By the time you’re reading this in a bookstore, BizTalk will have celebrated its tenth birthday. Over the past decade, there have been seven releases of Microsoft’s enterprise integration server, and it has become the most broadly deployed integration middleware technology in the industry, with over 10,000 customers worldwide. BizTalk as a product line has matured tremendously during this period, expanding beyond its simple roots in Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) to add in capabilities around business-to-business integration, business rules, business activity monitoring, legacy integration, RFID event processing, and more.
But why does middleware like this have such staying power? You’d think that newer advances in technology like web services, SOA, and software as a service (SaaS) would render applications much more inherently interoperable and that the pain and complexity of systems integration would be a thing of the past. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you!
The truth is that enterprises of all sizes still experience tremendous cost and complexity when extending and customizing their applications. Given the recent constraints of the economy, IT departments must increasingly find new ways to do more with less, which means finding less expensive ways to develop new capabilities that meet the needs of the business. At the same time, the demands of business users are ever increasing; environments of great predictability and stability have given way to business conditions that are continually changing, with shorter windows of opportunity and greater impacts of globalization and regulation. These factors all put tremendous stress on IT departments to find new ways to bridge the demanding needs of the users and businesses with the reality of their packaged applications.
This leads back to the reason why middleware—certainly not sexy as technologies go—continues to deliver tremendous value to both businesses and IT departments. As the technology’s name suggests, it sits in the middle between the applications you use and the underlying infrastructure; this enables IT departments to continue to innovate at the infrastructure level with shifts like many-core processing, virtualization, and cloud computing. Instead of having to continue to continually rewrite your LOB applications to tap into infrastructure advances, you can depend on middleware to provide a higher level of abstraction, so you can focus your efforts on writing the business logic, not plumbing code. Using middleware also helps future-proof your applications, so that even as you move ahead to the nextgeneration development tools and platforms (including the current trends toward composite applications and platforms as a service), you can still leverage the existing investments you’ve made over the years.
So, in the decade ahead, middleware will be more important and relevant than ever before. In this book, you’ll learn practical tips and tricks, regardless of whether you are new to integration middleware and want to pick up the fundamentals of BizTalk or an experienced middleware developer wanting to stay current on the latest new features being released in BizTalk Server 2010.
If only all birthdays were as kind to us! Let’s raise a toast to BizTalk and wish it a happy birthday; and then it’s time to get back to the business of integrating applications and connecting end-to-end business processes.