Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pro BizTalk 2006

Having recently finished George Dunphy's book Pro BizTalk 2006 I thought it was worth writing a review for it on the Chapters/Indigo site, especially since no one has yet reviewed it! As of this writing, the review has not been posted, so here is the body of it below.

[Edit Nov 23 5:50pm] The review has now been posted! Except they stripped all formatting for some reason...

Link to book on Chapters/Indigo Website:
http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/item/books-978159059699/0/Pro+Biztalk+2006

***** (Five Stars)


This book is a great resource for the intermediate to advanced BizTalk user. While the Microsoft team has done a commendable job of refining the documentation for BizTalk Server (compared to 2004), there continues to be many voids with respect to best practices and practical guidance around the tool in large enterprise-class deployments.

While the primary audience of this book is certainly the BizTalk developer, there is much to be gained for the solution architect and technology director. In particular, there is a good breakdown of when to use each of the features included in BizTalk Server 2006 – often decisions about what feature to use and when are misinformed or happen late in the game. There is also a great discussion on what it takes to realistically implement a BizTalk solution (time and resources required) as well as how to setup a robust development environment. The core of the book does however demand a familiarity with the documentation shipped with the product. A new developer would be lost quite quickly, though I would encourage him or her to read this book after gaining some general knowledge and experience.

Included in the authors' thorough descriptions of how to implement advanced integration concepts are many detailed examples and real-world code samples. The authors provide a frank analysis of the toolset, highlighting both its strengths and weaknesses with a view to pragmatism; if something cannot be done or is unsupported in BizTalk, the authors provide guidance as to how best to solve the problem. Further, if there are multiple ways of achieving the same thing, the costs and benefits of differing approaches are provided ( i.e. pipelines versus orchestration).

In many of the discussions in Pro BizTalk 2006, for better or worse, the authors point out the differences between versions 2004 and 2006. While this is very useful for the developer with considerable experience in BizTalk 2004, it may be meaningless or confusing to those who are being initiated with version 2006. Though the book was written for readers with experience (read experience with BizTalk 2004) this point is not moot as developers without that context will still (and should) undoubtedly buy this book. For those like myself that are upgrading their skills from 2004, this book will no doubt give the reader many moments of "If only I had that feature!" and may even spur thoughts on how to re-architect their existing 2004 solutions!

Some of the most valuable sections for myself included the following: a thorough description of the new performance characteristics and configuration variables; complete sample code for creating several reusable pipeline components ( i.e. zip compression, PGP encryption); many examples of implementing messaging patterns in BizTalk; and solid details on monitoring the application using WMI events and tools like Microsoft Operations Manager.

While the book does go into detail on the new install/deploy features of BTS2006 (such as MSI files, btstask.exe) I would like to have seen some discussion on new tools like MSBuild, how to implement continuous integration scenarios, or the automation of deployment to one or more environments. There is also little discussion on the advanced aspects of Business Activity Monitoring, a feature which I believe is greatly underused and not accounted for in the design process early enough.

No matter what the reader's role in integration projects, whether he or she is simply migrating from 2004 or building a new integration practice around BizTalk Server 2006, this book is a must-have. Every BizTalk developer will learn something from this book and should read it, especially in light of the scarcity of good literature on this now mature, yet occasionally overwhelming, product.

2 comments:

George Dunphy said...

Hi Ben,

This is George Dunphy. On behalf of all the authors of the book, I would like to say thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you find the content useful - we had to make some tough decisions about what to cut and what to put in. Your comment about the lack of BAM content is valid but we made the tough decision to cut the BAM chapter in lieu of the Management and Monitoring chapter. Given the tight time constraints we faced and the fact that all of us have 1 (or sometimes 2) day jobs, we felt it was more important to speak to the administration and monitoring folks in a language that hopefully they will be able to find useful. Admining a BizTalk solution is something we often find is overlooked and can have immeditate consequences in production if it is not addresses up front in the solution's design. I'm glad you like the performance tuning chapter (thank Ahmed for that one). We are in the planning stages for a second version of the book and will include BAM/BAS/EDI for sure. Again, on behalf of Ahmed, Rob, Marty, Carmai, Sergei and myself - thanks for the postitive feedback.

George Dunphy

Benjamin said...

George,

Thank you for your response! Alas, though I have not written a book, I am aware of the challenges one must face when writing a book, especially one that I'm sure you felt would have a lot of positive impact on the BT community. I sincerely do appreciate the effort that went into this book and look forward to your collective continued efforts on the next book.

Cheers!

Ben Harper