Friday, July 4, 2014

Interview questions on HL7

This post intends to cover the BizTalk HL7 related questions, which a BizTalk developer can face during an interview.

Questions and answers:

1. What happens when the HL7 accelerator is installed?
The installation of the HL7 accelerator results in one or more of these items, depending on the selection during installation:
·         Schemas: Contains the XSD representation of HL7 messages which are in flat file format in version v2.x
·         Pipelines: Converts HL7 messages in flat file format into XML on receive and XML to flat file when sending messages and validates the HL7 message
·         Adapter: Minimal Lower Layer Protocol (MLLP) adapter enables BizTalk to receive or send HL7-based messages, which BizTalk Server typically transports using the MLLP protocol. The MLLP adapter ensures that BizTalk Server and BTAHL7 are interoperable with HL7-based messaging applications.Generates acknowledgements for received messages
·         Tools and Utilities: Configuration Explorer, MLLP Test Tool, SDK, Logging framework 

2. What does BTAHL72VXCommon project contain?
It contains Schema for MSH segent and HL7 acknowledgements.

3. What does BTAHL7231common project contain?
It contains the definitional schema referred to by all version 2.31 message schemas.

4. Is it mandatory to configure party for HL7?
Yes, you need to add a party for each application that sends data into BizTalk server.

5. Is it required to specify schema per pipeline?
Unlike default flat file DASM that BizTalk server provides, the HL7 does not require that a schema be specified per pipeline.

6. What consideration is to be taken while dealing with MSH entries?
Entries in MSH are case sensitive.

7. When does DASM generate acknowledgements?
If configured for Acknowledgement or if MSH.15 and MSH16 request them, the DASM generates one or more acknowledgements.

8. Why is it required to have party configured?
The HL7 parser is designed to check the party configuration for each HL7 message. It reads the MSH.3 and checks for whether a party has been defined. If it has then HL7 parser follows the configuration supplied via HL7 configuration explorer.

9. HL7 accelerator runs in which mode?
HL7 accelerator runs only in 32-bit mode. (64-bit support is available in BizTalk 2013).

10. Can we override values in the MSH segment of the outgoing message?
Yes, it is possible to override certain field values in MSH segment of outgoing message.

11. Can we alter the namespace in the MSH schema?
We can, but do not alter because the HL7 parser only looks for single MSH, the standard one that the HL7 accelerator provides.

12. What is the difference between BTAHL72XReceive and BTAHL7XMLReceive?
Both are used to receive HL7 message but former one used to receive HL7 message as flat file and later one to receive HL7 message as XML.

13. What are the acknowledgement types defined by HL7?
The ACK code is found in the MSA-1 field of the ACK message. The following codes are supported by HL7:
·         AA – Application Accept
·         AE – Application Error
·         AR – Application Reject

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Steef-Jan Wiggers

Starting a blog series where I would be interviewing the BizTalk experts all around the world, the focus will be on getting the insights on how to become expert and what experts did to become expert. Today's BizTalk guru is Steef-Jan Wiggers. Before starting the interview I would like to congratulate Steef on being rewarded MVP award for 5th time in a row(

I met (virtually) Steef through TechNet Wiki last year and it was him, the first person who guided me proactively and helped me improvising the BizTalk articles. And I know, like me, he has guided many new contributors, playing the role of guardian very well. Before that, I was already found of his articles, which demonstrated the amount of knowledge, expertise he has in BizTalk. He is one who has been consistent for many years with the eagerness and desire to serve the community by sharing his knowledge and experience via TechNet Wiki , blogs and forums. Great to have such person in the community.

Lets start the interview....

Mahesh: Who are you and what you do?
Steef: My name is Steef-Jan, married, three children and living in Ede a village near the National Park “The Hoge Veluwe”. As an all-round integration specialist I work on different projects with various customers building integration solutions with Microsoft Technology like .NET (WCF), WF, SQL, and BizTalk Server. My role involves architecting and designing solutions, perform audits, guide installation and configurations of BizTalk environments, development and do consultancy.

Mahesh: When did you start working on BizTalk?
Steef: I started working with BizTalk Server in 2005 as junior BizTalk professional. By then I had six years of .NET development, SQL Server and OS experience. I was a certified MSCD.NET, MCDBA and MCSA 2003. It was not too difficult for me to enroll into BizTalk Server product and technology behind it. I started with installations and configurations of BizTalk 2004. Not an easy task back then. Subsequently I developed my first BizTalk solutions.

Mahesh: How did you master BizTalk (Learning path)?
Steef: The learning path can be different from person to person. I myself already had a vast experience with Visual Studio, SQL Server, XML, and XSD’s and so on. Therefore, I could focus on learning the product itself and gain experience by doing projects. I believe the best way to master BizTalk is by experience. The way you can approach this is by reading one of my TechNet Wiki articles named: BizTalk Server 2013: Beginners Guide. I did the write up so others can use that approach it that suits them.

Mahesh: Which are the major projects you handled so far?
Steef: During the last couple of years I have done various large BizTalk projects for global and local operating customers in verticals like retail, telecom, energy, and insurance. In those projects the challenging aspects are deployment and operations not the development.

Mahesh: How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform?                              
Steef: BizTalk is the best choice as an integration platform in a heterogeneous environment. The choice for BizTalk is platform depended. Therefore, in a predominantly Microsoft environment BizTalk is the logical choice and challenging to compare with other products. I feel Gartner does a better job of comparing integration platforms than we as BizTalk professionals.

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration (BizTalk) Expert?
Steef: I have a passion for technology and BizTalk in particular. I started working with the products in 2005, and after a year I decided to share my experience and knowledge through a blog. I started blogging on, where I created a blog called “SOA Thoughts, EAI Challenges”. SOA was a hot topic at that moment and Microsoft organized conferences like SOA & BPM, where BizTalk was featured as Microsoft's offering for SOA and BPM. BizTalk in my view can be a right fit as an enabler for SOA with Microsoft Technology. I visited the last three conferences held at Microsoft Campus in 2006, 2007, and 2009. With every visit I shared my experience through blog posts and with my colleagues. Soon after the first conference in 2006 I started writing articles for Dutch magazines and did presentations, sharing my gained insights to fellow BizTalk professionals.
After writing articles and blogging, I started helping people out in BizTalk forums. In June 2010 I was nominated for MVP and July 1st I was awarded. Filled with joy, excitement, and appreciation, I became even more active on forums, writing more articles, and presenting nationally and internationally for BizTalk User Groups. Being an MVP gave me a boost and more opportunities to share my knowledge and experience with the community. For instance, beginning of this year, PackT publishing gave me the opportunity to review a BizTalk book, and even the opportunity to write one. So I started writing a BizTalk Cookbook and it is due to be released the beginning next year.
The great thing about Microsoft MSDN Forums, Blogs, Code Gallery, and the TechNet Wiki is that you can share your knowledge and experience. Recently, I even started being active on Code Gallery and TechNet Wiki sharing code samples and writing Wiki articles. The general message that's coming from myself is to share your knowledge with passion, dedication, and persistence. At the end of the day you will be appreciated for your efforts, and it can lead to becoming a well-respected community member like an MVP.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts on forums, blogs and articles etc.?
Steef: Forums, blogs, articles, books, sites, and so on are all resources you can access to learn more on BizTalk Server, or help you with building a solution, or can aid in helping to solve an issue you are facing. The number of resources grew substantially on BizTalk the last couple of years. When I started with BizTalk Server there not as much of the resources as there are today. These resources play in my view a vital role in the success of BizTalk Server today.

Mahesh: Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be the approach to have a sound knowledge in BizTalk?
Steef: I would suggest to read my TechNet Wiki articles named: BizTalk Server 2013: Beginners Guide.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification?
Steef: Certification is a means of showing your knowledge of the product towards customers. However, certification alone will not tell how skillful you are. A better indicator for that is experience, the number of projects and endorsements from peers.

Mahesh: What is the future of BizTalk?
Steef: The product, BizTalk Server is still standing strong and Microsoft will be investing in now with the upcoming release and beyond that. Besides BizTalk Microsoft is putting tremendous effort in its cloud counterpart Microsoft Azure BizTalk Service. My prediction is that in some point of time there will be a convergence between the on premise BizTalk Server and Microsoft Azure BizTalk Server. This means there will be a kind of symmetry between both of them, where you build your solution and deploy it either on premise or in Azure.

Thanks a lot Steef, am sure many of us will be benefited from your insights and your journey is inspiring !!!!!!

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