Begineer to BizTalk Expert : Interview with Eldert Grootenboer

Welcome to the 27th interview of the series, today's expert is Eldert Grootenboer

Eldert is Integration architect working on the Microsoft platform. Designing and building integration solutions with Microsoft products, specialized in BizTalk, IoT and Azure.

Very active in the integration community by blogging, writing, publishing on Technet Wiki, creating code samples, and speaking at events internationally. Recognized by Microsoft as a Microsoft Azure MVP for these efforts

Let's Begin Interview....

Mahesh:Who are you and what you do? When did you start working on BizTalk? 
Eldert:I am Eldert Grootenboer, an integration architect from the Netherlands. I work at Motion10, a company focused on integration, business productivity and BI. I’m mainly focused on integration using Azure and BizTalk, as well as on IoT, for which I am a Subject Matter Expert within Motion10 as well. I have been in IT since 2006, went into the integration space in 2010 with BizTalk, and have been working with Azure almost from the beginning as well, with technologies like Service Bus, Logic Apps, API management etc. In my spare time I also like to be active in the community, by attending and speaking at conferences and user groups, blogging (both at my own blog and as a guest blogger for BizTalk360), providing code samples and more.

Mahesh:How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)? 
Eldert: I started working with BizTalk in 2010 on a project with one of my colleagues, who showed me the ropes when it came to integration in general and BizTalk in particular. I immediately started getting deeper into the technologies myself by lots of self-study, attending community events and getting to know specialists from the field. I did my first project alone one year later, and have been doing several projects, both big and small, ever since.

Mahesh:Which are the major projects you handled so far? 
Eldert:I have been working on several projects, ranging from general integration implementations to projects where I’m more in an architect or consulting role, helping the customers figure out what would be the best solution for them. Currently I am working on a project where the customer wants to go completely to Azure with all their integrations, having several subsidiaries all with their own processes and applications. Together with the customer we are now setting up a complete architecture which will be future proof and can easily incorporate new processes.

Mahesh:What do you think is the most challenging part while working on Integration project?
Eldert: The most challenging part of integration, which is also the most interesting to me, is working with different technologies all the time, whether it’s SQL, SAP, CRM, legacy applications, etc.. When it comes to integration you have to understand all these systems, and be able to determine how to incorporate them in a complete solution.

Mahesh:How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform? 
Eldert:In my opinion BizTalk is an amazing product, especially when it comes to on-premises integration. The product is very robust, gives us many options to easily communicate with systems, and gives good insights into what is happening in your integrations, which is key to having a stable environment. The possibilities we now have to also easily connect to the cloud, also makes it a very good choice in hybrid scenarios, where you have part of your application landscape living in the cloud, and another part on-premises.

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert? 
Eldert: You really have to love working in integration to become an expert. You will be dealing with all technologies, ranging from old legacy software to cutting edge. Also the integration space is evolving rapidly, with Azure technologies pushing out updates all the time. This means you have are never done with learning. And as you keep learning, don’t forget to share your knowledge with others as well.

Mahesh:What are your thoughts on forums, blogs and articles etc.? 
Eldert: I think these are great resources, and I love how generous the integration community is with sharing their knowledge. Whether you are new to the integration space, or have been here for a long time, anyone is welcome to share their ideas and knowledge.

Mahesh:Your suggestion to a newcomers? What should be approach to get sound knowledge in BizTalk? 
Eldert: Start by learning the basics. There is a wealth of information about BizTalk, Azure, integration patterns and more out there. There is Pluralsight where multiple great courses can be found, books going from high level introduction to deep-dives into specific parts of technologies, blogs where the community are sharing their ideas, videos on Integration Monday and Middleware Friday, and instructor led courses. And also make sure to attend your local user groups, people are always willing to welcome new people, so go and meet them.

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?
Eldert: The community does a great job filling in the gaps, which will always be there when using commercial tools like BizTalk. Some of these tools target a very specific scenario, where others will recommended be for a larger audience, but it always depends on your own specific scenario. And don’t forget, when you run into one of these gaps, Microsoft has UserVoice pages for their products as well, allowing you to make them aware. And as we have seen with Feature Pack 1 for BizTalk, as well as various updates for Logic Apps, they really do listen.

Mahesh:What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification? 
Eldert: My thoughts around certification in general, is that it’s better to showcase your skills in another way. Speak at your local user group, blog about solutions you have created, things like that. I have found most employers would much rather see you are involved in the community, sharing your knowledge, then having an arbitrary certificate.

Mahesh:What is the future of BizTalk? 
Eldert: BizTalk will remain an important tool in our toolset for a long time to come. I do think we will see more and more hybrid in the future, where BizTalk will play an important part in the on-premises integration space, combined with Azure technologies like Logic Apps, Service Bus, Azure Functions and API Management.

Mahesh:Any thoughts on cloud?
Eldert: As already said in the previous question, hybrid is coming strong, as we see more and more companies moving partly or completely to the cloud. Thanks to Microsoft’s push in the last years we now also have enterprise grade technologies in the cloud, allowing us to provide our customers with optimal solutions for each scenario.

Mahesh:What motivates you to do the community work? 
Eldert: I have had a lot of help from the community over the years, and try to do the same as well. I love sharing my knowledge, and interact with experts from around the world, many of which I can now count among my friends as well.

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? 
Eldert: I don’t think it will, BizTalk has its own strengths and weaknesses, as does Logic Apps, and for now they complement each other. Of course they have some overlap, so for some scenarios Logic Apps may be able to replace BizTalk, but I think BizTalk will have its own place in our toolset for quite some time.

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?
Eldert: I think most products have their own specific scenarios which they target, and depending on your scenario, you should find the product which fits best. 

Mahesh:Do you think BizTalk in cloud (IAAS) is accepted over BizTalk on Prem? Which one you prefer - what pros and cons you see?
Eldert:I think IaaS is good for BizTalk DEV and TEST, but personally I don’t see the added value in running your BizTalk PROD in IaaS. Of course there will be scenarios where it would be a good fit, but if you are looking into this, I would recommend looking into the possibilities for shifting your integrations into PaaS / SaaS technologies like Logic Apps.

Mahesh: I see you involved with books, which books would you recommend?
Eldert: A must read for anyone in the integration space is Enterprise Integration Patterns by Hohpe and Woolf, which gives a great explanation of the various patterns which we can use, and which still apply in the current cloud driven world. 

Mahesh: Being an MVP, do you think responsibilities get added?
Eldert:As an MVP, I get approached a lot by people from the community, and I do think it’s one of our responsibilities to make sure we help people out whenever we can. Luckily I love helping people, and I know my fellow MVP’s feel the same as well.

Mahesh: How do you see the step of Microsoft releasing Feature Pack for BizTalk?
Eldert:As I wrote in a blog post when Feature Pack 1 was released, Microsoft is showing us with this feature pack that they still believe in BizTalk, and are finally showing BizTalk the love it deserves. For too long we have seen only minor improvements, but with the new pro-integration team, who really are making a great impact, we now see real improvements again, on both BizTalk and Azure side.

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

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

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