I’m happy to report that the rumors of us BizTalk developers’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. With the release of BizTalk Server 2013 back in April, Microsoft might have been hoping to lay to rest rumors of its premier integration platform’s imminent obsolescence. But, if my own experiences are any indication, there are still a lot of people operating under the assumption that BizTalk isn’t going to be around for long. So the first thing that needs to be said is that BizTalk Server will continue to be supported and updated by Microsoft for something like the next ten years.
Where Did the Rumors Come From?
Murmurs about BizTalk dropping out of the market began after a lag in what had been a relatively rapid development cycle. Up till the release of the 2010 version, Microsoft had been releasing updates every one or two years. As late as the start of 2012, though, there hadn’t even been an announcement about an upcoming new release yet. Then came Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Report for 2012, an edition of the highly respected review of competing technologies which cautioned that BizTalk, for all of its strengths as an integration tool, would only be supported by Microsoft for the next two years.
Fortunately, Aptera’s own Mark Gordon still has some friends at Microsoft, where he worked for thirteen years before joining our team. Kent Brown, who works on BizTalk planning and marketing for Microsoft, assures us that the official plan is to keep supporting and updating the platform into the foreseeable future. You can watch Kent’s presentation at TechEd 2013 to get an idea of what Microsoft has in mind for BizTalk in the coming years. And by all reports these plans will be reflected in Gartner’s upcoming new edition of its Magic Quadrant Report.
BizTalk and Azure
Another source of confusion regarding the future of BizTalk is that many observers have noted that the Microsoft IaaS (infrastructure as a service) offering Windows Azure has several capabilities that seem to overlap with some of the functions of BizTalk. This has led many to assume that as Azure continues to grow and develop it will encroach further and further into the domain of BizTalk, eventually taking it over completely.
One element of what Microsoft is calling its “Integration Stack” has been particularly good at sowing confusion. Since BizTalk is referred to as an Enterprise Service Bus, the fact that Azure offers a service of its own called Service Bus seems to suggest that one of these will eventually have to give way to the other. But, as Kent Brown explains in his TechEd presentation (around the six-minute mark), “Service Bus might have been better named Message Bus.” Service Bus channels messages to the proper recipients, while BizTalk adapts forms or messages of one type into whichever format is most easily consumable for various specified users. The tasks they perform may overlap in certain areas, but they both serve their own separate primary functions.
BizTalk in the Cloud
The main takeaway is that Microsoft is committed to investing in BizTalk for the foreseeable future. There are, however, probably going to be some interesting changes and developments in the coming years. Cloud services like Azure may seem like they would supersede integration platforms like BizTalk, but what’s happening instead is that BizTalk is itself being integrated into Microsoft’s IaaS and PaaS offerings. You can already build a BizTalk solution into on-prem servers, and you can even host many of its functions in the cloud with a hybrid set-up. Over the coming years, businesses will be able to benefit from the increasing freedom to choose whatever combination of services and hosting environments they need.
So if you’re a BizTalk developer—don’t worry because our jobs are secure (for at least as long as other developers’ jobs are anyway). If you’re a business owner or part of an IT staff and you think BizTalk may address some of your business challenges but are hesitating to implement it because of the rumors that it’s going offline, you too can rest assured that Microsoft will continue to support and update the platform plenty long enough to make the investment worth your while.
If you have any further questions about BizTalk or the various hosting options for it, we’d love to hear from you.