In modern times, within enterprises, it is common to integrate systems. For example, when your company runs a webshop, you might be using different systems to maintain customer information (CRM) and handle all the logistics around fulfilling the orders you receive. Each of those systems needs information from the webshop. Customer information must be stored in the CRM system, enabling you to be in touch with your customers, send them newsletters, etc. The logistics system needs information about what has been ordered by the customer and to what address the order must be dispatched.As it is very time-consuming, you don’t want to manually enter the information from the webshop into the other systems. So, by integrating those systems, the required information automatically flows from the webshop to the integrated systems.
For purposes like proper maintenance and monitoring, it is common not to integrate such systems directly. Instead, often middleware is implemented to integrate those systems.
BizTalk Server is Microsoft’s on-premise middleware product. Over the years, the product has seen more than ten releases, and it supports the latest versions of Windows Server, SQL Server and Visual Studio. It also has rich connectivity options ranging from low-level protocols like file shares, FTP sites, queue technologies like MSMQ, IBM MQ, and line of business adapters like SAP, Siebel, Dynamics. Not to be forgotten, the product has rich cloud connectivity options thereby enabling hybrid integration scenarios. The product has existed for more than 20 years, and it is still a strong choice when you want to integrate systems that mainly run on-premise.
Why is BizTalk Server monitoring hard?
Although BizTalk Server is a great product, it might confuse people with little experience to understand the critical BizTalk Server concepts and properly perform day-to-day administration. With BizTalk Server, you can connect to many different systems, and it is not uncommon that a BizTalk Server environment has connections to hundreds of endpoints.
You will understand that the larger a BizTalk Server environment is, the more complex it is to maintain and monitor that environment properly. Often, BizTalk environments contain multiple servers that are required to process all the messages that take part in all those integrations. Besides having technical knowledge of BizTalk Server concepts, it helps if the administrators also have at least some basic understanding of the integrations that are deployed into the environment.
To better understand the responsibilities of BizTalk administrators, let’s have a look into the kind of tasks they are involved in. Daily, they need to check the well-being of the BizTalk Server platform. Those checks include being aware of the health of all kinds of runtime components. Next, all the integrations that are deployed into the environment must be checked. This includes reviewing all types of technical components, including checking if all the business transactions are running correctly in BizTalk.
We can think of many more tasks that are part of the job as a BizTalk administrator. Still, for now, it is enough to understand that the task of properly maintaining a BizTalk environment must not be underestimated.
Manual monitoring or automated
In the previous section, we have seen that BizTalk administrators have a lot of responsibilities to keep their BizTalk environment in a healthy state. The checks that we have mentioned should be performed multiple times per day. However, as so many different checks must be completed, it is easy to forget some of those tasks, thereby potentially missing anything essential and bringing the environment at risk.
It does not help that BizTalk Server does not contain any out-of-the-box monitoring capabilities. So, BizTalk administrators are forced to complete all the monitoring tasks manually. For completing all the manual monitoring tasks, administrators need to rely on multiple software products. That ranges from the standard BizTalk Server Administration Console to SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and all kinds of Windows Server tools. A complete monitoring cycle can take a fair amount of time, certainly when you consider that it has to be done multiple times per day.
To prevent that monitoring takes that much time, it makes sense to find automated ways to perform those tasks. By automating the monitoring tasks, the stakeholders will be informed in time. It also allows BizTalk administrators to spend their time on more valuable tasks than constantly performing manual monitoring tasks.
Application Performance Monitoring product for BizTalk monitoring?
Many organizations already own an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) product. Such products are used to monitor platforms like Windows and Unix, including the software products that run on those servers. Products that can be used for that kind of monitoring include:
- Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)
- Site 24x7
To a certain extent, those products can also be used for monitoring several components of BizTalk environments. However, to have a detailed overview of the well-being of the BizTalk environment, APM products don’t have enough capabilities. To fill the gap, it would be best to use a monitoring product with a strong focus on BizTalk Server.
BizTalk360 helps to monitor and administer BizTalk Server efficiently
There has never been much choice for BizTalk users looking for a solid BizTalk monitoring and operations product. As integration offerings are moving to the cloud, finding mature and feature-rich products that help BizTalk Server users in their day-to-day operations and monitoring is even more challenging.
However, a solid product that has been around for more than a decade is BizTalk360. The product was developed by Saravana Kumar, who was a BizTalk consultant at that time. He started to create the product based on the gaps he and many other BizTalk consultants have identified in BizTalk Server. With 3 to 4 releases per year, Saravana has evolved the product and the company around it to a mature and feature-rich product.
BizTalk360 is a modern web-based portal that gives safe and audited access to the BizTalk environment. The product has a deep focus on administering and monitoring BizTalk Server environments. Besides that, it also provides all kinds of statistical information about the environment. The product is still evolving with 3 to 4 releases per year. The product does not have a firm roadmap, but its customers can provide their feedback on features and improvements they would like to see in the product. After that, the Development team looks into those requests, and it is feasible the request will be implemented in the product.
In this article, we have seen some of the challenges that come with monitoring BizTalk Server environments. We have explained how time-consuming manual monitoring can be, and it is more efficient to start using an automated monitoring product. Although in-house APM products can be used to some extent, it is safer to use a more BizTalk Server-dedicated product. In the current market, where there are few BizTalk Server monitoring and administration offerings, BizTalk360 could be the right choice. The product has been around for more than a decade, so it is mature and feature-rich.