Microsoft Integration Roadmap – My Op-ed

Microsoft has recently published their Integration Roadmap to provide insight in to the direction of their key integration technologies:
  • BizTalk Server
  • Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services (MABS)
  • Microsoft Azure Logic Apps and Azure App Service
There are some great summaries are out there by Kent Weare, Saravana Kumar and Daniel Toomey and having read through the document, I thought I’d capture some of my thoughts of what it contains.

BizTalk Server

Having used BizTalk for over 10 years I was keen to see what direction the platform was going to take. There have been naysayers for many years saying the platform is dead, so it is good that Microsoft have announced a new version is coming later in 2016.

Some disappointing news for me on this though is that for the most part this is really yet another platform alignment release.
That said, the addition of more robustness around high availability and better support for this on Azure IaaS is welcome and should see a batch of new customers being able to leverage this.
There is certainly some indication of future releases, although not as strong a commitment as outlined at the BizTalk Summit 2015 in London.

BizTalk Services

BizTalk Services has been the elephant in the room since Logic Apps went in to preview. There are a number of API Apps that encapsulate a lot the functionality provided by BizTalk Services so it is quite telling that the roadmap says that any new development should target using Logic Apps and these API Apps rather than BizTalk Services.

It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that at some point MABS will be sunsetted. I hope it is fair to assume that a migration path from MABS to Logic Apps will be provided either directly by Microsoft or via a partner.

Logic Apps, App Service and Azure Stack

Since the preview release, Logic Apps have undergone a number of revisions around functionality and tooling and the roadmap lays out the path ahead for when they come out of preview.

Along with this we are going to see new connectors and general availability of Azure Stack.
Azure Stack provides App Services on-premises, and will provide organisations with at least some of the agility, resilience and scalability that the core Azure iPaaS platform provides.

New Features != Evolution

Taking the point about Azure Stack, Microsoft has announced a convergence between cloud and on-premises solutions for integration.

I’d take this a step further I think. For a long time the BizTalk community has had to field questions on when and if the BizTalk Server platform will move forward technically. Whatever form this discussion has taken it has long been assumed that over time the platform would evolve.
By converging cloud and on-premises with Azure Stack, thereby providing potential self-service to integration solutions in your own hosting environment, and with the release of PowerApps recently, a means to creating just in time data driven applications is pretty much at hand.
Since there has been little actual evolution of the core BizTalk platform I wonder if over the next couple of years workloads will move to Azure Stack instead. After all, this would provide the swiftest way to then leverage the core iPaaS platform in future and reduce dependency on hard to find BizTalk skills.
One telling comment in the roadmap discussion for me was:
Alongside our Azure Stack investments, we are actively working on adding more BizTalk Server capabilities to Logic Apps.
 Is this scene setting, after all the team that is responsible for BizTalk Server is the same team that is responsible for Logic Apps, they have finite resources?

Conclusion

It’s great to see Microsoft continuing to invest in the future of integration, hardly surprising given Hybrid Integration is seen as a key approach to moving workloads to the cloud.

Have they gone far enough?
I think for now the combination of a core robust platform in BizTalk Server that is moving forward, albeit slowly, and a solution that offers parity between cloud and on-premises provides a great springboard for the near future of integration.
And for me that is one key takeaway, the roadmap provides a vision for the near future but I would like to have seen a longer term (i.e., beyond 2016) vision, that is what would allow us as IntegrationProfessionals™ to ensure we don’t take a customer down a dark alley.

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