Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Rene Brauwers

Welcome to the 26th interview of the series, today's expert is Rene Brauwers

Rene is Solution Architect with a strong focus on Microsoft Related Products and Technologies and a clear vision: “Enabling businesses to achieve, maintain and prolong a competitive lead in a mobile-first, cloud first world, by means of smart integration”.

Core Proficiencies: Integration Architecture, Solution Architecture, Enterprise Application Integration,Business Process Management,Service Oriented Architecture,Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 – 2013R2,Microsoft Azure,Software AG WebMethods 6.x,Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 / 2013,.NET Development, C#, Database modeling/designing,Documenting,Testing,SQL and BizTalk Clustering,(IIS),Network Load Balancing,Troubleshooting & Problem Solving.

Personal characteristics: Upright,Professional,Social able,Good sense of humor,Innovator,Committed,Problem solver,Tenacious,Result driven

Personal strengths:Constant drive to learn,Planning / time-management,Not afraid to ask for help,Taking responsibility,Independent,Team player, Stress resistant,Thinking in solutions,Ability to explain technical IT issues/concepts to a non-technical audience, Documenting, Business Analysis skills.

Let's Begin Interview....

Mahesh:Who are you and what you do? When did you start working on BizTalk? 
Rene:I’m a Dutchie who emigrated to Australia 2 years ago, and work as a Solutions Architect at MOQdigital, based In Sydney. I started working with BizTalk more than a decade ago and as such have worked with BizTalk Server 2004, 2006, 2006r2, 2009, 2010, 2013,2013R2 an 2016.

Mahesh:How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)? 
Rene: When I got first introduced to BizTalk, I already had experience in the integration space a few years using WebMethods as such I was already familiar with SOA principles, messaging etc. This helped me when moving to BizTalk. So, if I would have to put the amount of time against it, it would be countless hours. 
Having said this, it should not scare anyone as gaining experience is not something which happens overnight, it is something which you get better at the more you expose yourself to it.
The best advice I can give anyone who is starting on their integration journey, is jump in, get hands-on experience, follow best practices, engage with the integration community and do share your experiences; in short, work, -and play hard, enjoy the journey and remember we all had to start somewhere. Patience and perseverance is what gets you there at the end!

Mahesh:Which are the major projects you handled so far? 
Rene: There have been countless big projects, ranging from complete re-platforming; moving from one integration platform to another, to greenfield projects. All in all, the size of a project really doesn’t matter, the thing which matters is taking a customer on the integration journey and delivering the best possible outcome for the business, being it small or large projects.

Mahesh:What do you think is the most challenging part while working on Integration project?
Rene: One of the things I’ve noticed ever since moving from The Netherlands to Australia is that the challenges are everywhere more or less the same; and one of these challenges is around communication and then specifically communication with the different stakeholders as well as vendors of all these disparate systems we have to integrate with. Luckily for us integrators the majority of us are besides technically savvy good communicators as well; allowing us to act as the communication orchestration engine ;-) 

Mahesh:How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform? 
Rene: BizTalk is a one of a kind integration platform. It’s versatile, extensible, reliable and above all very mature if not one of the most mature integration platforms out there.  
Nowadays however I no longer only refer to BizTalk as Microsoft’s Integration platform, I refer to the Microsoft Integration Stack in which BizTalk plays an important role to enable (Hybrid) integration scenario’s and in which we can leverage Azure (iPaas) capabilities such as Logic Apps, API Management, Servicebus, Flow, Functions, Service Fabric, App Services and many, many more
So in my opinion; Comparing competitors’ offerings there is currently no competitor in the market who is able to match the integration capabilities which Microsoft offers both from a technology point of view as well as a commercial (capex, opex) point of view.

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert? 
Rene: It’s all about understanding the basics, so know your programming basics, understand Service Oriented Architecture read up on the Enterprise Integration Patterns, start thinking in messages and in a decoupled way ;-) 
But above all, you need passion, perseverance and enjoy what you do. If you have this, you are one of the lucky few who are able to make their work their hobby and their hobby their work.

Mahesh:What are your thoughts on forums, blogs and articles etc.? 
Rene: They are all great and important resources which enables the Microsoft Integration Community to share its knowledge allowing people just starting with integration as well as seasoned integration experts to interact with the community.  The Microsoft Integration community is all about sharing, as sharing is caring.

Mahesh:Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be approach to get sound knowledge in BizTalk? 
Rene:There are plenty of online as well as offline resources. Ranging from books on BizTalk to online courses on sites such as Pluralsight. Alternatively; go and sign up for class-room based BizTalk training and so on.
Most importantly; Just dive in and start doing by playing with the awesomeness in the Microsoft Integration Stack and please do reach out to the community by visiting local user groups, view webcasts such as Integration Monday, integration Friday. 

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? No Microsoft support available?
Rene:There are amazing tools available with support from the Community, and I honestly must say that they all fit certain needs. But like a lot of things, there are different ways to solve problems; so one has to look at the tools on a per case basis to determine which one fits for a given scenario. 

Mahesh:What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification? 
Rene:There is currently no up to date BizTalk certification program available (Except for the Partner Assessment)  and I do not expect that there will be an update pretty soon.
In general Certification is a way of proving you have certain level of understanding in a given technology; unfortunately, in the passed there have been a lot of brain-dump sites which were pointing to the answers as such I feel that passing an exam in some scenarios would not be an accurate representation of once capabilities
Fortunately the current Microsoft certification process has gotten much better and much harder and as such the traditional brain-dump sites are no, too little of use.  

Mahesh:What is the future of BizTalk? 
Rene:BizTalk 2016 has just been released; and other releases are already planned; as such there is no doubt that BizTalk fulfils an important role in Microsoft’s core Integration Strategy 

Mahesh:Any thoughts on cloud?
Rene:Cloud is here to stay, and one nowadays simply can no longer ignore the cloud. From an integration point of view this opens up a lot of exiting opportunities. Microsoft recognised long before the importance of the cloud and has gone all-in on it, thanks to this we as integrators now have the tools and services which allow us to succeed in the Hybrid Integration Space.

Mahesh:What motivates you to do the community work? 
Rene: One of my passions is sharing and the best way to share is by giving back to the community. The Microsoft integration community is very rewarding and by engaging the community actively I have made a lot of new friends over the years.

Mahesh:As per the Roadmap provided by Microsoft,LogicApps can be run on-premise in addition to Azure.Do you think Azure Stack Logic Apps on prem will supersede BizTalk Server? 
Rene:I don’t believe it will. 

Mahesh:From my perspective, Microsoft keeps coming up with Overlapping technologies like recent ones MABS and Logic Apps, in some situation it gets puzzling. What you say?
Rene: I don’t agree, I see it as paradigm shift and as such it is natural that in order to deliver a new platform or capabilities one goes through certain incarnations of products. So, from an early adopter point of view, it can be challenging at times, but hey I love learning and as such I embrace change and make it work. Just remember; Rome wasn’t built in one day.

Mahesh:Do you think BizTalk in cloud (IAAS) is accepted over BizTalk on Prem? Which one you prefer - what pros and cons you see?
Rene: I think hosting BizTalk in Azure (IaaS) is perfect for DEV and TEST scenario’s, especially whilst leveraging Azur DEV/TEST labs.  

Whatever I prefer and the pros and cons are not relevant as one has to look at which technology and platform to use on a case to case basis, at the end of the day is all about delivering the best solution for our customers.

Thanks a lot Rene for taking out time and sharing your insights,experiences, this will surely benefit many !!!

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

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