Friday, June 10, 2005

BizTalk... it ain't easy.

I had to interview someone yesterday for a developer role, and the discussion inevitably got round to BizTalk. He was rather argumentative, which made the BizTalk discussion particularly frustrating, as he kept insisting that BizTalk was a very easy product to understand. I think precisely the opposite, since the impact of a BizTalk implementation within an organisation can be extremely complex, and the move to a message-based architecture is significant, to say the least.

I think the confusion lies in Microsoft's classic 'easy-to-use' philosophy, which serves the developer community so well, but which can often lead to people overestimating their own abilities. Yes, creating an XSD in the schema designer is easy. So is creating a map, or even an orchestration. Developing and deploying artefacts into the environment is just drag'n'drop. How hard can it be?

Understanding the underlying architecture and being able to use it to its best advantage and in the most appropriate manner is anything but easy, and to my mind, if you meet someone who thinks implementing BizTalk is simple, they probably don't understand what they're doing.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog.... and I cant agree more. I have been educating people on using BizTalk within our corporation and almost always I hear.. that is really easy.. and they dont bother reading further and try to understand the architecture of their solution and impact on the enterprise. They want to start coding and move their processes to Biztalk... so frustrating... someone finally understands

Matt said...

Hugo,

I also agree with your comment. I also think a good BizTalk developer is a "Jack of All Trades", with Architecture experience, .NET Skills, Web Service skills, SQL skills, XSL etc. etc. The nature of the product (application integration) dictates that you know something about everything.

Ollie Riches said...

Is the job contract or perm? :)

Anonymous said...

Great post and comments.

I got fooled into thinking BizTalk was easy when I first saw the developer tools. It looked like using a graphical interface and "drag'n'drop" to create orchestratins, maps, pipelines etc was going to be so much easyer that creating classes, and writing lines of code.

I think a lot of people fall into this trap, "Building an orchestration is just like using Visio, you don't even need to know how to write code!".

BizTalk is (probaly) Microsoft's most complex server product, the graphical design environment abstracts this complexity from the developer, but it's still there, and you really need a good understanding of how it all works if you are going to get anywhere with building a solution.

/Alan Smith

Anonymous said...

As an EAI consultant with 10 years in the field and experience on many of the products out there, I will say Biztalk is not easy.

Maybe a Hello World type of project is easy, but getting it to fill the shoes of other tools is very complex.

What we find is that most implementations rely on custom applications created outside of Biztalk, that do the heavy lifting. Biztalk ends up being used as a tracking interface to allow the developer to say "yeah we passed data through it", but due to lack of technical capability, they aren't able to leverage the tool itself.