Richard Seroter has a style of writing that’s… entertaining and easy to read. Some books or articles have a tendency to go on and on without really saying too much. Let me assure you, that’s not the case here. You can find that in his blog as well.
If after reading the book I would be asked to identify an audience for the book I would indicate that the people that would get the most value out of reading the book are the ones that are already familiar with BizTalk. You don’t have to be familiar with WCF, as I think it does a good job of explaining it down to a level where you can follow things being said thereafter. Again though, I would suggest that you will also get the most value out of the book if you are already familiar with the concepts of WCF. And it’s for developers, not administrators. From the BizTalk books I’ve read, there are really none dedicated to administrators, although most contain parts meant for administrators. This does not.
I understand why it contains introductory chapters of BizTalk – you don’t want to alienate a large segment of people. But… in my humble opinion, beginners will get more value out of reading Professional BizTalk Server 2006 first. This is not a beginners book.
I read it cover to cover, that’s how I read most books, but if you belong to what I would claim is the best target group to get this book, you will read the first three chapters quickly, or not at all. Don’t get me wrong, they are not poorly written in any way, on the contrary, but you probably know this stuff well enough anyway. The mother of all learning is repetition though so…
I would say that the next five chapters (4-8, pg 87-276) is the meat of the book. Even though you know BizTalk (and there really aren’t all that many people in my cultural part of the world that say they really know something), I believe everyone can pick up a thing or two, or at the very least be reminded of things you should do when building solutions in BizTalk Server. I would also claim that these things, although arguably more important in a SOA, are of interest to all BizTalk developers, regardless if you are using BizTalk to do EAI, SOA or ESB style development – although the focus of the book might be on SOA and WCF.
The following chapter on the WCF SQL Server Adapter is a really good read as well, and one of the few resources available explaining the new SQL Adapter in any depth. I mostly recommend reading the book from start to finish, but starting with chapter 9, the chapters 9-12 can be read independently from each other and the rest of the book. Although chapter 9 is called “New SOA Capabilities in BizTalk Server 2009: WCF SQL Server Adapter”, it is mostly applicable on BizTalk Server 2006 R2, as is most of the book. Some parts of the chapter covers SQL Server 2008 specific functionality though.
The next couple of chapters (10, 11) are BizTalk Server 2009 specific, but they are the only ones. You can get this book even if you do BizTalk Server 2006 R2 development today and in the foreseeable future. The last chapters (11-12) are about coming functionality. It’s always difficult to write stuff about the future (or pre-release software for that matter), since inevitably, it’s constantly changing based on actions in the present (kinda deep huh?), but it gives a good glimpse into how things stood at the writing of the book (and in the majority of cases still does).
Summing up my experiences I think that an alternative title that reflects my above thoughts could have been Advanced or Pro WCF in BizTalk Server 2006 R2 (following in line with Apress names of Pro Mapping/BAM/EDI/RFID/… – but SOA Patterns with BizTalk Server 2009 is so much cooler ;) (and is just as appropriate)
To close, I highly recommend this book for anyone doing BizTalk development, specifically those matching the right crowd as described above.
Also BizTalk User Group Sweden looks forward to Richards visit in September when he will be speaking on some of these topics and beyond.