Interview Series: Four Questions With … Stephen Thomas

Happy New Year and welcome to the 6th interview in our series of chats with interesting folks in the “connected systems” space.  This month we are sitting down with Stephen Thomas who is a blogger, MVP, and the creator/owner of the popular BizTalkGurus.com site.  Stephen has been instrumental in building up the online support community for BizTalk Server and also disseminating the ideas of the many BizTalk bloggers through his aggregate feed.

Q: You’ve been blogging about BizTalk for eons, and I’d be willing to bet that you regularly receive questions on posts that you barely remember writing or have no idea of the reason you wrote it.  What are the more common types of questions you receive through your blog, and what does that tell you about the folks trying to understand more about BizTalk by searching the Net?

A:  A main purpose of starting the forums on biztalkgurus.com was to reduce the number of questions I received via email.  Since I started the forums a few years ago, I get very few questions via email anymore.  The most common question I do receive is “How do I learn BizTalk?”  I think this question is a sign of new people starting to work with the product.  BizTalk is a large product and can sometimes be hard to decide what to start with first.  I always point people to the MSDN Virtual Labs.

Q: What’s a pattern you’ve implemented in BizTalk that you always return to, and what’s a pattern that you’ve tried and decided that you don’t like?

A: Typically I find the need to interact with SQL using BizTalk.  In the past, I have always put as much logic as possible into helper .net components and access SQL using Enterprise Library.  I have used this approach on many projects and it always proves to be easier to test and build out then working with the SQL Adapter.  I try to avoid using Convoys due to the potential of zombies and document reprocessing complications.

Q: You’ve recently posted a series of videos and screenshots of Dublin, Olso and WF 4.0.  In your opinion, how should typical BizTalk developers and architects view these tools and what use cases should we start transitioning from “use BizTalk” to “use Dublin/Oslo/WF”?

A:  Right now, I see Dublin and WF 4.0 having an impact in the near term.  I see the greatest use of these for scenarios that currently could use Workflow but have chosen BizTalk because of the lack of a hosting environment.  These are usually process controller or internal processing type scenarios.  I also see Dublin winning for in-house, non-integration scenarios and lower latency.  I will always foresee and recommend BizTalk for true integration scenarios across boundaries and for scenarios that leverage the adapters.  Also, the mapping story is better and easer in BizTalk so anything with lots of maps will be easer inside BizTalk.

Q [stupid question]: We recently completed the Christmas season which means large feasts consisting of traditional holiday fare.  It’s inevitable that there is a particular food on the table that you consistently ignore because you don’t like it.  For instance, I have an uncontrollable “sweet potato gag reflex” that rears its ugly head during Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Tell us what holiday food you like best, and least.

A:  Since we do not have a big family and no one close to us, we typically travel someplace outside the US for the Holidays.  The past four years our Christmas dinners have been my favorite, pizza, while my wife goes for my least favorite food, steak.  I am a very picky eater so when we do have a large dinner I usually do not each much.

Thanks Stephen for sharing your technology thoughts and food preferences.

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Categories: BizTalk, Four Questions

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