Friday, December 21, 2007

So You Want to Learn BizTalk... (Part I)

Learning a new technology can often be a challenge especially if it is one that requires a different different set of lenses on the world. No better can this thought be applied than to the undertaking of learning BizTalk development. It is not for the faint of heart. Let me make it clear that BizTalk is a very powerful and agile tool - but this in combination with the complexities of the problems it solves gives the tool a steep learning curve.

Experience Prerequisites

  • Strong knowledge of the .NET Framework (2.0 or higher)
  • Strong familiarity with XML and related tools (XPath, XSLT)
  • Understanding of SOAP web services and when to use them
  • Use of Visual Studio 2005
I wrote this list then realized an almost identical list comes from the horse's mouth:

Experience Nice-To-Haves
  • Experience with Integration projects
  • Understanding of Message-Oriented development
  • Understanding of Service-Oriented Architecture (incl the Tenets of SOA)
  • Understanding of Enterprise Services Buses
Where to Begin

As with development of any server product, I strongly recommend using a virtual PC on which you can install everything (SQL Server + BIzTalk Server + Visual Studio). Development can be done on a separate machine from the DEV server, but if you are using a VPC having everything on the same box will save time.

Part of the initiation to BizTalk development should most certainly include performing the full BizTalk installation. This will serve to appreciate what is actually under-the-hood. Even if infrastructure and server installation is not your forte, this experience will serve you well in your trials and tribulations ... er, travels.

To start, as with most Microsoft products, the best place is the Microsoft Learning:

Clinic 2954: First Look: Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 for Developers

With that, you can flesh out the details with this article from the documentation:

Product Documentation: Understanding BizTalk

Coming Up Next:

Part II: Tutorials, Labs and Books, Oh My!

Part III: Beyond the basics

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