Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Naushad Alam

Welcome to Sixteenth interview of the series, today's expert is Naushad Alam.


Naushad has been recognized as Microsoft Community Contributor and contributes to forums as Moderator 

Let's begin the interview........ 

Mahesh: Who are you and what you do?
Naushad: My Name is Naushad Alam, I am working as an independent BizTalk Consultant in the UK since last 7 years.I have been mostly working as BizTalk Developer/Administrator and technical architect. Currently I am working for a housing company in central London as a BizTalk Developer.

Mahesh: When did you start working on BizTalk? 
Naushad: I started working with Microsoft BizTalk Server in 2005. I started learning & working with BizTalk Server 2002 for one of my client in Auckland. It was an Integration project between Navision and BizTalk Server 2002. I found this product and the integration work really amazing and fun and decided to proceed with BizTalk as my main technical skill. Since then I have worked on nearly all the versions of BizTalk Server released by Microsoft. Currently I am working with BizTalk 2013 R2 for a cloud and on perm-integration project. 

Mahesh: How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)? 
Naushad: Honestly, it all comes from experience and chance to work on various assignments , fortunately I had many chances to work on really interesting projects with very great infrastructure and architecture.I would say these days there are many sources to learn BizTalk, and the quality of material available online is amazing and very detailed. MSDN and  Microsoft TechNet wiki’s are great source. 

Learning path in my opinion should be , start reading a book , then followup the concepts with some basic projects to understand them practically and then do some real time projects. Patience is very importance here specially for the beginners, because there are many things to understand not only just writing the code. 

Amount of time , is different for person to person and also depends upon previous experience. But I would say BizTalk is an easy product/framework/tool to learn, provided you use right material and guidance. Initially it requires some patience but once you understand the core concepts then its good. 

Mahesh: Which are the major projects you handled so far? 
Naushad: I have worked across airlines , banking , car auction company and now working for a housing company. Integration has been always fun and challenge. Its fun when things work they way you expect and challenge when scalability and performance requirements are there.I have delivered one project for a Car auction company , an integration layer in BizTalk used by iOS devices , BizTalk connects queueing system to send and receive messages from mainframe systems. This was one of the good ones. Apart of this one, I have delivered an E-Ticketing project for one of the main airlines of UK. That was my first project in BizTalk and it was a real major project.

Mahesh: How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform? 
Naushad: In my opinion, the BizTalk rollout is not very expensive if you are running a Microsoft based solutions already, It is cheaper then other products in market based on the features/deployment size you want. Choosing a product for integration in any company is based on so many factors , some of them are like, 

• Cost

• Current Skill sets

• Learning Path

• Scalability

• Availability 

• Future roadmap.

If I compare based on my experience ,BizTalk is quite awesome in all of above points for me. The best thing I like about this product is, It has got awesome (the best) community support and Microsoft is really doing very good updates in this product since last 6-7 years. It is a fully matured Integration product , It provides adapters for various LOB-systems, mainframe, protocols, databases, and Cloud. There are more than 12K customers worldwide using this product for the business critical applications. 

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert? 
Naushad: In my opinion, following main points you should know, when you present yourself as a BizTalk Expert, 
• Complete Understanding of how Integration works (SOA, ESB, messaging, queueing, Synchronous , Asynchronous etc)
• Good understanding of Microsoft .net framework and  solid programming background. 
• In depth understanding of BizTalk server architecture and how it works like
  • Messaging engine
  • Deployments
  • Scalability
  • Availability 
  • Administration 
  • Performance Tuning
  • Best Practices
  • Design and Development Guidelines
• Monitoring 
• Enterprise Integration Patterns

At last, should have hands on experience in delivering end to end BizTalk project.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts on forums,blogs and articles etc.? 
Naushad: They are great and are the main source for my day to day work. There are amazing informative material available for almost every area and topic related to BizTalk. Great blogs, amazing TechNet wiki articles, and very useful BizTalk MSDN forum. They are growing day to day with great and informative content. I would say they play a major role in making BizTalk as one of the best products I have worked so far.

Mahesh: Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be approach to get sound knowledge in BizTalk? 
Naushad: I would only like to suggest that, in the start it is  not an easy framework to learn or get familiar, because there are many things to learn and get familiar with. However if you fall in love with this product then I guess you would never want to leave and move to some other platform if you have an option to do so.
Approach should be, start focusing on one thing at a time, e.g., make yourself comfortable with doing development first, understanding mapping, pipelines,orchestrations best practices, then focus on other concepts/features like BAM, Monitoring or Administration , etc.

There are tonnes of material available online, they are simply amazing , read and use them as much as possible. If you want to get good understanding then give time to yourself don't leave in between if possible. 

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? 
Naushad: Honestly, there are great tools, BTDF and BizUnit is my default tools for deployment and Unit Testing. I have been using BizUnit since long time i guess since 2008, its great and I have added my own wrappers for IBM’s MQ Series . 
Why to Use BizUnit- because it has everything you need to perform your unit testing for BizTalk application, you don't need anything else. And is something is missing then you can write your own wrapper. 
Why to use BTDF- I think , BTDF is a great framework to deploy BizTalk Applications across various environments, Deployment has always been a pain for BizTalk solutions ,lot of manual steps , and production deployment used to be scary and difficult . BTDF gives completely automated deployment framework , this helps from development to test and to production. I love this framework and i use it as a default option for all my BizTalk clients.  

Mahesh: What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification? 
Naushad: Writing certifications are great way to learn about anything. The main advantage i see , it makes you to follow a particular disciplined pattern to read about something. the same applies to BizTalk certification also. When i was preparing for my first certification , I read so many things which i did not know earlier. 
So i would definitely suggest, for all the new comers or beginners to write BizTalk certification if they are planning to keep BizTalk as one of their skill set. 

Mahesh: What is the future of BizTalk? 
Naushad: In my opinion, the future is great. If you see last 7-8 years, Microsoft has been shipping great releases of this product making it amazing and best in the market. I have started with version 2002, now we have version 2013 R2, huge difference and industry standard changes in every release. 
They are focusing specially on integration in Cloud. BizTalk services in cloud are the latest offering, now you can extend your on-premise integration solutions to cloud also using Microsoft BizTalk services. The next step in my guess would be IOT and seamless integration support with mobile devices. 
I would say BizTalk is not going anywhere in next 10-15 years. So in one line future is really good and amazing.  

Mahesh: Any thoughts on cloud? 
Naushad: I would say cloud is the future. Eventually things would move over cloud , may not in complete form but at least in hybrid type of deployments. Many customers are moving or planning or at least thinking to move to services in cloud. BizTalk services have been exposed for cloud and apps on mobile. BizTalk is no more doing the batch processing or middleware data transfers, it is used to expose REST based services for mobiles devices. 

Mahesh: What motivates you to do the community work? 
Naushad: BizTalk community is great, it's simply the best I would say. Whatever knowledge I have gained most of it has come from online community (Blogs, Forums and MSDN/Technet Wiki Articles). There are blogs/articles available by community members for every topic you can think of, and when you decide to participate it becomes more meaningful and learning experience. It feels so great to share your experience or view for any particular topic, and when someone uses it to solve a problem its great feeling. I have been using BizTalk forums as a main source to find solutions to my problems, and i was amazed how people used to respond and take their time to write detailed blogs and answers, this motivated me to participate in the community to give something back :-) .

Mahesh: Do you think the current Azure offerings are stable/matured enough for an organisation to move from On-Prem to Cloud?
Naushad: Honestly, Microsoft is giving interesting offerings however still lot to do in order to completely move the integration solutions to the cloud. There are various challenges in Classic Integration projects. But I would say, it's a great start and there will be lot coming in BizTalk services in cloud.

Thanks a lot Naushad for sharing your insights and experiences, this will surely benefit many !!!

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

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