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BizTalk Server 2016 Now Available

Microsoft released BizTalk Server 2016 today, its newest enterprise integration server, succeeding BizTalk Server 2013 R2.

Update 12/1: BizTalk Server 2016 actually reached the "general availability" release stage on Dec. 1. In October, it was at the "release to manufacturing" stage.

The new product, now at "general availability," is noteworthy for working with Microsoft's 2016-branded server products, including Windows Server 2016, Office 2016 and SQL Server 2016. It's getting high-availability capabilities when used with SQL Server 2016's Always On Availability groups feature, Microsoft promised, in its announcement.

Microsoft partner Codit indicated in a blog post this week that the Always On high availability capability for BizTalk Server 2016 is only supported with Microsoft's newest relational database management system as "any version prior to SQL Server 2016 will not be supported."

Azure Logic Apps Integration
Developers can use Visual Studio 2015 with BizTalk Server 2016. Microsoft is also highlighting the server's SaaS apps orchestration capabilities when used with the Azure Logic Apps service. Jon Fancey, a Microsoft principal program manager, demonstrated the use of BizTalk Server 2016 on premises in conjunction with the Azure Logic Apps service to set up a customer order messaging scenario in this September Ignite 2016 presentation.

Fancey said during that presentation that BizTalk Server is currently deployed by thousands of enterprise customers. With the new server release, Microsoft has addressed some customer pain points over the previous-generation product by updating BizTalk Server's adapters and adding support for current-generation server products, as well as Visual Studio. He added that it's now easier to host BizTalk in Azure. Microsoft added a secure pipe (called the "On-premises Data Gateway") to work with Logic Apps and connect assets on premises with Microsoft's services run from its cloud datacenters. He also mentioned that BizTalk Server 2016 now will be getting new capabilities, with updates arriving monthly.

The full list of BizTalk Server 2016 new capabilities can be found in this Microsoft library article.

BizTalk Server 2016 also can tap various Azure services, such as "Functions, Cognitive Services, [and] Machine Learning," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft already offers BizTalk from its Azure datacenters, which is called "BizTalk Services." It seems that Microsoft's enterprise integration capabilities are getting more and more lodged in its cloud infrastructure. However, Microsoft seems to be positioning BizTalk Server 2016 as its solution for enterprises running hybrid workloads, although it also wants organizations to use BizTalk Server 2016 with its Azure Logic Apps service, too.

"Our goal is to evolve Logic Apps as an enterprise grade integration platform that brings core BizTalk Server capabilities to the cloud," Microsoft explained back in May regarding its overall enterprise integration services vision.

Microsoft partner Mexia claimed in a blog post that Microsoft has better clarified its BizTalk Server vision with the 2016 product. Moreover, the server product's development is now organized under the Azure engineering teams.

"BizTalk is now owned by the same team that develops Microsoft's cloud iPaaS integration technologies: Azure Service Bus, API Management and Azure Logic Apps," the Mexia blog post stated.

Directions on BizTalk
BizTalk Server 2016 seems to be getting a bit cloudier, at least with regard to its services integration capabilities. However, the server may be the choice over Azure services for organizations needing to deal with complex APIs and standards when orchestrating services and applications, explained Rob Helm, managing vice president at Directions on Microsoft, an independent consultancy.

"I think there are two ends of the spectrum, and Microsoft is putting most of its effort at one end but it's trying to bring BizTalk Server along at the other," Helm said, in a Thursday phone call. "At one end of the spectrum you have kind of traditional application integration. A lot of times it's critical systems. The communication between them needs to be super reliable. In some cases, you have to follow some kind of a standard -- for example, SWIFT, the international interbank payment system or some of the EDI systems out there. And that's what BizTalk Server has always been aimed at and has gotten its base on."

The other end of the spectrum is tying together public cloud services, such as Salesforce.com or Office 365 services, using the Internet. Those orchestrations may not require the same high-speed connections needed by organizations like the banking industry, Helm explained.

Microsoft's main Azure orchestration technology is the Azure Apps Service, which includes Azure Logic Apps and API apps used for integration. There's also the Flow front end for business-user developers to set up workflows, which can be used with various cloud-type services, Helm explained.

Azure Logic Apps or Flow might be used more by organizations that aren't driven by having to meet high-performance requirements or that don't have to navigate complex standards, Helm added. And that's where Microsoft's future investments are trending, he added, although Microsoft is continuing to update BizTalk Server as well to support the latest standards.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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