Review: Pro Business Activity Monitoring in BizTalk Server 2009

I recently finished reading the book Pro Business Activity Monitoring in BizTalk Server 2009 and thought I should write a brief review.

To start with, this is a extremely well-written, easy to understand investigation of a topic long overdue for a more public unveiling.  Long the secret tool of a BizTalk developer, BAM has never really stretched outside the BizTalk shadow despite its ability to support a wide range of input clients (WF, WCF, custom .NET code).

This book is organized in a way that first introduces the concepts and use cases of Business Activity Monitoring and then transitions into how to actually  accomplish things with Microsoft BAM platform.  The book closes with an architectural assessment that describes how BAM really works.

Early in the book, the authors looked at a number of situations (B2B, B2C, CSC, SOA, ESB, BPM, and mashups) and explained the relevance of BAM in each.  This was a wise way to encourage the reader to think about BAM for more than just straight BizTalk solutions.  It also showcases the value of capturing business metrics across applications and tiers.

The examples in the book were excellent, and one nice touch I liked was after the VERY first “build a BAM solution” demonstration, there was a solid section explaining how to troubleshoot the various things that might have gone wrong.  Given how many times the first demonstration goes wrong for a reader, this was a very thoughtful addition and indicative of the care given to this topic by the authors.

You’ll also find a quite thorough quest to explain how to use the WCF and WF BAM interceptors including descriptions of key configuration attributes in addition to numerous examples of those configurations in action.

The book goes to great lengths to try and shine a light on aspects of BAM that may have been poorly understood and it offers concrete ways to address them.  You’ll find suggestions for how to manage the numerous BAM solution artifacts, descriptions of the databases and tables that make up a BAM installation and it is one of the only places you can find a clear write up of the flow of data driven by the SSIS/DTS packages.  The authors also talk about topics such as relationships and continuations which may have not been clear to developers in the past.

What else will you find here?  You’ll see how to create all sorts of observation models in Excel, how to exploit the BAM portal or use other reporting environments, how to use either the TPE or the BAM API to feed the BAM interceptors, a well explained discussion on archiving, and how to encourage organizational acceptance and adoption of BAM.

I’d contend that if this book came out in 2005 (which it could have, given that there have only been a few core changes to the offering since then), you’d see BAM as a mainstream option for Microsoft-based activity monitoring.  That didn’t happen, so countless architects and developers have missed out on a pretty sophisticated architecture that is fairly easy to use.  Will this book change all that?  Probably not, but if you are a BizTalk architect today, or simply find the idea of flexibly modeling, capturing and reporting key business indicators to be compelling, you really should read this book.

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Categories: BizTalk, General Architecture

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