BizTalk Sending Updated Version of Message to SOAP Recipients

What happens to downstream SOAP recipients if the message sent from BizTalk is a different “version” than the original?

Let’s assume I have an enterprise schema that represents my company’s employees (e.g. “Workforce”). BizTalk receives this object from SAP and fans it out to a variety of downstream systems (via SOAP). Because direct messaging with the SOAP adapter is occurring, a proxy class is needed to call the web service (vs. an orchestration). Because every subscriber service implements the same enterprise schema and WSDL, a single proxy class in BizTalk can be reused for each recipient.

Using “wsdl.exe” I do code generation on the enterprise WSDL to build an interface object (using the wsdl /serverinterface command) that is implemented by the subscribing web service (thus ensuring that each subscriber respects the enterprise WSDL contract). I also use wsdl.exe to build the service proxy component that BizTalk requires to call the service. Finally, I use xsd.exe to build a separate class with the types represented in the enterprise schema.

Now what if a department requests new fields to be added to this object? How will this affect each downstream subscriber? For significant changes (e.g. backwards breaking changes such as removal of required fields, changing node names), the namespace of the schema will be updated to reflect the change. This would force a rebuild and recompile of subscribers of this new message. For more minor changes, no namespace update will occur.

We had a debate about how a .NET web service would handle the receipt of “unexpected” elements when the namespace has not been changed. That is, what if we just sent this new data to each subscriber without having them recompile their project with the latest auto-generated code (interface, proxy, types) from the enterprise schema/WSDL? Some folks thought that the .NET web service would reject the inbound message because it wouldn’t serialize the unknown types. I wasn’t 100% sure of that, so I ran a few tests.

For this test, I added a new value to the auto-generated “types” class (which is used by the interface class and proxy class).

I then build and GAC the updated proxy component. I also made sure that the subscriber web service still has the “old” auto-generated code.

{New) Object used by BizTalk service proxy:

{Old) Object used by subscriber web service:

So, we’ve established that the web service knows nothing about “nickname”. If I add that field to my input document, and pass it in, route it to my subscriber port, what do you think happens? The first line of the web service writes a message to the event log, thus proving whether or not the service has successfully been called.

I’ve turned on tcptrace so that I can ensure that “nickname” actually got transferred over the wire. Sure enough, the SOAP request contains my new field …

Most importantly, an Event Log entry shows up, proving that my service was called with no problem.

Interesting. So unexpected data elements are simply not serialized into the input object type, and no exception is thrown. I also tried using the “old” proxy class (e.g. without “nickname” in it) within BizTalk, and if schema validation is turned OFF, BizTalk also accepts the “extra” fields, but, since the “nickname” doesn’t exist in the proxy, does NOT send it over the wire, even though it was in the original XML message. Within the subscriber service, I could have serialized the object BACK into its XML format, and then applied an XML schema validation, and this would have raised a validation exception.

Conclusion
This is all good to know, but NOT a pattern or principle we will adopt. Instead, when changes are made to the enterprise schemas, we will create a new BizTalk map that “downgrades” the message in the subscriber send port. This way, we can gracefully update the subscribers at a later time, while still ensuring that they get the same message format today as they did yesterday. When the subscriber has recompiled their service with the latest auto-generated code, THEN we can remove the map from their send port and let them receive the newest elements.

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Categories: BizTalk, General Architecture, SOA

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