Saturday, May 20, 2017

PowerApps and BizTalk

Introduction

The company I work for (FortisAlberta) is an electric distribution utility provider servicing more than 520,000 residential, farm and business customers in more than 200 communities additionally providing services for outages and emergencies, 24 hours, 7 days a week.in Alberta, Canada.

FortisAlberta has been using BizTalk since 2006 and is currently migrating to BizTalk 2016 due to its versatility, adaptability and ability to integrate disparate systems with ease.

Our team is responsible for ensuring that all the integration points interact smoothly. Due to the nature of the company's business, requires that one person on the team at all times is on call in case of support 24 hours, 7 days a week. In the event of a system going down the support person on call would be called out to investigate the potential issue. This involves powering up a desktop or laptop and using a secure VPN connection and logging onto the BizTalk Server remotely in order to determine the cause of the issue as well as possibly re-enabling/ restarting any services that may be down.

PowerApps to the rescue...

What is PowerApps?
PowerApps is a service for building and using custom business apps that connect to your data and work across the web and mobile - without the time and expense of custom software development. (https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/)
Based on this statement from the Microsoft web site I started using PowerApps to gain an understanding of what it can do and if it really was that simple to create a PowerApps application without a lot of custom software development.

One of the features PowerApps provides is custom connectors (previously called custom API's) which allows one to call any REST based service(s) whether it be on premise or on the internet.

Using this knowledge I started building my own REST based web service at the beginning of April 2017, focusing on the things any BizTalk Admin/ developer would need in order check the status or to investigate an issue on a BizTalk Server. When the feature pack (along with the BizTalk Management Services) was released for BizTalk 2016, it allowed me to speed through the development of my BizTalk PowerApp.


This is my first post to show what is possible with PowerApps and subsequently I'll post a tutorial on how to create your own PowerApps BizTalk Operations App step by step.



BizTalk Feature Pack and PowerApps

Here is the main screen of the PowerApps:

Main Screen

BizTalk Administrative Console

It can also be opened in a browser:
From any internet browser


The group hub look as follows:
Group Hub

Tracked Service Instances look as follows:
Tracked Service Instances
Drilling down into the details of a message will give you the context properties of that message:
Context Properties


Applications will display all the BizTalk Applications available:
Applications

Drilling down into the Applications like the BizTalk Administration Console allows you to focus on that specific application:
Detailed Application

The orchestrations would look like this:

Orchestrations

Send Ports look as follows:
Send Ports

As most BizTalk Admins/ developers know, if a host instance down it means Integration has stopped...
Host instances
Starting/ stopping a host instance is as simple as pressing the toggle and refreshing until the host instance has started/ stopped.

In the event that you require to investigate a particular application, at most times you would be looking at the event log.

The BizTalk PowerApps application allows you to view all the event logs by tapping or clicking on the Event Logs from the Main Screen or if you have drilled down into the application, you can simply click or tap on the Event Logs Screen which will give you the events for that particular application.



Notes:

  • The same features and abilities shown in the PowerApps can be created for any previous versions of BizTalk Server using a custom REST web service instead of using the BizTalk 2016 Management REST Service that comes with the feature pack.
  • Security and alerts (PowerApp notification) will be part of another post.
  • Integrating with your work's ADFS you can potentially restrict access to certain features in PowerApps like removing the ability to turn receive locations or send ports etc. off.

Summary:

PowerApps is really that simple and easy to use. It can allow any BizTalk user/ administrator quick and easy access to view issues / problems/ status of your BizTalk Applications. Whilst alerts and notifications can easily be sent via email or a PowerApp Notification to notify you of any problems with the health of your applications. 

Stay tuned for the next series of posts...

4 comments:

  1. Nice Thought. We are waiting for the next series post :)

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  3. This is great, What method did you use to connect Azure to your on-premise BizTalk Environment? hybrid connection? WCF relay? express route?

    Would appreciate your response.

    Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your interest. I used a hybrid connection which can be seen in this post: http://thoughtsonintegration.blogspot.com/2017/06/powerapps-and-biztalk-part-2-setting-it.html

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