13 October 2004

11 October 2004

week two at MTC(Microsof Technoloy Center)

We have been here for two weeks to work with MS technologists on a Biztalk proof of concept project for our B2B system integration. I finally can spare sometime to do some brain dump.
We completed most of the development tasks for the POC. The opened issues here are around testing and some deployment setups for non-core services.
Phil (card ops), Geoff and Ade visited us on Thursday for a mid-term work check. They seemed quite satisfied about what Biztalk can do and how Biztalk can be used by the non-technologist. We even got Phil to create and test an orchestration with his own hand on the mouse.
The most interesting bit is deployment automation. Biztalk Deployment is a daunting task:
First you need to deploy .NET assemblies to GAC (these assemblies typically provide utility functions that used by orchestrations, rules engine, custom pipelines).
Then install all custom adapters if they are not previously installed on the machine. HTTP, SOAP, MSMQ etc are provided as standard, we also got a Topend adapter.
Then install the business rules engine.
Then install all Biztalk assemblies.
Then install and bind all send/receive ports Biztalk assemblies used.
Then start all orchestrations.
For our development and demo, we also need to install all web services used by Biztalk such like Smart Connectors and web sites for demonstration.

And of course we need a clean up script to reverse the deployment as well- it takes a whole lot to test a Biztalk orchestration.

We use command line script to automate these tasks. Some of them are provided in the SDK samples, others are not. Such like deploying business rules. Before we come to Reading, even MS are telling people ‘It is very difficult to automate this step, and you are better off to use the GUI wizard to do it’. And now we have a little command line program to do the job!