Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Daniel Toomey

Welcome to Fourteenth interview of the series, today's expert is Daniel Toomey. 

 
Dan is an Enterprise Integration Consultant, Solution Architect, Application Developer, and Systems Analyst with over thirteen years experience working on large enterprise systems in the private sector, Queensland Government and Australian Federal Government. Microsoft certified in BizTalk Server, WCF and Azure, Dan specializes in large integration projects, Business Process Integration and Connected Systems built upon the Microsoft solution stack. While his primary technical focus is on Microsoft BizTalk Server and Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services, he is also highly experienced with using Azure Service Bus, WCF, Web Services, and C#.NET.

Prompted by Microsoft, Dan founded the Brisbane BizTalk User Group in 2005 and has presented at many of its sessions as well as for the Brisbane Azure User Group and Barcamp QLD in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. He has also posted a number of “how-to” webcasts on the Brisbane BizTalk User Group YouTube channel, and numerous presentations on SlideShare.
Dan is also Co-Organiser of the Brisbane Azure User Group, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, a member of the Microsoft Azure Advisors group, and a published Pluralsight author.

His blog can be found at
http://www.mindovermessaging.com.


Let's begin the interview....

Mahesh: Who are you and what you do?
Dan:
I’m a Senior Consultant for Mexia, Australia’s best enterprise integration consultancy. We focus on delivering top solutions for both cloud and on-prem based integration using the Microsoft stack. During my six years with Mexia I have worked mainly with BizTalk Server, but more recently I’ve also designed and built hybrid solutions using Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services, Service Bus, Logic Apps and Hybrid Connections.  I started the Brisbane BizTalk User Group in 2005, and also lead the Brisbane Azure User Group. In addition, I am a blogger (www.mindovermessaging.com) and a Pluralsight author.
Before I started my career in IT in 2001, I was a professional musician. Born in New York, I studied trombone and piano, graduating The Juilliard School with a Master of Music degree. Whilst serving as Principal Trombonist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, I met my wife Sherryn who is from Australia. After getting married and enduring four years of service in the US Air Force Band of Liberty, we moved to Australia where I earned a second Master’s Degree in IT from Bond University.

Mahesh: When did you start working on BizTalk?
Dan:
My first BizTalk project was for the Queensland Dept. of Justice in 2004, where we built a cross-agency electronic interface that allowed the Queensland Police Dept. to send electronic Bench Charge Sheets directly into the Courts management system. Shortly after that project, I was recruited for BizTalk contracting roles within other government agencies for a few years before becoming a founding member of Mexia in 2009.

Mahesh: How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)? Dan: I’m still learning!! BizTalk is an enormous platform, I don’t know if anyone can claim to know everything about it. But I’d have to say aside from a 5-day training course, several textbooks, reading blogs & forums, and lots of experience, the single biggest facilitator to my skills development was mentoring by MVPs like Bill Chesnut (“BizTalk Bill”), who I’m delighted to say is a fellow teammate at Mexia.


Mahesh: Which are the major projects you handled so far?
Dan:
Too many to name here. But have a look at Mexia’s website (www.mexia.com.au) to see our impressive list of clients.


Mahesh: How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform?
Dan:
To be honest, I’ve never worked with other integration platforms such as Tibco, MuleSoft, IBM, Oracle, etc.   But every time I talk to people who have, I hear about so much grief. My impression is that there is no other platform that delivers so much capability out of the box for the same price.


Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert?
Dan:
The first thing to realise is that Integration != BizTalk. Integration covers a wide spectrum; it is a means to solve a business problem, and there are many tools out there to help. BizTalk Server is one of the biggest tools, but it is not necessarily the right tool for every problem. Learn the concepts of integration first (e.g. message exchange patterns), then analyse the requirements before deciding what tool to use.


Mahesh: What are your thoughts on forums,blogs and articles etc.?
Dan:
These are invaluable not only for newbies but as a continual reference for veterans. There is an outstanding community of MVPs and other seasoned professionals who are openly sharing their hard-learned knowledge with the community. I believe this is an advantage that Microsoft has over other integration providers – the strong community presence. For example, check out the Integration Monday events (http://www.integrationusergroup.com/) – there are so many outstanding professionals around the globe with something to say that this initiative can support weekly events, often over-subscribed!  I certainly would not be where I am today without having consumed the resources freely provided by giants in this industry like Saravana Kumar, Scott Colestock, Charles Young, Sandro Pereira, Michael Stephenson, and many others.


Mahesh: Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be approach to get sound knowledge in Biztalk?
Dan:
Learn the basic integration concepts first (e.g. “Enterprise Integration Patterns” by Hohpe), then the tool will make more sense to you. I see a lot of C# developers that start using BizTalk without making the necessary adjustment in approach. There are lots of excellent books and Pluralsight courses out there, but nothing beats experience. Try to become part of a team of more experienced people than yourself and learn from them; even better find a good mentor. In my case, Bill Chesnut got me started with BizTalk and is still the first person I go to with questions I can’t find the answer to myself.


Mahesh: There are many tools from community which support BizTalk in some or the other way(like BTDF, Bizunit etc), what do you say about it? Which ones you would recommend?Why?
Dan:
We use the BizTalk Deployment Framework (BTDF) quite heavily now in our projects. Integration deployment is a complicated and often painful endeavour, even with BTDF – but it does make it less painful. BizUnit is another great tool for testing, especially when combined with SpecFlow which allows the test cases to be expressed in business language (Gherkin). I’ve found the Winterdom Pipeline Component framework to be very handy as well.  And what I’ve seen of NoS looks very impressive – although I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t actually tried using it myself yet. Finally, I must mention BizTalk360 as an excellent tool for managing BizTalk Server platforms; we have several clients for whom we’ve installed this product.


Mahesh: What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification?
Dan:
I think that certification is one of those boxes you need to tick if you want to validate yourself to some employers. But these days there are so many cheat exams out there that I really wonder if there is any credibility left in this as a measurement of capability(?)  I think you can tell much more about a prospective candidate’s skills by asking a few relevant questions in an interview.


Mahesh: What is the future of BizTalk?
Dan:
I’ll assume you mean specifically BizTalk Server here(?) Many people have the impression that it is eventually going away and will be replaced by cloud technologies. But the reality is there are always on-prem systems that need to be integrated, and nothing developed for the cloud matches the power of the server product…yet. I think BizTalk Server will still be around for a long time, however each version “next” is going to introduce more & more capability for cloud integration. Hybrid integration is where the real power is, and it is clear that Microsoft is pushing to make that more and more accessible.


Mahesh: Any thoughts on cloud?
Dan:
It is essential that integration developers today learn the new technologies such as API Management, Azure App Service, Service Bus, Event Hubs, etc. because these are continually becoming more important via their ability to facilitate rapid, cost-effective implementation of solutions that scale. Integration devs who insist on staying focussed purely on the BizTalk Server product will eventually find themselves eclipsed by those who can leverage these cloud platforms to deliver better solutions.


Mahesh: What motivates you to do the community work?
Dan:
As mentioned earlier, I would never have grown to my current level of expertise without the benefit of knowledge shared by so many industry giants through their blogs, forums, and community presentations. After being a “sponge” for the better part of my career in consuming all of these resources, it gives me immense pleasure and fulfilment to finally be able to give some of this back to the community via my own contributions. Each time I publish a new blog post, deliver a new Pluralsight course, or present something to the user group, I relish the idea that there’s someone out there just like me six years ago, who’s life is going to be just a little bit easier that day because of the titbit of knowledge I’ve shared.

Mahesh: Do you think the current Azure offferings are stable/matured enough for an organisation to move from On-Prem to Cloud?
Dan:
I think they are getting there. It’s all so new, so there are many hurdles to overcome. But the great advantage of the cloud is the rapid pace at which things improve – something that server products can’t compete with. My advice to any organisation seeking to leverage Azure is to ensure you enlist the assistance of strong Microsoft Partners, because they will have the necessary access to the product team which is essential to gaining proper support.
As for us integration professionals, it’s our duty to master the new tech so we can guide our clients appropriately in wielding it. Microsoft has opened its feedback channels more widely than ever before, so we are in a great position to influence the direction that the product team takes in solving real world problems. It’s an exciting time to be in the integration space!



Thanks a lot Daniel for sharing your experiences, this will surely benefit many !!!

Feel Free to ask questions to Daniel in the comments!!!!!!!!





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