December 2011 - Posts

”There is no Hello World in BizTalk”
- Dan Rosanova (author of the book)

4606EN_Biztalk%20server%202010%20patterns_FrontCoverI really want to like this book. Right off the bat the title is awesome with a capital A. Right up my alley as it were. For a long time there has been a lack of literature about the more practical details around patterns and anti-patterns and how they are implemented in BizTalk. I am not saying that there has not been anything about patterns, there is a ton of them, but nothing really about how to implement them in a BizTalk solution, and how to do that in practice. Enter this book.

Oh, how I would like to like his book. I am however somewhat disappointed, but you should definitely buy it.

Insightful author

There are chapters and headings that underline how very insightful the author is about BizTalk and its implementation. Headers that are very helpful in summarizing all the disparate definitions that you might already have about BizTalk. One particular header is “When to use BizTalk”, which does the best job ever to answer that question. Another is “Visual Studio solution structure” that explains in very practical and well-grounded points how the author feels the solution has to be structured. In my opinion; if you do not already have a solution structure document, use this one.

Author style

The text oozes with practical knowledge and a lot of humor as well. There is no doubt in my mind what so ever that the author, does not only know what he is talking about, but also that there is quite a lot that has been left out of the book in order to shorten the text. He does a very good job of taking a practical approach to development and architecture. He makes use of the same example solution throughout the book. This makes you feel for the solution as you might do for a real life solution. You started it and have seen it grow from a mere file-copy solution to being a core process handler in the enterprise. Another good point in doing this is that he shows the importance of doing the architecture right from the start. To really think ahead and figure out what might be next in order not to “paint yourself into a corner”. I think there is too little of this in the book. I would have liked more of a discussion about what might be the best solution within the current context. As all of you know; the problem usually is not to find a solution, but to find the best one within a certain context. That is the beauty of BizTalk in my opinion.

Also, once I would like to read a BizTalk book that assumes I know BizTalk and can tell the difference between a pipeline and a map, and know how to use custom xslt. This book does not, and spends few too many pages about the basics. I think this is due to the editor or publisher. They think you need that in order to make the book complete. I would say you do not. Anyone that would pick up this book feels confident about the basics. The title says so.

Practical approach

The author takes a very practical approach, and together with the code supplied you can easily follow along and learn hands on as well. Once again I would like to point out that some parts might focus too much on the practical but some people really like that so it is just an opinion.

Then there is another thing about the book as a whole. Due to the fact that the author wants you to see the solution grow as it might in a real life scenario, the disposition of the book is partly totally off the wall. The same chapter covers Unit testing and BAM, and another mixes configuring WCF-receive and BRE.

So tell me, what should I do?

So, bottom line: Should you buy this book? Of course you should! The technical aspect of it together with the experience of the author is an opportunity you should not miss. Another point I would like to reiterate is that it fills a gap in the integration literature and I would especially recommend it to people that have worked with BizTalk for two years and changed projects during that time. It might be time to move ahead and have an option during the next ICC meeting.

Though I would like to discuss certain parts about solution structure with the author, there are a lot of tips and tricks I will use in the future.

More info on the author: blog, twitter.

As you may know, there is an MCTS-exam called 70-595, for us that work with BizTalk. The formal name is: “Developing Business Process and Integration Solutions by Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010”. Many seem to think that passing this test is hard and also a challenge, but if you do pass, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. You have also received a sign of approval from Microsoft about your knowledge and abilities. If you are lucky, and work for the right employer, you might even receive a bonus for passing.

How do I book a test date?

clip_image001Firstly you need to find a Prometric-licensed test center. Microsoft works in collaboration with Prometric worldwide and they are responsible for making sure that everyone gets to take the test under the same conditions. They, in turn, certify locations (or test centers) all over the world. You need to find one of those. If I were you I would check the local education center that your company usually uses.

If you live in Sweden I can recommend AddSkills. You can book a date right from their site, and even send the invoice directly to your employer. The cost for taking the test varies, but at AddSkills the current rate is 1 950 SEK for the Gothenburg and Stockholm test centers. Others might be more expensive.

Is the test hard?

clip_image002Yes, it is hard. The point of the test to show that you are better than a beginner and that you also have some working experience with the product. I have heard different rumors about different Microsoft exams. Some seem to be easy-peasy, and others are hard as nails. This might be the case but I can tell you that the BizTalk is in the latter category rather than the former.

What is the process of the exam itself?

There used to be practice tests available, that closely mimicked the actual test’s process. I have not been able to find any tests for BizTalk 2010 but I will assume that, since they were available it is OK for me to write a bit about the process.

clip_image003Most importantly: No cheating! If you are caught cheating, you will be banned from taking further tests and the community will shun you. You will be forced to live out in the forest with only the birds and the voices in your head to keep you company. So please don’t cheat.

You will be placed in front of a computer configured to conform to some sort of minimum standard. You are only allowed to use the tools that the computer supplies and also a scratch-pad, provided by the test center. You are not allowed to bring anything but yourself into the test room. To further reduce the risk of cheating the testing room will be monitored via CCTV.

The test is entirely based on multiple choice. Some of the questions have answers in the form of RadioButtons (one correct answer), and others CheckBoxes (more than one might be correct).

There is a “mark for review” system. This means that you can mark a question for review, if you feel you might want to rethink that later. After you have answered all the questions you have an opportunity to view all the questions again. The ones you have marked for review is very clearly marked.

clip_image004The total time for the test is two and a half hours, which is ample time in my view. If you are worried that you might not be able to finish on time, you can use the review-system to mark questions you are not so sure about or you feel might take a long time to answer. Then run thru the test once and answer all the “easy” ones. This way you know that you will at least get those.

My method has been to take one question at a time and really focus on just that question. Read it, analyze it and try to get to the bare bone of the question. Give it the answer you feel is the best one and if you are unsure; mark it for review. Then drop that question and focus hard on the next one. I run thru the test in this manor until there are no more questions. By then, I am ready for a short break. After the break I review all the questions marked for review. This time, focusing even harder on the text and the different answers, as there might be pitfalls. Personally I don’t believe in reviewing all the questions, it’s just a waste of time.

clip_image005When you are done, you submit the test and after 10 agonizing seconds you will receive your score: pass or fail. If you pass, don’t forget to pick up your test result sheet from the test center. This paper will tell you your score and how well you performed in the different categories (see below).

In case of success, don’t forget to celebrate and treat yourself to something as a reward for all that hard work.

What do I need to study?

That actually has an official answer from Microsoft located here. I heartily recommend reading that article thoroughly and several times. Note that they have used the wording “including but not limited to”, so even if the list of things to know might be long, it might not be complete.

Here it is, together with the relative percentage of that subject compared to the whole exam.

  • Configuring and Architecture: 20 %
  • Developing BizTalk Artifacts: 20 %
  • Debugging and exception handling: 17 %
  • Integrating Web Services and WCF: 14 %
  • Implementing extended capabilities: 13 %
  • Deploying, tracking and supporting: 16 %

Something worth mentioning is that there is a lot of focus on Web Services and Wcf. It is about as important as developing BizTalk artifacts, which is pretty darn “core BizTalk”.

Something else worth noting is the point called “Implementing extended capabilities”. That is worth 13 % but includes RFID, EDI, BRE and BAM. It is safe to say that you might not have to know all the ins and outs of BAM or RFID to pass, but to dismiss them altogether is naïve.

My advice

The best advice I can give you about what to focus on when studying for the exam is this:

  1. Read the book Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 (70-595) Certification Guide, by fellow blogger Johan Hedberg. 
  2. Read the article from Microsoft once more and note all the concepts listed under each category (like what core adapters are mentioned or that you must know how to configure basic tracking).
  3. Divide all the concepts into three categories:
    1. I have heard/not heard of this and have only a vague/no idea of how to use it (like RFID perhaps).
    2. I have a fairly good idea of how to use this but feel I might need to know more (like Role Links).
    3. I know this and feel I really don’t need to study for it (like configuring a FILE send port).

How do I study for the exam?

Purchase Johan Hedbergs book and read it. Know it by heart.

I also recommend this summary, found at Microsoft. It is made by the ever productive Steef-Jan and lists all the free available resources that Microsoft has put out.

I would also recommend the book Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 Unleached, partly written by a colleague of mine, Jan Eliasen. You should, of course, read the book from cover to cover but if you are more target oriented you can obviously skip the more extensive aspects about BRE, everything about Windows Azure and the short part about the ESB toolkit.

Lastly you might benefit from reading this blog post about the exam written by fellow blogical-blogger and MCT Johan Hedberg.

In closing…

I passed my test. Will you prove yourself? Just kidding! Have fun studying; you will learn a lot of useful things about our favorite product.

Also, please provide feedback if you disagree or feel I have said too much about anything. I am only trying to help, not violate the NDA.

Earlier this year Microsoft retired the old certification for BizTalk 2006 and so I was no longer a Technology Specialist.

Well I finally got around to it, took the test, and scored a healthy 91%.

I have received some questions as to how you should prepare for the exam and based on that I have a couple pointers:

If you are an experienced BizTalk developer you really don’t need to study.

This is not a bad thing. It just shows that the exam is made to show that you have working experience and if you do; you will pass.

Read an excellent book

The unequivocal one is of course BizTalk 2010 Unleashed. Use it to read up on things you feel you don’t know; like perhaps the BRE or Wcf-adapters or BAM or Orchestrations or EDI or…

Based on what you have used the last year, you should skip those parts and read up on the parts you have not used. If you spent the better part of 2011 developing integrations using advanced maps and Wcf; read up on BAM and orchestrations.

See how others have prepared

The ever productive Steef-Jan Wiggers has written a TechNet Wiki called BizTalk Server 2010 Exam 70-595 Preparation. It is about resources that is available for free from Microsoft. It comes highly recommended.

Buy beer

Do you know someone that is a MCTS for BizTalk 2010? If so; you can invite him/her to some kind of “after work event”. Buy the person some good beers and then start asking nicely about the exam.

As an MCTS you get special training, and these special pills, so you can’t remember specifics about the exam. We can however talk generally about it: What skills are measured? How much is there about BRE compared to other topics? Is it hard?

Just saying…