Tuesday, July 4, 2017

BizTalk Developer getting started with Logic App

With the rapid adoption of cloud based services and with the advent of various types of cloud services serving/solving a need/problem there was/is a need to have a way to let the individual services be able to communicate to each other. Also to orchestrate a business flow with integrating various services, and this is where Microsoft introduced Logic Apps (Other IT leaders have too came up with their offerings)

Logic App is nothing but an Integration engine(tool) which resides on cloud, so now question might arise - yet another Integration tool. Already there is BizTalk Server which has been there for over a decade solving the need around integrating various applications, helping in automating the business flow and assisting B2B function properly in adherence to industry standards(EDI,SWIFT,HIPPA, HL7 etc).

True, both the offering from Microsoft at high level address the same area i.e., Integration, but BizTalk been on premises solution and Logic apps primarily to cater the integration needs of SAAS services, now getting more evolved with connectors getting added related to on premises applications, LOB etc.

The most fundamental difference is BizTalk is a product which you need to buy, procure a machine/s for it , install, build applications on it and you have to manage both applications and BizTalk server, whereas Logic App is a cloud based service for which you pay as you use (Platform as a service) and is managed for you by Microsoft.

Being a BizTalk Developer it is but obvious to correlate many things with Logic apps or compare the features available. It is my perception that Logic app is greatly influenced by BizTalk Orchestration, off course it is also a workflow so there will be:).



1. Native message format


BizTalk is XML based whereas Logic apps is JSON based, although both are capable of handling other formats as well like EDI, HIPPA, HL7, SWIFT etc (Logic App needs Enterprise Integration Pack)


2.Types of solution 



In BizTalk we have Messaging Solution(use only schema, maps and ports) and Orchestration(workflow) based solution whereas in Logic app we have only workflow.


3. Connecting to other systems/applications



In BizTalk it is via Adapters whereas in Logic apps it is via connectors. Connectors is encapsulation of authentication, data validation in combination of Triggers and actions. Technically all connectors are API apps that uses a metadata format named swagger, REST as pluggable interfaces and JSON as the data interchange format.


4. Instantiation of workflow



In BizTalk Message creates instance of Orchestration likewise trigger creates instance of Logic app.
Following are Trigger type available as of now
i. Request(endpoint) ii. Recurrence(schedule) iii. Http iv. ApiConnection v.HttpWebhook vi. ApiConnectionWebhook


5. Development tool 



BizTalk development is done only with Visual Studio whereas Logic app development can be done in Browser based Logic app designer and also support for development using Visual studio is present.


6. Flow controls


BizTalk Orchestration have following shapes which can be used to create workflow
BizTalk flow control


Whereas logic app has following as of now (I am sure more will be added in coming days)

logic app flow control


7. Promoted/Distinguished properties


In BizTalk some system properties are promoted by Adapters/pipelines and if anything from content is to be promoted/distinguished then explicitly has to be marked as so in Schema whereas in Logic App if you define schema the properties are auto promoted, and are available in workflow wherever appropriate.


8. Exception handling


In BizTalk exceptions can be handled at port level by enabling Failed Message routing and in orchestration by adding Exception Handling shape whereas in logic app you can check for error conditions of single Action and take required steps or you can use Scope to group multiple Action and apply check on its result using @result workflow function. Also we can Catch failures with the RunAfter property.



9. Long running transactions


BizTalk has out of box support for orchestration which can be marked as Long running whereas in Logic app it has to be architected at design time accordingly


10. Nested Workflow


BizTalk has support for calling or starting an orchestration from within another orchestration likewise Logic app support invoking another logic app from within Logic app


11. Deployment


BizTalk deployment on development environments is done via visual studio and on other environments with the use of MSI whereas in Logic app you save a workflow in browser designer – it gets deployed in the procured logic app instance, also deployment from visual studio is supported. 


12. Tracking and Monitoring


There is provision in BizTalk to track the artifacts and Group Hub page to monitor the events going on in BizTalk, also support for process monitoring is available with the help of Business Activity Monitoring(BAM). In Logic App Azure diagnostics is used to track workflow events .


13. BRE


One of the very strong capability/feature in BizTalk is Business Rule engine, logic app doesn’t have it as of now but would be good to have such feature.


14.  Retry Mechanism



Retry functionality is provided out of box in BizTalk and can be set statically over send port or dynamically in Orchestration. Logic App too have retry policies, as of now default retry mechanism is 4 attempts, once every 20 seconds.


15. Scalability



We can be scale out or scale out BizTalk - depends on edition whereas Logic app can be scale out or scale up – by using appropriate tier, but the time taken for Logic App is too less



16. SQL Dependency



BizTalk depends on SQL Server, as it is used to house databases and stored procedures which are needed at BizTalk design and runtime whereas you don’t have to worry about the backend of Logic App. It is actually abstracted and is totally managed by Microsoft, thus the term Serverless is associated with it.



17. Utilizing custom code in workflow



In a scenario where we need custom code to be used, it can be done with help of Helper class in BizTalk, likewise in Logic App we can use Azure functions.


18. B2B


BizTalk has out of box support for B2B supporting various industry standards like ANSI X12, EDIFACT,SWIFT,HIPPA, HL7,AS2 etc. Logic has a support for it too, but with the help of Enterprise Integration Pack which requires to have an Integration account.


18.Cost



Last but not the least, we have to invest before in case of BizTalk to procure the hardware, license etc whereas for logic app you need to have a Azure subscription first and you pay per action in Logic App.

After going through above points,there might arise a question - is Logic App a replacement to BizTalk? The answer is No - As mentioned earlier in case of integrating on Premises applications BizTalk is the option and in case of integrating SAAS services logic app is the option provided by Microsoft.

Although the capabilities of both may be overlapping but BizTalk and Logic App are not alternative but instead BizTalk and Logic App are better together. Reason being, not all industries would move everything in cloud owing to various factors like
1. Company Policies
2. Country Policies
3. Industry domain specific policies
4. Not all functionalities/applications available on cloud or are not that robust (which are available on prem) etc etc.

But to keep up with the pace of revolution happening in cloud and to extend the Business capabilities, companies would be utilizing the SAAS services along with what they have on prem. Many of the business process would need to connect to cloud based service e.g. ERP on prem data sync with CRM which is on cloud. 

Considering all this points following options are made available by Microsoft in order to enable the Hybrid Integration.
1. On Premise Data gateway – to access on prem resources from Cloud (Logic App, Power BI, Microsoft Flow etc)
2. BizTalk Connector in Logic App- to connect to BizTalk from Logic App
3. Logic App adapter – to connect to Logic App from BizTalk
4. Service Bus Adapter - to connect to Service Bus on Azure from BizTalk

hybrid integration

Following statistics was published by Gartner 


Gartner prediction






Final thought, something I think should be considered while making decision- Will the cost of having Logic App will be more than setting up BizTalk infrastructure on Prem. Say if logic app has 50/100 actions and millions of transactions processed? 

Hybrid Integration is future :) 



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