I am thrilled to share in the announcement that the first public CTP of Azure Service Bus Integration Services is now LIVE at http://portal.appfabriclabs.com.
The focus of this release is to enable you to build hybrid composite solutions that span on-premise investments such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, SAP, Siebel eBusiness Applications, Oracle E-Business Suite, allowing you to compose these mission critical systems with applications, assets and workloads that you have deployed to Windows Azure, enabling first-class hybrid integration across traditional network and trust boundaries.
In a web to web world, many of the frictions addressed in these capabilities still exist, albeit to a smaller degree. The reality is that as the web and cloud computing continue to gain momentum, investments on-premise are, and will continue to be critical to realizing the full spectrum of benefits that cloud computing provides both in the short and long term.
So, what’s in this CTP?
Azure Service Bus Connect provides a new server explorer experience for LOB integration exposing a management head that can be accessed on-prem via Server Explorer or PowerShell to create, update, delete or retrieve information from LOB targets. This provides a robust extension of the Azure Service Bus relay endpoint concept, which acts a LOB conduit (LobTarget, LobRelay) for bridging these assets by extending the WCF LOB Adapters that ship with BizTalk Server 2010. The beauty of this approach is that you can leverage the LOB Adapters using BizTalk as a host, or, for a lighter weight way approach, use IIS/Windows Server AppFabric to compose business operations on-premise and beyond.
In addition, support for messaging between trading partners across traditional trust boundaries in business-to-business (B2B) scenarios using is EDI is also provided in this preview, including AS2 protocol support with X12 chaining for send and receive pipelines, FTP as transport for X12, agreement templates, partners view with profiles per partner, resources view, and an intuitive, metro style EDI Portal.
Just as with on-premise integration, friction always exists when integrating different assets which may exist on different platforms, implement different standards and at a minimum have different representations of common entities that are part of your composite solution’s domain. What is needed is a mediation broker that can be leveraged at internet-scale, and apply message and protocol transformations across disparate parties and this is exactly what the Transforms capability provides. Taking an approach that will be immediately familiar to the BizTalk developer, a familiar mapper-like experience is provided within Visual Studio for interactively mapping message elements and applying additional processing logic via operations (functoids).
In addition, XML Bridges which include the XML One-Way Bridge and XML Request-Reply Bridge are an extension to the Azure Service Bus which supports critical patterns such as protocol bridging, routing actions, external data lookup for message enrichment and support for both WS-I and REST endpoints and any combination thereof.
As shown below in the MSDN documentation, “bridges are composed of stages and activities where each stage is a message processing unit in itself. Each stage of a bridge is atomic, which means either a message completes a stage or not. A stage can be turned on or off, indicating whether to process a message or simply let it pass through”.
Taking a familiar VETR approach to validate, extract, transform and route messages from one party to another, along with the ability to enrich messages by composing other endpoint in-flight (supported protocols include HTTP, WS-HTTP and Basic HTTP, HTTP Relay Endpoint, Service Bus Queues/Topics and any other XML bridge) the Bridge is a very important capability and brings very robust capabilities for extending Azure Service Bus as a key messaging broker across integration disciplines.
In reality, these patterns have no more to do with EAI than with traditional, contemporary service composition and become necessary once you move from a point-to-point approach and need to elegantly manage integration and composition across assets. As such, this capability acts as a bridge to Azure Service Bus that is very powerful in and of itself, even in non-EAI/EDI scenarios where endpoints can be virtualized increasing decoupling between parties (clients/services). In addition, this capability further enriches what is possible when using the BrokeredMessage property construct as a potential poor-man’s routing mechanism.
In closing, the need to address the impedance mismatch that exists between disparate applications that must communicate with each other is a friction that will continue to exist for many years to come, and while traditionally, many of these problems have been solved by expensive, big iron middleware servers, this is changing.
As with most technologies, often new possibilities are unlocked that are residual side-effects of something bigger, and this is certainly the case with how both innovative and strategic Azure Service Bus is to Microsoft’s PaaS strategy. Azure Service Bus continues to serve as a great example of a welcomed shift to a lightweight capability-based, platform-oriented approach to solving tough distributed messaging/integration problems while honoring the existing investments that organizations have made and benefiting from a common platform approach which is extremely unique in the market. And while this shift will take some time, in the long-run enterprises of all shapes and sizes only stand to benefit.
To get started, download the SDK & samples from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=184288 and the tutorial & documentation from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=235197 and watch this and the Windows Azure blog for more details coming soon.