BizTalk is Dead? Really?


Seriously, every time I hear the phrase “BizTalk is Dead” or “BizTalk is Obsolete”, I want to scream. The speculation of BizTalk’s downfall multiplies exponentially with each new release of Connected System stack technology. With the announcements of Oslo and recent Azure App Fabric –June CTP, the blogosphere exploded with cries of “BizTalk is Dead”.

Personally, if one thinks of BizTalk as a brand, then yes, the BizTalk brand may become obsolete in the near future. Even that is speculation, one could argue. But, if one considers BizTalk as a set of tools or better yet as an Integration Enabler, then BizTalk cannot be dead. There may be re-organization around the tools – but they will not fade away. I agree that redundancies in form of Windows App Fabric and Windows Azure App Fabric do take away from BizTalk. They also create confusion in the mind of new and existing clients. Especially, when one’s marketing pitch does not mesh with the company’s technical pitch. A few years ago, I would just blindly advocate for BizTalk in scenarios involving hosted workflows as well as service compositions. In today’s technical world, that is no longer the case. Microsoft has officially labeled BizTalk as an Integration Server, while Windows Server App Fabric is labeled as an Application Server with Windows Azure App Fabric called a Cloud Integration Platform. It can get confusing between these 3 technologies.

If we mathematically establish a relationship between these 3, it will look something like:
BizTalk > Windows Server App Fabric + Windows Azure App Fabric

It can be argued that in near future Windows Azure App Fabric may expand to include more of the existing BizTalk tool set and that may make the relationship more like:
BizTalk = Windows Server App Fabric + Windows Azure App Fabric

This is where technical writers and bloggers jump in, and start saying that BizTalk is dead as it can be replaced by combination of the two technologies! In my opinion:

1. Azure App Fabric is not a mature product yet and it is too early to say anything. Remember Oslo?
2. It is quite possible that BizTalk tools will be re-organized around a cloud platform using Azure App fabric as core. Depending on how one sees it, it could be branded as a new version of BizTalk with Azure App Fabric as the cloud enabler. This will not mean the end of BizTalk.
3. The other possibility is that BizTalk and Azure App Fabric will continue their parallel paths for the foreseeable future. This will not mean the end of BizTalk either.

It could be said that Azure App Fabric is a new technology that BizTalk developers will have to learn. Just like the BizTalk 2004 release made BizTalk developers learn .net, and BizTalk 2006R2 made developers look into WCF.

Windows Server App Fabric is more of an Application Server than an Integration Server. However, BizTalk Appfabric connect allows .net developers to leverage the LOB Adapters and Mapper to create workflow solutions. This compliments BizTalk, just like Windows Azure App Fabric does.

As a BizTalk developer, I have mixed feelings. On one side, I feel dismayed that the BizTalk tool set is being broken and leveraged around different Microsoft stacks. Now everyone else will be able to enjoy the excellent BizTalk tool sets that were once the sole province of BizTalk developers. It more or less takes away this exclusivity we have enjoyed. On the other hand, I feel happy. As BizTalk developers, we are uniquely positioned to leave our mark across different technology stacks that will leverage these BizTalk tools.

Following are list of tools that are still exclusive to BizTalk, and should be considered when evaluating other options.
• Accelerators (EDI, SWIFT, Rosettanet, RFID, EDIFACT, HL7)
• Pipelines
• Flat File processing
• BRE (it is exposed as a REST API now but still under BizTalk licensing)
• BizTalk Mapper (BizTalk AppFabric connect enables you to use the mapper with Server App Fabric, still under BizTalk licensing)
• Non-WCF adapters like FileAct/Interact
• Host Integration Server

These exclusive considerations could ultimately make the choice between BizTalk and other technologies for you. As the MS Technology Stack expands, we will keep you abreast of new developments and continue to share our opinions.

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