After being a bit quiet for the last year or so, the Auckland Connected Systems User Group came back into full swing last Saturday 18 July with Integration Saturday 2015. More than 50 integration professionals attended the event, which focused on a range of integration technologies available within the Microsoft landscape. As well as presenters from local firms, Bill Chesnut, a well recognised Integration MVP, flew in from Melbourne for the day.
Bill kicked the day off with a presentation on what's new in integration from a Microsoft point of view. Covering topics from App Services to some early insights on BizTalk Server 2016, Bill set the scene nicely for the next sessions of the day.
Following Bill, I presented an introduction to App Service, the latest offering from Microsoft for development of end-to-end web and mobile solutions in the cloud. Quite a hot topic today in both development and integration spaces, App Services is the brand name for a group of new products used to produce end-to-end web and mobile solutions for any platform and device. Although this may not sound like a good fit for an integration focused event, two of those products - API Apps and Logic Apps - play an important role on a lot of integration projects.
API Apps allows solutions to expose an interface that is discoverable, secure and based on the latest set of standards for RESTful service. From an integration point of view, this is a great way to expose legacy systems, aggregate disparate services, and modernize existing APIs. Microsoft is using API Apps to produce what could be described as the next version of BizTalk Services. This now focuses on a microservices architectural style, with each capability previously found under the BizTalk Services product now able to be provisioned and used in isolation.
Logic Apps, a product that allows developers to automate business processes by orchestrating a series of APIs, is being regarded as the missing piece for the "integration in the cloud" strategy from Microsoft. Making use of microservices, Logic Apps allow business processes to be automated by orchestrating those different services according to some logic. The approach is similar to BizTalk orchestrations, and although it is still in early stages, there is a lot of potential.
Johann Cooper, a principal consultant at Datacom, and co-author of SOA Patterns with BizTalk Server 2013 and Microsoft Azure - Second Edition expanded on the API Apps and Logic Apps topic, giving the audience a deep dive, full of interesting demos, on both technologies. Johann also talked about Azure API Management, a product that drives API adoption by internal teams, partners and developers by creating a curated API façade for an organization's backend systems -either in the cloud or on-premises. Together with the ability to collect very useful insights around usage, performance and errors, among other functionalities, this product ensures that organizations can fully benefit from an API program.
API Management was also one area of focus in the presentation of Craig Haiden and James Corbould. They spoke about Nevatech's Sentinet, and how it could be used to provide an API Management platform, using a powerful user interface to graphically aggregate services exposing a curated API. Sentinent also allows internal services to be created to form itineraries, orchestrating various services to expose more coarse grained operations through the API.
Most of the APIs today are exposed using a RESTful style. And Mahindra Morar, another of the co-authors of "SOA Patterns with BizTalk Server 2013 and Microsoft Azure - Second Edition", gave an introduction to REST, and how to provide and consume RESTful services using BizTalk Server 2013. Mahindra also touched on Azure Service Bus, a suite of components from Azure providing services like relay, which allows on-premise applications to be exposed with minimal firewall disruption through the public cloud, and message queues and topics services, which help to enable store and forward and publication/subscription scenarios in any application.
Mark Brimble shared his thought process when faced with the hardest, but very common question in integration: "What integration technology should I use". As Mark wisely said at the beginning of his talk, the answer is always "depends", but he shared some useful insights on what he looks for when doing this juggling act.
Nikolai Blackie, Principal Integration Architect from Adaptiv, promised to talk about his top 10 favourite tools when working on integration projects. In fact, he reviewed 25 open-source free products in various categories from API and application documentation, to development frameworks, development productivity and BizTalk Server monitoring. He not only did that, but also created a virtual repository for all those tools.
Bill Chesnut finished the day showing his tips and tricks to achieve Continuous Integration in BizTalk, leveraging products like Team City and Octopus Deploy, and using BizTalk Deployment Framework (BTDF) as a packaging framework for this process. Being all based on MSBuild but pretty much tailored for BizTalk, introducing BTDF in this automated process was, according to Bill, not much work, since there were already MSBuild tasks that could be easily customized for that in Team City. Bill also showed the new capabilities in Team Foundation Server 2015, which now lets you create a very similar experience to that of Team City.
In summary, this was a very successful event, which gave the integration community the opportunity to catch up on a lot of hot topics in what is becoming a rapidly changing landscape. If you missed the day, all sessions were recorded and sessions, slide decks and sample code will be available soon. In the meantime, you can review my slide deck and code samples here.