Microsoft Integration Roadmap and choosing right technologies for Cloud Integration

1. Integration Roadmap - a gift?

Microsoft released a document detailing their roadmap to integration on 24th December 2015. This was a pleasant Christmas gift for many integration experts using Microsoft technologies because it clarified Microsoft’s integration strategy which was somewhat vague before.

If you haven’t unopened the box yet, you can download it here. Key points are as below.

Continuing commitment to BizTalk Server, with our 10th release of BizTalk Server in Q4 2016.

1. BizTalk is not dead and there is more to come.
> Expansion of our iPaaS vision to provide a comprehensive and compelling integration offering spanning both traditional and modern integration requirements. Preview refresh in January 2016 and General Availability (GA) in April 2016.

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<pre>`2\. Both traditional and modern integration requirements will be catered with Microsoft's integration offering.  

> Deliver our iPaaS offering on premises through Logic Apps on Azure Stack in preview around Q3 2016 and GA around end of the year.

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<pre>`3\. Along with other Azure Services, Azure Logic Apps will be available through the Azure Stack in future. Azure Stack enables customer data centres to use Azure Services. This means Azure Logic Apps could also be used for On-Premise Integration as well as BizTalk Server.  

> Strong roadmap and significant investments to ensure we continue to be recognized as a market leader in integration.

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<pre>`4\. Microsoft continues to invest to cater all possible integration requirements through its existing and developing technologies.

> The next release of Host Integration Server is planned on the same timeline as BizTalk Server below.

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<pre>`5\. Host Integration Server also gets released with improved feature sets.  

This shows the direction Microsoft integration is heading toward. The Azure App Service team is responsible for delivering integration technologies at Microsoft. They are responsible for BizTalk Server, Host Integration Server, Azure Logic Apps, Azure API Apps and Azure API Management. This is probably why they have simplified Microsoft’s Integration Offering as per the diagram below.

However, this does not mean Microsoft technologies not included above can’t be used for integration. For example, Azure Service Bus is still a key technology for hybrid integration scenarios. I will introduce others in a later section.

2. More to consider…

Following diagram illustrates very simplified integration technology choices we have with current Microsoft’s integration offering - BizTalk Server, BizTalk Services and Logic Apps.

Though this tells us what works where, it’s a bit overly simplified and in fact, I see a lot of confusion coming from customers. It kind of gives you an impression that all that is necessary for Cloud Integration is just Azure Logic Apps (or with API Apps). This is not the case.

3. Then What More?

Choosing technologies for On-Premise Integration is easy. If we narrow the scope to Microsoft offering only, you have BizTalk Server for Application Integration and SQL Server Integration Service for Data Integration.

But choosing right technologies for Cloud Integration requires a lot more to consider as it still has same level of integration needs (Data aggregation/replication, single source of truth, distributed/long-running processes, B2B integration, etc.) as before and introduces completely new challenging integration scenarios (On-Premise to Cloud, Cloud to Cloud, Cloud to On-Premise). Also more importantly, integration patterns should be considered before drilling into each scenario.

Here, I would like to list common integration patterns and technologies for Cloud Integration. Please note Microsoft technologies bolded are not necessarily included in the Integration roadmap above.

3.1. Remote Procedure Call

: Request data at the source and wait until it receives a response. Typically synchronous. Brokers support this but often not needed. Thus, fits well into modern Integration in the integration roadmap.

3.2. Asynchronous Messaging

: Fire and forget message exchange. Brokers can help to guarantee message delivery when reliability matters.

3.3. Shared Database

: When disparate (both On-Premise and Cloud) applications uses a single, authoritative source.

3.4. File Transfer

: Data integration - think of scenarios for Cloud based Data-warehousing. ETL tools and VPN technologies help.

4. Conclusion

It is important to understand that integrating systems is inherently complex and it can be even more so with Cloud Integration. Realising this and knowing how to choose right technologies to help is a key to succeed. While Microsoft’s integration roadmap helps clarifying what are available, there is more to consider and more options that Microsoft offers for each possible scenario.