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Overview of BizTalk Server

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Rand Morimoto walks you through the process you would follow to implement a BizTalk Server solution, including defining goals and objectives of data interchange, modeling the business process, creating the specifications, and creating the maps, before finally confirming the trigger mechanisms and schedule for transaction processing.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Step 1: Determining the Interchange Goals and Objectives

  • Step 2: Modeling the Business Process

  • Step 3: Agreeing on Process Specifications and Parameters

  • Step 4: Creating the Mapping Between Input and Output Data Formats

  • Step 5: Configuring the Triggering Mechanisms to Process Information

  • Step 6: Completing the Schedule for the Transaction Process

Instead of listing the features and functions of the various technologies and tools built-in to the BizTalk Server product in a glossary/definition format, this chapter is organized chronologically by the process you follow to implement a BizTalk Server solution. Describing the BizTalk Server process flow involves defining goals and objectives of data interchange, modeling the business process, creating the specifications, and creating the maps, before finally confirming the trigger mechanisms and schedule for transaction processing.

In this chapter, BizTalk Orchestration is not purely defined, but instead illustrated how it relates to the business process model. And BizTalk Mapper is described in this chapter in terms of how it translates business processes into data interchange maps.

A BizTalk Server process flow starts with

  1. Understanding the goals and objectives of the organizations that want to exchange information

  2. Modeling the business process from start of the flow to completion

  3. Agreeing on the specifications and parameters involved in the process

  4. Creating the mapping between input and output data formats

  5. Confirming the triggering mechanism to process the information

  6. Completing the schedule for the transaction processes

When the process flow is followed, BizTalk Server can solve business information exchange challenges. The full process requires modeling business procedures, analyzing data communication formats, mapping formats, and properly configuring BizTalk Server. This chapter provides an overview of the sequential steps involved in the process and refers to the chapters throughout the balance of this book that highlight the steps in more detail.

Step 1: Determining the Interchange Goals and Objectives

Although BizTalk Server is an excellent solution for business to business (B2B) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), a successful implementation of BizTalk Server requires business analysis and goal setting to ensure that the solution meets the needs and objectives of the stakeholders of the project. This first step involves asking the right questions and gathering the information necessary to document the overall expectations for the project. A small amount of planning will go a long way in coming up with a complete end solution.

Who Understands the Interchange Goals and Objectives

When determining the interchange goals and objectives, it's important to understand who the project's stakeholders are who ultimately make the determination of whether the project is successful. Unlike many internetworking projects where the decision maker is frequently someone in the Information Technology (IT) department, for a BizTalk Server integrated solution, the decision maker is frequently the CFO, COO, or a Line of Business (LOB) manager. It is important to know who owns the results of the project. This individual or group of individuals will understand the overall goals and objectives for the data interchange needs of the project.

The stakeholders for the project also understand critical business factors necessary to know before and during the project. It is common that the stakeholder is also the person who would approve the budget and get personnel resources allocated to support the implementation and ongoing maintenance of the project.

Some stakeholders are hands-on and involved right from the beginning of the project and throughout the entire length of the project. These stakeholders will be directly informed on the project, process, and tasks to make decisions on budget and project engagement firsthand. Other stakeholders assign the information gathering and analysis tasks to someone else and only request that a final report be prepared and submitted for review. The stakeholder will typically still be the individual responsible for making the final decision, but others will be in a position of influencing the final decision. Their report and recommendation to the stakeholder would be biased by their opinion of the solution. In the cases where there are both stakeholder(s) and influencer(s), multiple individuals would need to be involved in the goal and objective definition process.

What Are the Interchange Goals and Objectives

With the stakeholder(s) and decision maker(s) identified, the goals and objectives for the project need to be understood. Determining the goals and objectives might be as simple as asking a single individual, or it might require a group meeting to come to a consensus. The data interchange goals and objectives vary from project to project. There are typically business goals and objectives, technical goals and objectives, and operational goals and objectives.

After the goals and objectives are understood, they should be written down to create a documented functional specification. This functional specification should then be approved and "signed off" by the stakeholders of the project to get a confirmation of their understanding of the goals and objectives of the project.

Business Goals and Objectives

The business goals and objectives for a data interchange project are those that impact or influence business processes. Examples of business goals and objectives would include

  • Publish a part number and description catalog every week with updated infor-mation.

  • Automate order processing and acknowledgement confirmation procedures.

  • Decrease overall costs by automating order and transaction processing.

  • Improve response time by eliminating manual processes with automated processes.

  • Enhance transaction scalability by streamlining automated processes.

Technical Goals and Objectives

The technical goals and objectives for a data interchange project are those that impact or influence IT operational processes. An example of technical goals and objectives would include

  • The consolidation of EDI and HTTP transaction systems into a single server system

  • Improving logging and tracking of transactional information so that weekly reports can be created

  • Standardizing the development language to be XML-based

Operational Goals and Objectives

The operational goals and objectives for a data interchange project are those that impact or influence timelines, budget, or operational processes. An example of operational goals and objectives would include

  • The completion of the implementation of the project before the start of the next fiscal year

  • The completion of the planning, programming, prototyping, testing, and imple-mentation of the project for under $100,000

  • The redeployment of idle personnel from a completed project to a new project

What Information Needs to Be Exchanged

With the stakeholders identified and the business, technical, and operational goals documented, the organization needs to define specifically what needs to be exchanged. This includes identifying the input format of the information coming into the BizTalk Server (such as EDI, HTTP, HTTPS) and the output format of the data being exchanged.

Also during the information gathering step, determining what applications will be involved and the transaction formats supported by the application need to be identified. There's a difference in how the BizTalk Server is configured and managed when two inventory control systems are connected versus the connectivity between a customer relationship management (CRM) application and an inventory control system. Each system has a defined format and method of communications.

There are several expectations for any implementation, whether it is an expectation of time, budget, scope of work, ongoing maintenance, or support arrangements to name a few. These expectations tend to drive behavior.

What Is the Need for Scalability and Integration

Finally, when determining the interchange goals and objectives, understanding the need for scalability of the BizTalk Server solution helps the organization plan the infrastructure needed to support the implementation. This involves planning and budgeting for multiple servers to support the demand for system transactions, or it might involve having multiple servers provide for a failover/fault tolerance system. An analysis of the needs and expectations of the stakeholders should assist in determining the type of programming needed to facilitate redundancy and performance metrics.

Additionally, an organization would want to know whether the BizTalk Server solution needs to integrate with an existing Windows environment or whether it would be tightly integrating with a non-Windows environment. An integration demand analysis would help the organization determine whether the tools available for development within a Windows-based environment are applicable and need to be acquired, or the support for multiple users can be identified and implemented in a native format or have non-Windows integration requirements.

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