Mid-2017 there was a rumour doing the rounds that BizTalk Server was going to be retired, or at least slowly begin take a back seat to products like Azure LogicApps. This rumour has not entirely gone away. After investigating it ourselves last year, we discovered it was unfounded and traced it back to confusion over the retirement of BizTalk Services.
Back in June 2013 Microsoft released BizTalk Services as part of its Cloud strategy. BizTalk Services provided out-of-the box, cloud to on-premises and line-of-business application integration for SAP, Oracle EBS, SQL Server, and PeopleSoft. The user could connect with any HTTP, FTP, SFTP, or REST data source, as well as route messages by using various Azure artifacts such as Service Bus queues, Topics, SQL Database, and Blob storage. BizTalk Services filled a gap by taking familiar features available on-premises in BizTalk Server and make them available for the Azure cloud without the need to set up architecture.
Then in June 2017 Microsoft announced the retirement of the product saying, “Azure Logic Apps meets and exceeds the capabilities found in BizTalk Services.” The idea was to simplify the customer experience across enterprise integration services, as we noted in this news article at the time. This made sense since Azure LogicApps is an integration engine that resides in the cloud and helps to facilitate hybrid integration – there is no need for two products doing the same thing.
So Why the Rumour About BizTalk Server Retirement?
One possibility for the birth of this rumour is that a generic sounding product name like BizTalk Services (noun) was confused with the totality of BizTalk Server services (verb). There is a Chinese proverb which says, “What is told in the ear of a man is often heard a hundred miles away,” and in verbal conversations BizTalk Services could easily be misunderstood as BizTalk services.
We should also factor in here that because Microsoft has its ‘Cloud First’ vision that some may have interpreted the BizTalk Services retirement as a first step in a move to retire BizTalk Server. After all, Microsoft extensively markets Azure products/services foremost. So with this in mind it is easy to see how an idea could be born that on-premises integration was somehow to be phased out. However, whilst BizTalk Server and Azure Logic Apps certainly overlap, on-premises still holds its own space. For example, you would not use Azure LogicApps if you were integrating on-premises by communicating with on-premises LOB (line of business) apps. For this you would use BizTalk Server.
Perhaps the rumour did not reach Redmond, or if it did, perhaps Microsoft opted to not address such a rumour because it was just that. The stance we have heard from Microsoft is simply, “This consolidation is not changing the BizTalk Server product”. In other words, BizTalk Services is going but it is business as usual for BizTalk Server.
The Microsoft Integration Arena
For reassurance, a quick search for ‘Microsoft Integration’ in May 2018 returns the following top 3 organic results:
BizTalk Server is there. It is not surprising that the first item is Azure or even that hybrid places above on-premises.
Organisationally, the BizTalk Server team is part of the Azure team at Redmond but this is more to address the need for on-premises and cloud cohesion (hybrid). BizTalk Server 2016, the latest product version, arrives with Azure LogicApps integrated. In 2016 this article from Microsoft stated, “With BizTalk Server and Logic Apps at the core of our enterprise integration story, customers can now connect both traditional on-premises applications to cloud-native applications seamlessly…Our goal is to evolve Logic Apps as an enterprise grade integration platform that brings core BizTalk Server capabilities to the cloud.”
Microsoft Is Not Competing Against Itself
Despite a rapid adoption of cloud-based applications, there is still a need in the market for an efficient way to let these systems communicate with legacy software. Microsoft knows this and is not going to shoot itself in the foot by ending the still very much needed on-premises product.
BizTalk Server is not being pitted against the Cloud. With BizTalk Server and cloud integration products like Azure Logic Apps, Microsoft is providing you the customer with options.
The reality is that many organisations either choose not to, or cannot move entirely to the cloud for very good reasons, and this is one solid answer why BizTalk Server will continue to be a mainstay of the Microsoft Application Platform for the foreseeable future. Based on an organisation’s individual needs, BizTalk Server, or Azure LogicApps, or a hybrid of both will do the job of enterprise integration.
BizTalk Server and Azure LogicApps are not alternatives to each other; in fact they work best together!
With the Integrate 2018 conference set to take place in London from 4-6 June it will be interesting to see what new information arrives. Watch this space.
Ballard Chalmers is one of the very few Microsoft BizTalk Server experts in the UK, and we will continue to deliver BizTalk Server, Azure Logic Apps cloud and hybrid solutions to best fit our clients requirements.
By the Ballard Chalmers Enterprise Integration team
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