April 2008 - Posts

Caching database functoid and throttling
28 April 08 09:54 PM | Johan Hedberg

In case you haven't seen the Blogical.Shared.Functoids.ExecuteQuery, and the feature post at Mikael Håkanssons blog, it's a cache enabled database lookup functoid - a revised version of a functoid that we have successfully used on previous projects, available for download on codeplex. Caching can greatly increase the performance of any solution. However BizTalk caching, as with all caching, has to be done wisely and with moderation. So be sure to test (and monitor) thoroughly for memory saturation so that you don't hit throttling limits effectively bringing your BizTalk solution to a stand still. A good read that exemplifies the latter is this recent post by Yossi Dahan. Keep it in mind when using the functoid.

BizTalk Administration Tutorials
27 April 08 11:47 PM | Johan Hedberg

This post is for those of you who are administrators rather then developers, and don't keep track of the latest downloads around BizTalk. Microsoft has, at the same time that they released a revised version of the developer centric tutorials, released BizTalk Server 2006 Adminstration Tutorials. The administration tutorials are planned to become two, although at the moment only one is available. The first part is setting up the environment, in this case a slightly altered version of what is available in the multi-server scenario of the installation guides adding on an ISA Server to be able to create the environment separate from your corporate network. The tutorials also describes how to setup this environment using Virtual Server 2005 R2 (although physical hardware is also mentioned) and goes much more in depth to make it a compelling learning experience, as opposed to the install guide that can sometimes be hard to follow for a first timer. The first tutorial weighs in at 138 pages (double the size of the install guide), not counting the supporting documents. The second part is supposed to feature common administrative exercises based on the environment setup in part 1. If your are to familiarize youself with BizTalk Server 2006 as an administrator, from what I've seen, I'd recommend these tutorials.

My first blogging landmark passed
25 April 08 10:41 PM | Johan Hedberg | 1 comment(s)

I've read alot of posts on how to interpret and evaluate your blogs statistics, most lately Scott Hanselmans post entitled 7 Blogging Statistics Rules - There is a life after page views so I realise and agree that how many people has visited your blog isn't everything. I've had ClustrMaps from the start and that's what I'm using as measurement in this case. ClustrMaps definition of visits are hits from unique ip adresses during a 24 hour period. I think it's a good definition as oppsed to hits or something else. The landmark I've passed is probably small and insignificant to all of you veteran bloggers out there. Still, I can't help but to feel a little happy that I've passed 1000 visitors. And I'm just getting started... To celebrate the event I put the feeburner subscriber count up on the blog, although I feel a bit silly doing it since some of the blogs I myself read have 27000, and I have 27. I don't have a wide enough subject to get a really wide reach, and that isn't the goal. I don't need alot of subscribers, I just need the right ones. And hopefully my posts can help or amuse someone out there. Have a nice weekend all.

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BizTalk Server 2006 R3
23 April 08 07:19 AM | Johan Hedberg

Official news about the next release of BizTalk Server has been released on Steve Martins blog here with follow ups on the BizTalk Server Team Blog here and of course followed by other comments around the connected systems blogosphere. It's been expected and anticipated. This is not an Oslo release, and it's not a new product, and it's not a service pack, but it's an R3. I'm not quite sure what the difference is when compared to a service pack, but according to Steve 
"Because this release build on existing bits, the name of this release will be BizTalk Server 2006 R3. Refreshing the bits (instead of applying a large Service Pack) provides for the best update experience."

What's interesting around this release is not the fact that it will support the new wave of products and technologies being SQL 2008, Windows Server 2008, .NET 3,5 and Visual Studio 2008, although I've been told this in itself is not a small thing and I'm exhited about that as well, but the fact that they are choosing to bring in a couple of additional features. Among those are BizTalk RFID Mobile, an UDDI based Registry (no doubt inspired by the ESB Guidance) and additional LOB adapters and talk about service enabling and delivering SOA pattern and practices as part of the product. For me it's a clear expression of the desire to make BizTalk a more attractive SOA plattform.

The official date for release is planned for Q1 2009, with a CTP expected later this year following the release of SQL Server 2008 in Q3 2008. There are however already TAP programs available for BizTalk Server as well as some of the other features by themselves. I wish I hade a customer ready to run with it today...

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Note to those who comment - captcha enabled
22 April 08 10:40 PM | Johan Hedberg

Due to an ever increasing amount of spam I installed the (Ajax enabled) captcha control for CommunityServer 2007 written by Brendan Tompkins today. The installation documentation was clear enough, kinda. It still took me a little bit to get it working. At first, however I configured it, it just wouldn't show up. I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong - double checking my configuration I was sure I hade it down right. As I went to review the source code I noticed what caused the issue. It had an if (!Page.Request.IsAuthenticated) in there causing me, an authenticated user, to never see the captcha. At that point all I had to do was logout, and there it was. So now when you comment on posts on any of the blogs on this site, you have to fill out the captcha (if you haven't created an account and logged in - but who does that?). Also note that I moderate all anonymous comments, so they wont ger published until I say so - usually within a day.

As I sidenote, I experienced something when trying to download the file that I haven't experienced before. When downloading with IE the file came down corrupt. Someone tipped about using a simple downloader named WGET. When using that the file got down correctly and I was able to open it ok. Strange thing...

Pure Messaging Acknowledgements - Follow up
20 April 08 12:58 AM | Johan Hedberg

This post is a follow up to my previous post Delivery Notifications outside Orchestrations - a pure Messaging approach. The sole reason for this is to provide a downloadable demo and a walkthrough of that. The demo features a solution with one pipeline component and one passthrough pipeline using the component. It also contains a bindings file to configure the ports needed. Like I said in my first post, there really isn't much to it, but here it is...and this is how you get it running:

  1. Build Blogical.Shared.PipelineComponents.
  2. Copy Blogical.Shared.PipelineComponents.dll to <biztalk_install_dir>\Pipeline Components and add it to the GAC.
  3. Build and Deploy Blogical.Shared.Pipelines. By default it deploys to the BizTalk Application AckRequired.
  4. Open the BizTalk Adminitration Console and import the AckRequired.Bindings.xml file in the solutions root folder. This will give you one receive port with one receive location

    and two send ports.
  5. Configure the FILE adapter settings on the ports.
  6. Drop a file for the AckRequired Receive Port.
  7. Notice the file that goes out through the send port and the ACK that goes out through the other send port.
  8. For more information read the original post and explore (what little there is) of the sample.
How do you track the latest BizTalk KB articles
18 April 08 09:46 PM | Johan Hedberg

A few posts ago I wrote about becomming aware of the latest downloads from the Microsoft Download Center and how they didn't have an RSS feed for that. On the other side of the scale as far as RSS feeds go is the support och knowledgebase articles. There are quite a few different RSS feeds for things that are BizTalk, although most don't contain anything. Here are the links to the feeds for BizTalk Server 2004 and BizTalk Server 2006.

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Consuming pipeline issue fix for BizTalk 2006
18 April 08 09:19 PM | Johan Hedberg

I previously blogged about an issue I was experiencing building a custom pipeline component in BizTalk Server 2006, and that I had found it was fixed and was not longer an issue in R2. Now there is a KB (KB941802) out that deals with a fix for that problem in 2006. I think the description of the problem in the the KB is somewhat limited, for a more detailed description read my post. So if you are experiencing an endless loop behviour in BizTalk 2006, get this fix.

Vote for TechDays in Sweden
17 April 08 09:47 PM | Johan Hedberg | 1 comment(s)

If you're from Sweden, and I guess mainly if you live and/or work in Stockholm (although I'm unsure at this point), and you don't have the possibility to go to TechEd or PDC and would like to get the chance to get some of that technical content delivered closer to home, take your chance to let Microsoft know. Visit the swedish msdn website and make your vote heard. I'd probably go, and I'd be willing to present.

WCF issue after installing updates
17 April 08 09:32 PM | Johan Hedberg | 1 comment(s)

After installing updates this past night our webservers began exhibiting odd behaviour. All our Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) services began returning 405 Method Not Allowed. I'm not sure which patch was responsible for causing this, but I strongly dislike it when applying updates change my configuration. When I tried to access the svc file directly from a browser I got a 404. This led me to check the .svc mapping. Don't ask me why, but as it turns out this mapping had been removed. Adding it back solved the problem. I haven't tracked it down, and I don't think I will, but the culprit is most likely part of either Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 1 (KB110806) or Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 Service Pack 1 (KB929300). The other updates installed can almost certainly be disregarded.

Attending a BizTalk Server 2006 R2 Partner Academy course - DVD contents
17 April 08 08:59 PM | Johan Hedberg

I've signed up for a Mircosoft Partner Academy pre-sale angled course on BizTalk Server 2006 R2. It's my first time attending a course delivered in this kind of online manner. I still don't know if it will suit me or not, but today I got the dvd's accompanying the online content and Jon Flanders is the main presentation deliverer. Knowing I enjoy Jons presentationstyle and after browsing the content of the dvd I feel a little more confident that it might be worth spending the extra hours on this thing. Except for Jon there are also a few other presentations, mostly from (this years I assume) TechReady, PowerPoint Slides and Hands-On Labs. And I'm extracting the VHD as I write this.

UPDATE: I just recognized this as the same (more or less) Classroom-in-a-Box set as we got at the SOA and BPM Conference in Redmond in October. I haven't compared file by file on all the discs, but I feel pretty confident saying it's the same.

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How do you track the latest Microsoft Downloads
16 April 08 07:15 PM | Johan Hedberg | 1 comment(s)

Do you ever wonder how alot of bloggers seems to know when downloads become available on the Microsoft Downloads site? And blog about it almost instantly. I am not a download chaser myself, mostly because I don't have the stamina to check up on the latest news often enough. And to be clear, I think a simple blogpost about an available download that might interest the audience of the blog is a perfect way to make people aware of the download becoming available. In fact, an RSS feed over latest downloads is exactly what I'm missing at the Microsoft Downloads site. Unfourtunatly, even in the new Silverlight version, Microsoft doesn't provide it. For now the only thing you can do at the site is to use the advanced search features to look for recent additions. For example:

You could sign up for the weekly download notifications newsletter, but it's not nearly as useful and doesn't allow you to receive truly targeted conent.

Luckily, I'm not the first to miss an RSS feed over latest downloads, this feed will keep you up to date with the latest downloads. It won't let you define keywords like BizTalk, but you can live without that... As far as I know, it's not an official feed, and not connected to the actual download site, and as such it can at times be a bit (hours to days) behind on the very latest downloads just released.

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Linklist: Installing Microsoft Operations Manager 2007 for BizTalk
15 April 08 08:31 PM | Johan Hedberg

The aim of this linklist is to keep track of the links and locations I used to download and install Microsoft Operations Manager 2007 and Management Packs for BizTalk, and thus can be used by others for the same purpose.

  • System Center Operations Manager 2007 - Main site at Microsoft.
  • Review Licensing and for more information about licensing read the informational brief. Operations Manager is not an expensive product. It even comes packaged together with SQL for a reasonable cost. Check the link for the latest updated information, on purpose I wont use precise amounts, but roughly it's $500 for the server install (or $1300 with SQL) and another $30 - $400 for each machine to monitor, depending on the demands of that machine. If it's a BizTalk machine it's $400. Compared to the Enterprise License for BizTalk which is $35,000 - it's hardly worth mentioning.
  • Get the Eval version - Go here to start the process of downloading the evaluation copy of Microsoft Operations Manager 2007. If you are a TechNet Plus or MSDN subscriber, perhaps you'd rather download the full, non-evaluation, copy from there.
  • Get OpsMgr 2007 MOM 2005 Backward Compatibility Management Pack Update - you need it for the management packs we'll install later.
  • Management Packs - Get your management packs of choice from here. There are quite a few to choose from and I've selected only the few I considered important in my case. Those are...
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2000/2003 Operating System Management Pack - for monitoring the operating system.
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000/2005 Management Pack - for monitoring the database.
  • Microsoft Biztalk Server 2006 Management Pack for SC Operations Manager 2007 - for monitoring BizTalk Server.
  • You cannot install Operations Manager on your XP or Vista development machine, it must be installed on a machine (or VPC) with Windows Server 2003 and SP1. Consider downloading a Virtual Hard Drive as a starting point, for example one with Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2.
  • SQL Server 2005 is required, SQL Server 2000 is not enough. Get a trial of SQL Server 2005 here or make sure the vhd you get comes with 2005, which as far as I know (at this point in time) all except the ones featuring 2008 CTPs do.
  • Some key points about the server environment you are installing to. It should not have Windows Sharepoint (if you have it uninstall it using Add/Remove Windows Components), but it should have Powershell. It should also have IIS (install using Add/Remove Windows Components), .Net 2.0, .Net 3.0  and a sufficient version of MDAC, equal to or later then 2.80.1022.0. As opposed to some other installs I've seen, MOM actually has a very good pre-requisites check complete with links to the installs your specific environment is missing. Above I just mention what I consider are the main ones.
Linklist: BizTalk 64-bit
14 April 08 08:15 PM | Johan Hedberg

I've read a few links lately that has to do with issues or gotchas around BizTalk and 64-bit computing. I decided to publish the list to make it more easily available for myself, and others.

I'll settle for these links for now, but I'll probably keep adding as I find more 64-bit links relating to BizTalk that interests me.

LINQ in BizTalk?
01 April 08 11:01 PM | Johan Hedberg | 4 comment(s)

Intriguing title, and I think it can be done. It might not be practical, not yet. We'll get there eventually. But for now...

There are ways to utilize many of the C# 3.0 features in 2.0, even extension methods, and there is even a LINQ library that allows you to do LINQ to objects in .NET 2.0. However these approaches still requires Visual Studio 2008 (or rather the C# 3.5 compiler), since they make use of Visual Studios multi-targeting features. And if you have to use Visual Studio 2008 there is really no point in not using .NET 3.5. But BizTalk doesn't work with VS.NET 2008 yet. At least not the Visual part. There should however not be anything stopping you from building for example pipeline components or functoids with Visual Studio 2008. The way I've understood it, it's "only" the designers and project templates that are missing. And since Visual Studio 2008 functions side-by-side with Visual Studio 2005, it's totally plausible to do one type of development in one tool and the other in another. Not very practical though. I'm guessing we have to wait quite awhile to get VS.NET 2008 support. Information about when this will be is scarce, about the only thing I've found is below.

From Paul Somers blog (Pauls blog seems to frequently use more resources than allowed and can at times not be viewed, so I am choosing to reproduce part of it here. The blogpost itself seems to be quoting someone else, but I couldn't say whom or what)
With the launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 right around the corner, a number of you have asked when you will be able to take advantage of the new platforms with BizTalk Server.  We are currently investigating various options to deliver updates prior to Oslo. As we have done historically, this would follow the RTM of Windows Server and SQL Server.  This will give us time to do the final work and testing to ensure compatibility.  Our intent is to provide an integrated release that supports the updated Tools (Visual Studio 2008), OS (Windows Server 2008) and DB (SQL Server 2008) as part of an infrastructure update.

To me this suggest availability at the earliest somewhere in Q4 2008, if we're lucky, since at the moment SQL 2008 is planned for Q3. This will probably happen through a SP1 for BizTalk Server 2006 and R2. And based on the above that release will be much larger then just tools, or even .NET 3.5, compliance.

With all that said, although I think LINQ and the new language features are cool, I can't really say it's something that I am really missing in BizTalk development. Being able to run BizTalk on Windows Server 2008 utilizing SQL Server 2008 excites me more then getting access to LINQ. Oh, and don't take this post as stating truths, it's just my 5 cents as it stands right now.

[Edit: For an example of using LINQ to XML in a helper class from an Orchestration, view my post here.]

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