BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1 Released
Microsoft released BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1 this week.
There was little preamble to the announcement. BizTalk Server 2016, an enterprise integration product for deployment on customers' infrastructure, was released back in December. Earlier, Microsoft had described upcoming BizTalk roadmap plans, including its plans for BizTalk Services, which is the service delivered from Microsoft's Azure datacenters. However, there seemingly was no mention that a feature pack would be arriving for the server version of the product.
Microsoft conceives of feature packs for BizTalk Server as a way to "provide improvements, features, and closer integration with Azure," according to an MSDN library description. The concept seems similar to SharePoint Server 2016's feature packs, which bring some of Microsoft's cloud-product capabilities down to the server product.
Organizations can only use Feature Pack 1 with BizTalk Server 2016 if they have the Enterprise or Developer editions of the product, plus Software Assurance. No other editions are eligible. It's also possible to use Feature Pack 1 if BizTalk Server is run in Azure with an Enterprise Agreement, the MSDN article explained.
One of Microsoft's partners, BizTalk360, an independent software vendor, had early access to Feature Pack 1. The use of feature packs goes beyond the old service pack and cumulative updates model.
"The Feature Pack will have brand new functionality that was not originally shipped with the product," BizTalk360 explained, in a blog post. "It's not just bug fixes and security updates (that's the case with CU's). This gives Microsoft the agility they need to add new functionalities to the product at a faster pace."
The new functionality in feature packs won't break existing installments of BizTalk Server 2016, according to both Microsoft and BizTalk360. Nonetheless, organizations should test before deploying it in a production environment, BizTalk360's post explained. Feature packs won't be available for earlier products, such as BizTalk Server 2013.
Feature Pack 1 adds some deployment capabilities to BizTalk Server 2016. It permits applications to be deployed and updated using Visual Studio Team Services, according to Microsoft's announcement. It brings "new REST APIs with full Swagger support." Swagger is an open source framework for designing RESTful APIs.
The feature pack enhances analytics capabilities in BizTalk Server 2016. It adds support for Application Insights, which developers can use to gauge the performance of live Web applications. Also added with Feature Pack 1 is support for viewing operational information using Power BI, which is Microsoft's suite of data visualization tools.
Feature Pack 1 also enables "advanced scheduling" of runtimes. It brings adapters for using SQL Server "Always Encrypted columns" as well.
The new features in Feature Pack 1 are demonstrating "Microsoft's commitment towards BizTalk Server," according to BizTalk360. More such feature packs will be coming, it added.
The new feature pack can be downloaded at this page. It requires the Azure Gateway Service to use some of the features, according to BizTalk360.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.