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Kent Brown Keepin It Real

A few of us who evangelize BizTalk have noticed that it is sometimes tough to get developers excited about BizTalk.  In general, the BizTalk class at a developer conference or event, e.g. VSLive, will not be the biggest draw.  I think there are several reasons why this is:

  1. General lack of knowledge and understanding of exactly what BizTalk does.
  2. The name probably doesn't convey what it does very well.  Microsoft Enterprise Integration Server might have been a better name (but its too close to Host Integration Server I guess).
  3. The earlier versions of BizTalk were tough to work with.
  4. A lot of developers simply aren't doing integration type work - BizTalk won't help you build web pages or Windows apps.
  5. If people are trying to do SOA, ASP.NET makes web services so easy that a lot of people don't see the need to look further.
  6. Developers like code.  They may be threatened by the “drag and drop“ impression that you get from BizTalk at first.  Where's the code?
  7. Related to #6, a lot of people take pride in the gory multi-threaded, low level plumbing code they write and aren't eager to hand that over to BizTalk.
  8. If you do try to get into BizTalk it can be overwhelming at first how much you have to learn.
  9. The impression is that there aren't that many BizTalk projects out there so the career opportunities aren't so great.
  10. Somehow the impression is that BizTalk is not as “cool“ as say Indigo or something like that.

So besides helping customers understand the value of BizTalk, one of my missions it to help developers get it.  I've recently given talks at the NYC Code Camp, and at a local NJ user group, that I think went over very well.  My angle is to help developers see that BizTalk a) is very much .NET, b) adds value in SOA implementations, c) is currently in very high demand.

Here are some of my reasons why you should look at BizTalk as a technology to get into if you are a developer:

  1. BizTalk forces you to think in “Contract First“ terms, something most Web Services developers are only recently coming around to.
  2. BizTalk is probably the most “SOA“ technology that Microsoft ships.  Even after WCF ships, it still might be a dead heat.
  3. While BizTalk is highly “SOA“, meaning it supports the latest XML and Web Service standards, it is also very pragmatic in that it hooks in nicely with legacy technologies that aren't yet up to the latest standards.
  4. BizTalk 2004, and now BizTalk 2006 are vastly improved over the 2000/2002 versions.
  5. BizTalk 2004/2006 development is done right in Visual Studio.  There is actually quite a bit of .NET code in the typical BizTalk project.
  6. Letting BizTalk's well-tested code handle the gory plumbing frees you up to focus on design and architecture and ship faster.
  7. Interest from customers to do BizTalk projects is actually rising dramatically in the last few months.  Right now there is more work than qualified people.  The career opportunities are excellent.
  8. It takes a fairly senior .NET developer to make a good BizTalk developer.  I personally see it as a bar that the junior/intermediate developer should strive for to demonstrate they are ready to be called “senior“, “architect“, etc.
  9. Because BizTalk is tough to learn at first, there is a high barrier to entry - it's one of the ways to differentiate yourself at a time when development skills are being commoditized by off-shoring.
  10. The suite of individual features BizTalk provides (scalability, fault tolerance, Orchestration, Rules Engine, Business Activity Monitoring, Enterprise Single Sign-on, etc.) combine to make an overwhelming whole that is very compelling for using BizTalk to host true “Services“.
Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 5:58 AM SOA , BizTalk , Rant , NY/NJ Development Community | Back to top

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