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BizTalk Summit London 2014 – Technological advances and what it means for your business

I recently attended the BizTalk Summit London 2014, held on March 3rd and 4th at Microsoft's headquarters in Victoria. This will easily be the biggest Microsoft Integration event in Europe this year and was arranged by a group of Microsoft Integration MVPs for the BizTalk community. The event covered advanced topics and introduced the new technologies we are seeing appear in the cloud. These new technologies come under the banner of BizTalk Services and are similar to some of the features we see in BizTalk on premise today but for the cloud.

The main announcement from the Keynote given by two BizTalk Product Managers from Microsoft, was that Microsoft is fully committed to BizTalk and Integration in general, both on premise and off-premise for the foreseeable future, which was good news to those attending! It's also good news for businesses worldwide that their investment in BizTalk will long be realised into the future – we are talking ten years plus here, which in IT terms is a very long and big commitment. Microsoft has committed to deliver a main release of BizTalk on premise every two years with an interim R2 release in the intervening years. We can expect to see the R2 release for BizTalk 2013 in H2 2014. Off-premise releases in the cloud (known as BizTalk Services) will be delivered every three months with the next due in May 2014. Now this is where the main excitement occurred. The May 2014 release will deliver Business Process Management Workflow (BPM) and Business Rules Engine (BRE) functionality to the cloud. Together with what we have in the cloud today, the May 2014 release will give the cloud similar capability that you get from BizTalk on premise today.

It means that there are more integration options open for businesses who wish to build on their current integration investment, but more importantly it provides a cheaper initial investment in integration for those companies planning to put in place an integration option. It also means smaller companies can now use those enterprise integration options that before were beyond their budgets.

If we look at a typical initial setup of BizTalk on-premise we have an outlay of at least a single server with one processor if we are not to concern ourselves too much with high availability which can easily be achieved using virtual machines. With the cost of the server there is the cost of the BizTalk license which for a single processor is around £28,200 dependent upon your organisation's agreement with your licensing supplier.

The pricing model for off-premise is much different. BizTalk Services is offered in four tiers: Developer, Basic, Standard and Premium. For a business start ups, to use BizTalk Services for the first time the Basic Tier is the best option to choose. This option is priced at £320/month based on 744 hours of usage per month. On top of this is the cost of a Virtual Machine and an Azure SQL Database and Storage. A Small VM costs £50/month and for a SQL Database up to 10GB is £6.40/day for the first 1GB and £2.6/day for each additional GB.

The pricing for off-premise has been calculated using the Pay-as-you-go plan. If you choose the 6 or 12-month Plans then the prices are even cheaper. A simple implementation using BizTalk Services in the cloud will cost from £640/month compared to the £28,200 for an on-premises solution.

One interesting subject that arose was the need for businesses to migrate their current BizTalk platforms to BizTalk 2013, or even to BizTalk Services. There are still a number of businesses running BizTalk 2004, 2006 and 2006 R2 which are all out of mainstream support from Microsoft. BizTalk 2009 and 2010 are out of mainstream support on 8th July 2014 and 12th January 2016 respectively. The migration path whilst not difficult needs careful analysis of the current implementation and designs to ensure a smooth migration to BizTalk 2013. If you are planning to migrate your BizTalk implementation and move your solutions to the latest version you may want to have a pre-upgrade Health Check which will look at your current implementation and provide advice on best practice and any potential problem areas before performing the upgrade. You can then be sure the upgrade will leave you with an efficient and highly performing system.

By Stewart Joyce, Associate Senior BizTalk Consultant

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Ballard Chalmers is one of the UK’s leading enterprise software engineering companies, specialising in development for the Microsoft Enterprise Application Platform. We are principally dedicated to software development and integration for the Microsoft Cloud, as well as on-premises and hybrid systems. Our expertise is in Microsoft .NET, SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint Server.

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