Q: You recently built and released the BizTalk Benchmark Wizard. Tell us a bit about why you built it, what value it offers, and what you learned during it’s construction.
A: It started out about eight months ago, where we’d set up an environment for a customer. We ran the BizTalk Server Best Practices Analyzer and continued by following the recommendations in the Performance and Optimization Guide. But even though these tools had been very helpful, we were still not convinced the environment was optimized. It was a bit like studying for a test, and then do the tests, but never get to see the actual result.
I then came across the The BizTalk Server 2009 Scale Out Testing Study, which is a study providing sizing and scaling guidance for BizTalk Server, made by Microsoft. I contacted Ewan Fairweather at Microsoft and asked him if he’d care to share whatever tools and scripts he’d been using for these tests. That way I could do the same test on my customer’s environment and benchmark my environment against the result from the study. However, as it turned out, the result of the test was not what I was looking for. These tests aimed to prove the highest possible throughput, which would have meant I’d have had to re-configure my environment for the the same purpose (change host polling interval, disabling global tracking and so on). I just wanted to verify that my environment was optimized as an “all purpose BizTalk environment”.
As we kept talking about it, we both agreed there should be such a tool. Given that we could use the same scenario as been used in the study, all we needed was an easy-to-use load agent. And as Loadgen does not fall into the category of being easy to use, we pretty much had to build it ourselves. We did however use the Loadgen API, but left the complexity to be hidden from the user.
BizTalk Benchmark Wizard has been available on CodePlex since January, and I’m happy to say I got lots of nice feed-back from people who found themselves asking the same question as I did -“Is my BizTalk all it can be?”.
I see two main purposes for using this tool:
1. When your environment is so stressed out that you can’t even open the Task Manager, it’s good to know you’ve done everything you can before you go and buy a new SAN storage.
2. As you are testing your environment, the tool will provide sustainable load, making it easy to perform the same test over and over again.
Q: You’ve actually created a few different tools for the BizTalk community. Are there any community-based tools that you would like to see rolled into the BizTalk product itself, or do you prefer to keep those tools independent and versioned on their own timelines by the original authors?
A: The community contributes with many very useful tools and add-ons, and in many cases can be seen as a reflection of what is missing in the products. I think there are several community initiatives that should be incorporated in the product line, such as the BizTalk Server Pipeline Component Wizard, PowerShell Provider BizTalk, BizTalk Server Pattern Wizard and even the Sftp Adapter. These and many other projects provide core features that would benefit being supported by Microsoft. I think it would be even better if Microsoft was working even closer with the community by sharing their thoughts of future features, and perhaps let the community get out in front and provide valuable feed-back.
[Editors note: Glad that Mikael doesn’t find any of MY tools particularly useful or worthy of inclusion in the product. I won’t forget this.]
Q: You work on an assortment of different projects in your role at Logica. When developing solutions (BizTalk or otherwise), where is your most inefficient use of time (e.g. solution setup, deployment, testing, plumbing code)? What tasks take longer than you like, and what sorts of things do you do to try and speed that up?
A: “Solution setup, deployment, testing, plumbing code” – those are all reasons why I love my work (together with actual coding). In fact I can’t get enough. I seldom get to write any code anymore, which in turn, is probably why I’m so active in the open source community.
I believe those of us working as developers should consider ourselves fortunate in that we always need to be creative to solve the tasks assigned to us. Of course, experience is important, but can only take you so far. At the end of the day, you have to think to solve the problem.
There is however some tasks I find less challenging, such as pre-sale. Not saying it’s not important, it is, but it’s just that I find it very time consuming.
Q [stupid question]: We recently finished up the 2010 MVP conference where we inevitably found ourselves at dinner tables or in elevators where we only caught the tail end of conversations from those around us. This often made me think of playing the delightful game of “tomato funeral” where you and a colleague find yourselves in mixed company, and one person asks the other to “finish the story” and they proceed to make an outlandish statement that leaves all the other people baffled as to what story could have resulted in that conclusion. For instance, when you and I rode in an elevator, you could turn to me and say “So what happened next?” and I would respond with something insane like “Well, they finally delivered more pillows to my hotel room and I was able to get her to stop biting me” or “So, I got the horse out of my pool an hour later, but that’s the last time I order Chinese food from THAT place!” Give us a few good “conclusions” that would leave your neighbors guessing.
A: We do share the same humor, and I can’t wait to put this in good use.
Richard: “So what happened next?”
Mikael: “Well as you could expect, Kent Weare continued singing the Swedish national anthem.”
Richard: “Still in nothing but a Swedish hockey jersey?”
Mikael: “Yes, and I found his dancing to be inappropriate.”
Richard: “So what happened next?”
Mikael: “As the cloakroom door opened, Susan Boyle comes out, holding Yossi Dahan in her right hand and an angry beaver in the other”.
Mikael: “Yes, it could have been the other way around, but they were running to fast to tell.”
Thanks Mikael for your answers and exposing yourself to be the lunatic we thought you were! For the readers, if there are other “community tools” you wish to highlight that would make good additions to the BizTalk product, don’t hesitate to add them below.