Begineer to BizTalk Expert: Interview with Mikael Sand

Welcome to the 30th interview of the series, today's expert is Mikael Sand .

Mikael is Senior integration archiect, BizTalk and Logic Apps expert, as well as general integration greyback at Enfo Integration Stockholm.

Also, avid twitter-user, public speaker, singer and master of ceremonies.

Let’s begin the interview…

Mahesh: Who are you and what you do? When did you start working on BizTalk?
Mikael: I am Mikael Sand, 43 years old, living just outside Stockholm (Sweden). I am an Solution Architect and Business developer at Enfo. I started doing BizTalk by attending a course in 2006. By 2007 I got my first project.

Mahesh: How did you mastered BizTalk (Learning path, amount of time)?
Mikael :Initially by attending the official BizTalk course, then by working with talented people like and reading blogposts, but most importantly: thru a constant strive for knowledge. My main drive is always that I want to know more. To become good at it I think I spent about a year to 18 months.

Mahesh:Which are the major projects you handled so far?
Mikael: I was the tech lead for the integration team at CGI for about 4 years. I was an architect for making a large Swedish hospital integration focused. I made sure everyone got their pensions for a year, and beefed up the integration platform at an airport operating company in Sweden.

Mahesh: What do you think is the most challenging part while working on Integration project?
Mikael: Often, to make the integration parties see why they need integration. It is much easier for them to build a point to point, and the integration team might seem like we make that much more complex. Also, let’s not forget that integration might land right in the middle of a company’s internal conflicts and even making the parties speak to you might be a challenge. And then there is SAP…

Mahesh: How do you see BizTalk compare to other integration platform?
Mikael: Like a warm fuzzy blanket, full of things I know by heart and inside out. Often an easy day at the office, but also as a very troubled child with a lot of special needs and cries for attention. In some ways it feels old and unwilling.

Mahesh: What as per you is must to know to become an Integration(BizTalk) Expert?
Mikael: To work independently. Sure, you can use Google to search for answers, but you really need to know how to get from specification to a finished integration, including design and documentation, without outside help. Hopefully you do not need to work by yourself but if you can’t then you are not an expert.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts on forums, blogs and articles etc.?
Mikael: I would not, and BizTalk would certainly would not, be a thing without them. Blog posts on BizTalk might not be as important anymore as the number of things that are undocumented become less and less, but they are still out there. Most of the best articles was written back in 2006-2010.

Mahesh: Your suggestion to a newcomer? What should be approached to get sound knowledge in BizTalk?
Mikael: Not much has changed since the core was written in 2004 so find someone older that knows BizTalk. That way you don’t make the same mistakes as he/she did. Know what blogs are good and how to search for solutions.

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?
Mikael: I have not used BTDF nor BizUnit, but I have used the old blogical SFTP adapter and the schedule adapter. Great stuff that really filled a void in the product. The downside of community supplied components is that they are very dependent on the person that developed them in the first place. If that person decides to do something else, the product dies after the next platform upgrade. This is very unusual in the BizTalk community though.

Mahesh: What are your thoughts around BizTalk certification?
Mikael: Heh, that old thing. Of course, there should be a certification on BizTalk, at least if Microsoft wants to support BizTalk as a product and a profession.

Mahesh: What is the future of BizTalk?
Mikael: Uncertain I think. Things was going well but then Tord quit and now I do not know. There is a joke in the community that BizTalk will become a proxy server for integration with Azure. There are too many installations of BizTalk out there for Microsoft to kill BizTalk but then again, they need to modernize it more or it will die due to lack of BizTalk developers.

Mahesh: Any thoughts on cloud?
Mikael: A very wide question. I have been using and proclaiming the upsides of the public cloud since about 2009. You have to use it the right way and for the right things, but I really see no reason to use on prem or in some cases even infrastructure, when designing a company’s IT landscape.

Mahesh: What motivates you to do the community work?
Mikael: Fame and all that sweet money. No really, I like sharing information. I like being the first on the scene and then teaching everyone else not to make the same mistakes I did.

Mahesh: As per the Roadmap provided by Microsoft, Logic Apps will be able to run on-premise in addition to AZURE. Do you think Azure Stack Logic Apps on prem will supersede BizTalk Server?
Mikael: I think they might complete one another. Clients/companies does not choose a technical platform, like Azure Stack, because of the integration engine. If the client continues to run its VM-ware server cave, you will use BizTalk. But running Logic Apps on prem might be a very good solution to some scenarios.

Mahesh: From my perspective, Microsoft keeps coming up with overlapping technologies like recent ones MABS, Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps, in some situation it gets puzzling. What you say?
Mikael: “The right tool for the job”, etc. Yes, in some ways it might be confusing but not all companies are the same or have the same need or staff. Flow might be enough for a small client without any IT-department.

Mahesh: Do you think BizTalk in cloud (IAAS) is accepted over BizTalk on Prem? Which one you prefer - what pros and cons you see?
Mikael:  I have not yet seen any good documentation on installing BizTalk on Azure. Then again, I have not really been looking. I have said this before: Installing BizTalk on Azure is like upgrading your black and white TV. The image might be sharper and better than ever, but over here we have color TV.

Mahesh: How do you see the step of Microsoft releasing Feature Pack for BizTalk?
Mikael: One of the best things that has happened to the product in years. I have extra features with a shorter release cadence is awesome.

Mahesh: Microsoft is keeping on adding many things under Hybrid Integration, what should be Integration developers be focusing on?
Mikael: Tough question. I really do not know. Based on recent experience I would say to focus on whatever the current project demands. Even after you have chosen a technology, that tech is moving around, and you learn new ways to use it. Just do not be afraid to change, I would say.

Mahesh: Do you think the cost of using cloud services (Logic App, Service Bus etc) will be more than having infrastructure on prem. (Where transactions are in millions or more)?
Mikael: No idea. I usually make sure to have cost in mind when designing integrations right from the start. Then again, looking at the competition (IBM, Mule) their reaction is usually that Microsoft are too cheap.

Mahesh: Recently BizTalk components are made open source, how do you see this Microsoft Move?
Mikael: Moving to open source might be a way to make the community doing development for you, which we already do, and they have not released the good stuff, yet but it is a step in a new direction.I wonder where they are heading. 

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

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

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