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Integrate Applications Across the Enterprise Using Microsoft BizTalk

When it comes to EAI, you have to let enterprise-level requirements drive the architectural implementation. BizTalk, Microsoft's enterprise integration framework, provides two ways of managing your integration project. This article explores a sample integration project in BizTalk and shows you how to manage the decision-making along the way.


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here are a number of ways to integrate disparate applications across the enterprise. With the introduction of new standards and products, an architecture can take on many different implementations. Which implementation you use is a decision best based primarily on the enterprise-level requirements involved. Biztalk, the Enterprise Integration project from Microsoft, provides two ways for applications to interact with an EAI implementation.

The Problem
Our sample problem is a resource planning application that sends critical updates to an existing SAP application in another location. The updates are sent via an XML document over HTTP through the EAI engine and into the local application. The problem will explore the various ways for applications to interface to the EAI layer by examining the interface between the resource planning application and the EAI engine. Because the EAI layer has been implemented using BizTalk, the remaining design decision is how to best move the XML documents from the local application into Biztalk.

Two Solutions
The first option is to write an EAI Web Service as the interface to the BizTalk application and program the application to call that service to submit the XML. The second option is to leverage the HTTP Receive Function provided by BizTalk and direct the application to submit the XML via this capability.



 
Figure 1 is an architectural depiction of a Web Service acting as a layer between BizTalk and the calling resource planning application.

Solution One: Post to Web Services
Web Services provide a beneficial interface into BizTalk Server because of the extensible processing layers between message reception and insertion into the host system (SAP in this case). For example, if you have a specific authentication layer other than the standard HTTP 1.0 authentication, you can build that into your Web service. Figure 1 is an architectural depiction of a Web Service acting as a layer between BizTalk and the calling resource planning application.

 
Figure 2 demonstrates how to submit the received document to BizTalk Server.

Note that though the Web Server has the BizTalk Server running on it, BizTalk processing can be separated from the same machine hosting the Web Service. In the sample problem, the server-side (BizTalk receiver) is only leveraging Visual Studio .NET and ASP.NET for the Web Service, and the resource planning application used is a Visual Studio .NET developed client.

The question is: how can you get the XML document into BizTalk so it can transform the document into an SAP iDoc? Microsoft developed the BizTalk Server 2002 Toolkit for Microsoft .NET to help developers integrate ASP.NET Web Services to BizTalk. Use the BTSInterchange PIA to submit documents to BizTalk. Follow the toolkit instructions to install the PIAs.

To keep things simple, define your Web Service to receive the XML message as a string. Since the .NET Framework serializes all objects, create overhead by defining the message as an XML Document in the Web Service. Figure 2 demonstrates how to submit the received document to BizTalk Server.




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