Earlier today we announced the public preview of our Windows Azure BizTalk Service (WABS). We have collaborated with multiple partners and customers to build a simple, powerful and extensible cloud-based integration service that provides Business-to-Business (B2B) and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) capabilities for delivering cloud and hybrid integration solutions. The service runs on a secure, dedicated per tenant environment that you can provision on demand, while it is being managed and operated by Microsoft.
Let’s look at a brief overview of our B2B offering in WABS.
B2B in WABS
To be successful as a business, enterprises must effectively manage data exchanged with other organizations such as vendors and business partners. Data received from partner organizations is often categorized as business-to-business (B2B) data transfer. One of the standard and most commonly used suite of protocols for B2B data transfer is Electronic Data Interchange or EDI.
Some of the challenges that customers face while opting for a B2B solution are:
- Total cost of ownership (TCO) for setting up a B2B solution, especially for the small and medium business (SMB) shops
- High maintenance cost for the B2B solutions including onboarding partners, managing agreements, etc.
Using B2B in WABS enables customers to:
- Lower their TCO with the pay-as-you-use model.
- Easily manage and onboard trading partners using the BizTalk Services Portal. With the BizTalk Services Portal, customers will be able to cut down the on-boarding time from weeks to days.
- Leverage Microsoft hosted B2B pipelines as services to exchange B2B documents and run them at scale for customers. This minimizes overhead in managing B2B pipelines and their corresponding scale issues with dedicated servers.
The WABS B2B solution, which comprises of the BizTalk Services Portal and B2B pipelines, enables customers to add trading partners and configure B2B pipelines that can be deployed to WABS. The trading partners will then be able to send EDI messages using Http, AS2, and FTP transports. Once the message is received, it will be processed by the B2B pipeline deployed on the cloud and will be routed to the destination configured in the B2B pipeline.
Feature outline and overview
B2B in WABS provides a multitude of features with the goal of making it Simple, Powerful and Extensible at the same time. To fulfill business needs, Service Providers need to model, store, and manage information about:
Partners and their businesses
Rules of engagement with the partners, which include details such as message encoding protocol (EDI standards like X12), transport protocol (AS2), etc.
Let us review some of these and how WABS B2B helps solve this.
Each participating organization in a business relationship is a trading partner. A trading partner is at the root level and forms the base for a trading partner solution. A trading partner is one of the two or more participants in an ongoing business relationship.
Using the Windows Azure BizTalk Portal, one can easily set up partners representing all the organizations involved in a business trade. Each partner has an associated profile with it which can be updated as per business need. Multiple profiles may be created representing the different divisions of the organization.
A Trading Partner Agreement (TPA) is defined as a definitive and binding agreement between two trading partners for transacting messages over a specific B2B protocol. It is a comprehensive collection of all aspects governing the business transaction between the two trading partners.
The Windows Azure BizTalk Portal allows easy setting up of agreements between Trading Partners. Using the profiles created for Partners, one can very easily and quickly come up with templates for settings up agreements while reducing configuration errors.
WABS portal allows one to manage the artifacts used for B2B operations. There are currently 4 kinds of artifacts supported – schemas, maps, certificates and assemblies. The portal allows users to upload and delete artifacts related to the partner agreements easily.
You are also able to manage the bridges created as part of the agreement deployments.
WABS provides the ability to monitor EDI and AS2 messages, batches, and bridges deployed in an Azure BizTalk Services subscription. The tracking information helps you in the following ways:
- · Helps troubleshoot message processing issues.
- · Provides specific details of a message’s properties
- · Creates copies of messages
- · Helps determine the flow of events when a message is being processing
You must enable tracking as part of an agreement before you can view tracking data
The Windows Azure BizTalk Services Portal offers a rich user experience to create and manage partners and agreements for business-to-business messaging. However, at times you need to programmatically create the different entities that are part of BizTalk Services Portal. Windows Azure BizTalk Services offers a WCF Data Service-based object model to programmatically create and maintain different entities such as partners, agreement, etc. for the BizTalk Services Portal.
Along with this, Powershell Cmdlets are exposed for activities like creating artifacts, deleting artifacts, Start/Stop source, etc. to provide users with rich automation & scripting capabilities. These Powershell Cmdlets will be captured in more detail in an additional blog. The documentation has more information about these as well.
Please refer to the below links for more information.
SDK, EDI Schemas and Tools
BizTalk Service Forums
BizTalk Team Blog
Keep a lookout for more blogs in the near future explaining more of WABS capabilities. We hope that the community will continue to invest in WABS as we have and drive its evolution.