Boy have I been busy!
The past two weeks have been extremely hectic and I’m just now starting to write down my first impressions of BizTalk Server 2006 Beta 1. Right off the bat I can say that this is one of the most stable and robust beta 1 builds I have ever used. Especially since it’s really a beta (BTS2006) running under a beta (VS2005)! I try not to “mix” my beta testing, but in this case it’s working pretty well. Setup has been much improved from BTS2004 and most of the prerequisite headaches are gone!
The first thing you’ll notice is that you can (for the most part) use all of your existing BTS2004 “work” seamlessly in BTS2006. I started off by copying several BTS2004 solutions to the VS2005 “Projects” directory and opening them up in VS2005. Then I built and deployed several solutions with no code changes whatsoever and they worked like a charm. The only “gotcha” so far has been with adding a custom pipeline component to the toolbox and I’m writing up a bug report in the morning.
The second thing you’ll notice is the new concept of an “Application” which allows you to group your integration artifacts into logical units such as “Outbound Invoice Processing”. Every schema, map, pipeline and orchestration are “grouped together” in the new management interface and can be deployed as a unit. Man, including this feature is what I call a “blinding flash of the obvious”!
The third thing you should definitely play with is the new “Flat File Wizard”. This is as close to a “dream come true” as I’ve ever seen from Microsoft! I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours developing, debugging and deploying custom flat-file schemas as well as countless hours trolling the “microsoft.public.biztalk.nonxml” newsgroup for help. The last time I heard the someone say “Oh no problem, I’m just using a standard EDI format” I laughed all the way to the coffeepot! The new “Flat File Wizard” goes a long way to making the flat-file schema development process as painless as possible.
The fourth and final item on my “first impressions” list is the new and improved adapters! When Steve Ballmer starts yelling “Developers, Developers, Developers”, I keep thinking “Adapters, Adapters, Adapters”. Microsoft’s new “Adapters Strategy” means many more MS supplied adapters and continued improvements in the existing adapters. Now if I could only convince them to write an Excel Adapter…
Happy [Integration] Trails!