineages that evolved to fill the same niche, just like convergent evolution works in nature. So how does a BizTalk developer without SeeBeyond knowledge begin to proceed? In the white paper, I have tried to provide the best possible analogies between the concepts, features, technologies and artifacts of the BizTalk and SeeBeyond platforms. Please note that many parallels are mostly loose analogies to help the BizTalk developer gain a newcomer’s familiarity with SeeBeyond. Since the architecture of both platforms is different, drawing parallels between both is a hazardous task, fraught with shoe-horning and over-simplication. We have attempted it nevertheless - on the grounds of giving the migration team a first look / toehold into the world of SeeBeyond and dispel some of the fog surrounding it. Caution is advised against literal interpretation of these parallels – and no technical implementation based on it is recommended. A deeper and more thorough understanding of SeeBeyond Technical Architecure and concepts is advised before the migration project is undertaken.

White Paper: SeeBeyond to BizTalk Migration