Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Saravana Kumar

Welcome to seventh interview of the series, today's expert is Saravana Kumar.

Saravana Kumar is the Founder of BizTalk360, enterprise software that helps Microsoft BizTalk Server Customers to improve their day to day operational efficiency, by providing rich set of tools and monitoring capabilities.

Saravana Kumar is a Microsoft BizTalk server MVP since 2007, blogger, international speaker and active community member in BizTalk Server area. In year 2013, Microsoft awarded him the prestigious Integration MVP of the year 2013 for his contribution to the Microsoft BizTalk Server community. He has spent majority of his 17 years career working with integration projects, mainly using BizTalk Server.

Let's begin the interview....

Mahesh: Who are you and what you do?

Saravana: I’m Saravana Kumar, Founder and CTO of BizTalk360 ( The product we build to help BizTalk Server customer with better operational and monitoring capabilities.

Mahesh: When did you start working on BizTalk?

Saravana: My first project using BizTalk was back in 2002, doing some integration along with Commerce Server. I then moved to ASP/Web Development for some 18 months. Around March 2003 I received a call from Microsoft, UK they are looking for some strong .NET people with little BizTalk experience for a proof of concept project they are doing with the upcoming BizTalk Server 2004. I jumped on the opportunity and since then working solely on BizTalk related projects.

Mahesh: How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)?

Saravana: BizTalk 2004 was completely new product and when I started, the product was not even mature. I was working with the product group and it was all trial and error, fiddling around with database if things don’t get deployed etc. When BizTalk 2004 was released all of a sudden a good community started to evolve, people got excited and there were lots and lots of blog articles, which proved as a main source for learning (I still believe those blog articles in the wild are the best sources to learn). The amount of time I spent, well can’t count :-)

Mahesh: Which are the major projects you handled so far?

Saravana: In my consulting days (between 2004 to 2010) I had handled 3 large integration project for 3 major customers. The UK NHS national integration project was my major stint along with Accenture, then I spend 5 years with a financial organisation building their middleware/BPM platform using BizTalk Server. Since 2010 I focused purely on building BizTalk360 trying to help customer with better tools from years of experience I gained in this field.

Mahesh: How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform?

Saravana: Majority of the integration platforms out there will functionally cover more or less everything, there are some top vendors like IBM, TIBCO, Oracle etc.Choosing an integration platform is harder, to tackle this situation and to help customers choose the right integration tool we recently released a white paper along with our friend Kent Weare, Michael Stephenson and Steef-Jan Wiggers, you can download the white paper here

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert?

Saravana: For a developer to become an Integration expert, there is no straight forward way, you just need to get into a real world project. It will be harder to just do some hello world project and gain integration expertise. The way of thinking in an integration world is slightly different, you need to pick up concepts like messaging, schemas, contracts, communication patters like one-way, request-response, debatching etc. Without a real world need, it will be difficult to grasp them in a concrete way.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts on forums, blogs and articles etc.?

Saravana: In general I really like communities, it unite people and it’s great to see people trying to help one another. As I mentioned earlier, I believe still the best source of information for BizTalk server is living in the people’s blogs. There are tons of in-depth articles explaining the concepts. Recently I also seeing lot of articles popping up in the Technet wiki, which is great. Because we know Microsoft will look after them nicely. One of the problem I have seen with blogs is, after
sometime people switch to different technologies and they don’t look after their blogs and they eventually die with lot of valuable information.

Mahesh: Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be approach to get sound knowledge in Biztalk?

Saravana: If you are new to BizTalk or integration in general, see if you can get into any real world projects. You may be web developer working on web services that BizTalk interacts with, try to extend your knowledge and get to know about BizTalk bit more. You can also try out some of the virtual labs out there, to get the glimpse of the product, there are tons of videos available now to get you started (in channel9 and few other places)

Mahesh: What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification?

Saravana: In general I’m not a big fan of certification, they try to test the attendee in certain way, which may or may not be useful in practical sense. But if you have time,it’s fun to give it a shot and see where you stand. Only challenge is, in real world you probably do not use the complete breath of the product, but certifications expects you to know everything, there comes the practical challenge academic vs real-world.

Mahesh: What is the future of BizTalk?

Saravana: The future of BizTalk (or Integration in general) is good, because if you look at the way things are working now, there are no individual solutions.Organisations need to use multiple solutions from multiple vendors to fulfil their needs. Ex: they may need to use SalesForce for the CRM requirements and SAP for their ERP requirements, and both these applications need to talk to each other. Microsoft also committed to release new versions of BizTalk server every 2 years to help existing and new customers.

Mahesh: Any thoughts on cloud?

Saravana: The future of technology seems to be cloud, it makes complete sense to outsource your infrastructure to someone and focus on your core business. Still there are some concerns in terms of reliability, security, latency etc. But over the next 10 years period I believe all these concerns will disappear. Microsoft is also investing heavily on next generation of Integration in the cloud called App Platform, you might have heard recently from the INTEGRATE 2014

Mahesh: What motivates you to do the community work?

Saravana: As I mentioned earlier I really like the community, it brought me some great friends around the world. All of them are passionate about one thing and there are lot of common things we share when we all meet.

Thanks a lot Saravana, great insights, this will surely benefit many.

Happy New Year to all and Feel Free to ask questions to Saravana in the comments!!!!!!!!

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If you have any suggestions or questions or want to share something then please drop a comment

  1. Saravana It would be nice to add Integration(BizTalk,MSBI,CLOUD And other such thech acorss vendors) in Education system .What do you say?

  2. Hi Deepak, definitely I agree with that point. If you look at the academic syllabus, I believe they still in the foundation teach compilers, debuggers, C, C++ etc..they all good in a way to understand the basics, the world has evolved too much in the last 10 years and the academic side is still try to catch up....

    Integration is going to get more and more important, because the entire world is connected in one way or the other both on consumer side and business side.

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