Vanquishing Technology!

Here is a nice intro to Windows Server Appfabric by a good friend and colleague Steve and Danny. Cutting through all the hype and misunderstandings especially between AppFabric in the Cloud vs. Windows Server AppFabric. Also on when to position BizTalk versus Windows Server AppFabric.

Check this out:


The Problem
If you have been a BizTalk developer long enough, you will know that application lifecycle management has always been a pain point when it comes to managing BizTalk projects.
The Out-of-Box support available in BizTalk Server is not too great for things like automated builds, continuous integration, code analysis, code coverage, unit testing… I can go on and on, but I am sure you get the picture.
Thankfully, most of these are set to improve with the upcoming release of BizTalk Server i.e. BizTalk Server 2009, but there are still improvement areas that I hope the product group will address soon.
One of the other hard things (IMHO) that one needs to do early-on in a BizTalk project is to decide on the naming convention and projects structure for modular deployment. Sometime this is dictated by your customer and sometimes you just follow what has been decided by your company, simple isn’t it? Wish life was that easy 🙂
In reality you will find that customers want you to use their own guidelines that are often not complete or not fully thought-out, and you end up using that and try to fill the gap or modify it by adding your own stuff.
Is this so bad?… not if you have gone through this exercise and got it frozen and signed off before you start your development / coding, else, this can turn out to be the cause for endless frustrations for you and your team.
This is especially true for BizTalk projects, where you know that small changes to things like namespaces or typenames can cause a rippling effect across the project, and you end up rebuilding / reconfiguring all of the artefacts.
I have been on multiple projects in the past where naming conventions changed almost every week while the project was halfway through the development phase, so this is not an uncommon thing; however you need to be aware of this and take measures to avoid getting into such situations.
Another challenge is in sticking to the guidelines or conventions that you have so painstakingly chosen and frozen. If you have a large team, you will often see that not all developers are fully aware of the guidelines and conventions that are being followed in the team, especially when developers are constantly moving in and out of the team.
So what can be done in such situations? One of the things you can do on your BizTalk project is to run a static code analyser as part of your daily builds. I have always been a huge fan of build automation and the niceties that come along with it like automated testing, static code analysis report, code coverage report etc. There is nothing that makes you happier than getting up in the morning gazing at your PDA / mobile device to see that there were no errors or build breaks on the nightly build, especially when you are the Dev Lead / Architect on the project.
You must be thinking… “all this is great… but isn’t this is a BizTalk Solution?… how do you automate checking naming conventions?… especially on things like orchestration shapes, map names, physical ports etc…”. well you are in luck, you can now do static code analysis on BizTalk solutions too, thanks to Elton Stoneman for this cool new tool/plug-in called BizTalkCop available on codeplex.
Check out the links:
BizTalkCop is essentially a set of FxCop rules that will allow you to inspect BizTalk assemblies for structure and naming convention of your BizTalk artefacts such as Orchestrations, Pipelines, Schemas, Maps etc. It can even look into the deployed solutions inside BizTalk Server (using BizTalk Object Model and BizTalkMgmtDB) to validate the names of your physical ports and receive locations on your deployed BizTalk Server application.
If you are already familiar with FxCop, BizTalkCop provides you the same experience since it is just an extension of the FxCop ruleset.
BizTalkCop is currently is release 1.0 and contains a set of rules based on Scott Colestock’s naming conventions, but they’re (mostly) configurable so you can modify them to suit your own standards. You can create your new custom rules as well, since the full source code is provided with base classes and frameworks.
Another thing to note is that since BizTalk (2006/R2) projects are not integrated with Code Analysis tool in Visual Studio 2005, you need to download and install FxCop separately before installing BizTalkCop (even if you are using the Team Suite edition of Visual Studio 2005). I have not tried it with BizTalk 2009 Beta yet since I have it on Professional edition of Visual Studio 2008 installed on my VPC (Code Analysis is available only on Visual Studio Team Suite).
The link above provides instructions on how to install and configure BizTalkCop so I am not going to detail it out here.
Demo – The Bad Project
Let me illustrate the usefulness of BizTalkCop by running it on a badly done solution. I created a very simple BizTalk application a la “Hello World” in BizTalk (I call it the ‘BadProject’) without giving much attention to the project structure or naming convention (just used the default names, like we do most of the time). The application basically receives an inventory replenishment request; the request is transformed into a purchase order request and is sent out. For simplicity sake, both the receive port and the send port use FILE adapters.
So essentially, my BizTalk project consists of a single BizTalk project within which there are two Schemas, a Map and an Orchestration as shown in the solution explorer screenshot below:
The orchestration, transformation and schemas are all very elementary as shown below (notice the naming of the artefacts highlighted).
After I have built and deployed the solutions, I fire up FxCop, load the target BizTalk application assembly and hit the Analyze button. I selected only BizTalkCop rules and unchecked others
Note: You also need to make sure that BizTalkCop is configured to point to the right BizTalk application so that it can validate the application level artifacts like the physical post names etc.
You see from the screenshots that many errors (about 28 of them) are generated for such a simple application.
Here are the errors:
The errors are pretty self explanatory so I don’t want to go through each of them.
1.     Port names should be prefixed with their direction – start ‘ReceivePort1’ with ‘Receive.’
2.     Port names should be prefixed with their direction – start ‘SendPort1’ with ‘Send.’
3.     Receive Location names should be prefixed with their Receive Port name – start ‘Receive Location1’ with ‘ReceivePort1’
4.     Receive Location names should be suffixed with their transport type – end ‘Receive Location1’ with ‘.FILE’
5.     Artifacts should be declared in modules with the correct suffix – consider module name ‘BadProject.Schemas’
6.     Schema names should end with the data format. Format: ‘inventoryRequest’ is unknown
7.     Schema names should begin with the root node. Start: ‘inventoryRequest’ with: ‘Root’
8.     Artifacts should be declared in modules with the correct suffix – consider module name ‘BadProject.Transforms’
9.     Map names should have the format “SourceSchema_DestinationSchema”
10. Artifacts should be declared in modules with the correct suffix – consider module name ‘BadProject.Orchestrations’
11. Orchestration members should be Camel cased. Replace Message name: ‘InvReqMsg’ with: ‘invReqMsg’
12. Orchestration members should be Camel cased. Replace Message name: ‘PurchaseOrderMsg’ with: ‘purchaseOrderMsg’
13. Orchestration members should be Camel cased. Replace Port name: ‘Port_1’ with: ‘port1’
14. Orchestration members should be Camel cased. Replace Port name: ‘Port_2’ with: ‘port2’
15. Orchestration shapes should be correctly named – replace ‘ConstructMessage_PurchaseOrder’ with ‘Construct_PurchaseOrderMsg’
16. Orchestration shapes should be correctly named – replace ‘Transform_InvToPurchaseOrder’ with ‘Transform_inventoryRequest_purchaseOrderSchema’
17. Orchestration Shapes should have the correct prefix – start ‘MessageAssignment_1’ with ‘Assign_’
18. Orchestration Shapes should have the correct prefix – start ‘Receive_InvRequest’ with ‘Rcv_’
19. Orchestration Shapes should have the correct prefix – start ‘Send_POMsg’ with ‘Snd_’
20. Orchestration types should be Pascal cased. Replace Port Type name: ‘PortType_1’ with: ‘PortType1’
21. Orchestration types should be Pascal cased. Replace Port Type name: ‘PortType_2’ with: ‘PortType2’
22. Orchestration Types should have the correct suffix – end ‘PortType_1’ with ‘PortType’
23. Orchestration Types should have the correct suffix – end ‘PortType_2’ with ‘PortType’
24. Orchestration Types should have the correct suffix – end ‘Port_1’ with ‘Port’
25. Orchestration Types should have the correct suffix – end ‘Port_2’ with ‘Port’
26. Artifacts should be declared in modules with the correct suffix – consider module name ‘BadProject.Schemas’
27. Schema names should end with the data format. Format: ‘purchaseOrderSchema’ is unknown
28. Schema names should begin with the root node. Start: ‘purchaseOrderSchema’ with: ‘Root’
You can also save the FxCop project and use it in the command line option to generate a pretty cool report as show below.
Demo – The Good Solution
Now I took the same solution and made changes by following the naming conventions and also restructuring the solution to be suitable for modular deployment. You see from the illustration below, I have split the application into three separate projects so that it is not only easier to maintain and saves time during development, but it is absolutely critical that it is broken in this manner from an administration point of view when the solution is in production. Any seasoned BizTalk developer / administrator will understand what I mean here, it’s a whole different topic and don’t want to get swayed into that.
You also see in the solution explorer above that the name of some of the artefacts have also been changed in accordance with the naming convention. For example, the schema names indicate the data format and the root node name of the schema. I also made sure that the physical ports confirm to the naming standards.
The orchestration, map and the schemas below show that changes have been made in the names of the artefacts.
You can see from the below screenshots that the errors have been reduced to just one error.
To sum it all up, I feel FxCop / BizTalkCop makes a great tool to have in your arsenal for that next BizTalk project you are waiting for or even in your current project. Saves you (or the SQA team) a lot of time from having to check for the naming conventions manually on a routine basis and provides you reports on demand.

It can be used both on the individual machines as well as on the build server. You can integrate it with your build scripts so that your application health report now also includes static code analysis among other things. This way you can be assured and can sleep peacefully knowing that the code drop you just sent to the customer conforms to all the naming conventions without having to manually review it at the eleventh-hour, not to mention the amount of time saved. I hope to see many more new rules and improvements from Elton in future releases of BizTalkCop.

A good friend and colleague of mine has started a project on codplex to build a GUI for BizUnit,

Check it out here :


As I am into BizTalk consulting / development / training for quite sometime now, I feel that I am missing out on hardcore c# programming and the enchantment of object oriented concepts lately.

For instance, the other day I was trying to recollect the implementation details of the Decorator design pattern, and searched for it on the Internet and in the process, got glued at the wealth of information available on design patterns.

So I thought it would be helpful to have a quick reference list of the materials available so that i don’t waste time searching for them again.

Here goes:

Abstract Factory

Factory Method






More to follow soon…

I am sure most of you (not talking about the BizTalk gurus out there J) have worked with some of the open source utilities available for BizTalk such as the BizTalk Adapter Wizard or the BizTalk Server Pipeline Component Wizard or BizUnit. However what some of you may not know is the wealth of other open source utilities for BizTalk available on CodePlex.

Here are some of the interesting ones and their descriptions as found on CodePlex :

SDC Tasks Library – . The SDC Tasks are a collection of MSBuild tasks designed to make your life easier. You can use these tasks in your own MSBuild projects. You can use them stand alone and, if all else fails, you can use them as sample code.

BizUnit – Framework for Automated Testing of Distributed Systems – BizUnit enables automated tests to be rapidly developed. BizUnit is a flexible and extensible declarative test framework targeted that rapidly enables the automated testing of distributed systems, for example it is widely used to test BizTalk solutions. BizUnit is fully extensible. Its approach is to enable test cases to be constructed from generic reusable test steps, test cases are defined in XML which allows them to be auto-generated and also enables the ‘fixing up’ of Url’s for different environments, e.g. test, staging and production environments. Defining test cases in XML enables test cases to be auto-generated.

BizTalk Server Pattern Wizard – The BizTalk Pattern Wizard is an extensible tool to help you capture, share, and reuse your orchestration best practices. By using the BizTalk Pattern Wizard, you can capture a best practice, turn it into a generalized and configurable pattern, and share that pattern with the rest of your team or the entire BizTalk community. The wizard comes with over a dozen patterns ready for implementation in your next project.

WCF Adapter for BizTalk Server 2006

BizTalk Adapter Wizard for BizTalk Server 2006 – The BizTalk Adapter Wizard for BizTalk Server 2006 is a Visual Studio 2005 project wizard which creates all of the framework code for your custom BizTalk adapter. The adapter wizard is accessible from the Visual Studio menu: File – New – Project – BizTalk projects.

BizTalk Server 2006 Documenter – Creates compiled help files for a given BTS 2006 installation. This tool can be run on an ad-hoc basis using the UI or from the command line as a post build/deploy task to create a compiled help file describing a BTS 2006 installation. It will compile: BTS Host configuration, Send/Receive port configuration, Orchestration diagrams, Schema and Map content, Pipeline process flow, Adapter configuration, Rule engine vocabularies and policies, More… and publish them as compiled help files. Optionally you can embed custom HTML content and custom descriptions for all BTS artifacts to produce a more customized look and feel to the CHM output

BizTalk Server 2006 Orchestration Profiler – Creates CHM report files illustrating the level of coverage for specified BizTalk orchestrations. This tool can be run to gain a consolidated view of orchestration tracking data for a specified period of time to help developers get an idea of how their orchestrations are being processed and how much coverage they are getting in their testing. In addition to simple coverage information the data presented helps to identify latency and code path exceptions by highlighting long running and error prone orchestration shapes.

PowerShell BizTalk Provider – A full PowerShell provider for exposing BizTalk Server as a filesystem. Administer your BizTalk installation. List all applications / orchestrations / Schemas. Stop an application, enlist an orchestration … Use the full power of the shell to script away the pain of GUI based mass-management.

MapCop – A program for testing BizTalk map files (.BTM) for a set of best practices.

BizTalk Instance Controller – Limit the number of instances of any BizTalk Service.

Have Fun!

You know that BAM is used to gather statistics from your BizTalk application. What you probably don’t know is that:

  • You can collect BAM data from your non-BizTalk applications such as external .NET components that BizTalk calls into.
  • Tracking profile editor (TPE) is not the only way to collect data you can use a set of APIs available in the Microsoft.BizTalk.Bam.EventObservation namespace to read and write directly into the BAMPrimaryImport database.

Check out some of the links here:

Marty Wasznicky  and Scott Zimmerman have published a great article on MSDN on some best practices while developing BizTalk application.
Please read the detailed article here
Below are the main points of the article:
1. Always Use Multi-Part Message Types
2. Always Try to Design Orchestrations with Direct-Bound Ports
3. Always Use Separate Internal and External Schemas
4. Never Expose Your Internal Schemas Directly in WSDL
5. Always Optimize the BizTalk Registry for Web Services
6. Always Set the Assembly Key File with a Relative Path
7. Never Overlook Free Sample Code
8. Debug XSLT in Visual Studio

Here’s wishing you all a happy Easter!

Everybody these days seems to be pretty excited about the new PDF version of BizTalk 2006 documentation (Btw, a latest .CHM version is out as well, but there is no hoopla around that).

So thought I’ll  download the PDF version and check it out as I have been using only the .CHM version extensively. But I was not very impressed with what I saw.

To start with, the PDF version is really huge file 114 MB (whereas the .CHM version is only 44MB, the contents are the same), there is no way my PDA mobile device will load that kind of thing even with external memory card.

The links in the PDF version are not active (not clickable), so you cannot navigate through the document

Searching through the pdf document is very slow and the interface not as user friendly as the .CHM version.

The CHM version on the other hand (IMHO) is more convenient, and the search is blazing fast, you can do incremental search as well using the index tab.
You can even maintain a list of favorite pages just like keeping shortcuts, and the best part is, when I overwrote the old .CHM file with the latest version, all the old favorite pages (shortcuts) appeared intact.

I am not sure why we have a PDF version in the first place, I am sure missing out on something, someone kindly enlighten me please.