(Re)Finding my way in Microsoft’s Integration Offering
I have, as always, been very busy with integration. On premise that is. Microsoft’s cloud integration offering has been all over the place for the last couple of years and to be honest, I wouldn’t have recommended it to customers. Enterprise customers need some sort of security for the future and can’t rely on services that will be suddenly discontinued. Finally there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Integration is a hot topic at the moment and Microsoft even released an Integration Roadmap at the end of last year.
Since Microsoft was all over the place, I have neglected the cloud part for quite a while. I kept my eyes open, but wasn’t going to spend much time on something I wasn’t even sure it was going to exist in a few years (or months for that matter). It was all quite a bit confusing.
Well, apparently it’s time to get to it now. A lot of stuff happening when it comes to Microsoft integration this year. Time for me to get my record straight and see where Microsoft stands at the moment and what’s to come! Expect my future blogs to be about Azure and Azure Stack in particular.
It’s quite clear to me what Microsoft has to offer for on premise integration at the moment, which basically is BizTalk Server and an outdated queuing product (MSMQ). Then there is this AppFabric thing Microsoft released some time ago with Service Bus, but I am not even sure if that is still supported.
If we take a look at the future, Azure Stack is going to be released. Meaning you will be able to host Azure on premise. An important step for Microsoft.
1. BizTalk Server
For me it didn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft is committed to BizTalk Server. It has a large install base and would not be wise to suddenly stop development on this server product.
BizTalk has always been a “platform aligned” product. It is released together with a new edition of Windows Server and SQL Server. Since a Windows Server 2016 release is imminent, it’s the right time to release a new edition of BizTalk Server.
2. Azure Stack
Azure Stack takes Azure and makes it available on prem. I have seen Azure Stack in action more than a year ago and last week Microsoft finally released a preview for Azure Stack to run inside your own environment. It will most likely GA at the end of this year.
This will be an important product for Microsoft. It will align on premise with cloud, making sure enterprises can easily move stuff from their own environment to the cloud. It’s also important if you think of all the privacy issues when it comes to cloud, especially here in Europe. With Azure Stack you can actually take all the benefits Azure has to offer to your on premise environment – keeping in mind you are a little bit more restricted to your own datacenter limitations.
It’s not totally clear yet what Azure Stack is going to offer once it’s GA, but some integration components will be in there for sure. My guess is that Logic Apps (according to the roadmap) and Service Bus will be in Azure Stack from the start.
Just keep one thing in mind. Or maybe 12, 96… or 128… Azure Stack requires 12 CPU cores, 96 GB of RAM. But 16 cores with 128 GB of RAM are recommended. And all I am asking myself is, how am I going to run that preview on my friggin’ laptop? 😐
Then there is cloud. Microsoft has been busy with Azure for some years now and build quite a datacenter-network around the world. Now, Azure delivers a lot of services, but what services are interesting for integration then? The short answer is probably just “all”. Since integration happens everywhere in the cloud. But what services are particularly interesting?
In my opinion there are 4 services that are particularly interesting for integration professionals. And take into account that Azure Stack will probably support these services as well. If not in the first release, it will be in there in upcoming releases.
The glue that binds all the (micro)services you develop together. Especially interesting for building workflows and combining information from different sources. GA from April (expect the GA anouncement on the Build conference).
It is still basic and will get more and more functionalities. Logic Apps kind of overlap with BizTalk Server’s capabilities and my expectation is that Logic Apps will take over BizTalk’s functionality on premises over time. Especially with Azure Stack around the corner.
2. Service Bus
Service Bus has been around for quite some time now in Azure. It’s vastly superior to something like MSMQ. Queues and topics are just more versatile and work on a pub-sub basis.
Where I expect Logic Apps to take over BizTalk’s functionality over time, I expect Service Bus to take over MSMQ (finally) when Azure Stack really catches on.
3. API Management
From an old principle to something that’s pretty new in the integration world: API Management. Everything uses APIs and/or exposes APIs nowadays. From ERP systems to mobile apps. All these APIs need to be managed somewhere. APIs should be secure and traffic should be managed. And what about analytics? It’s all API Management.
No wonder Microsoft recognizes it and offers API management as a service now. This service will become increasingly important as companies will lose track of their ever-increasing API offerings. An important one!
4. BizTalk Services
And then there’s this thing. It’s part of the laughing-stock when it comes to Microsoft’s cloud integration. I really don’t have a clue how much longer this will be around, but I am pretty sure it will seize to exist somewhere in the near future.
Microsoft says it will be used for mapping and EDI, but frankly, maps will be stand-alone and can be used within Logic Apps. And of course Logic Apps will contain a service in the future that will be capable of handling EDI messages and its logic.
No. If I put my money on any service surviving the next 5 years, I wouldn’t put it on this one 😉
Wrapping it up
Well, that’s about it. This is where Microsoft stands right now when it comes to integration. There’s a lot happening right now. On prem as well as in Azure.
Azure Stack is probably going to be an important product for enterprises, because it’s going to give them Azure capabilities in their own (or hosted) controlled environment. It will overcome many of the privacy issues companies, especially in Europe, have. To me, this is the future and probably the right way to go for Microsoft.
By aligning its cloud and on premise solutions, they will enable faster and easier integration in the hybrid space, making it easy for enterprises to move on premise stuff to the cloud and vice versa.