Interview Series: Four Questions With … Paul Somers

Happy New Year and welcome to my 37th interview with a thought leader in the “connected systems” space. This month, we’re chatting with Paul Somers who is a consultant, Microsoft MVPblogger, and speaker. Paul is well-known in the BizTalk community, so let’s pick his brain on the topic of integration.

Q: Are you seeing any change in the types of BizTalk projects that you work on? Are you using web services more than you did 3 years ago? More or less orchestration?

A: Not really, the same problems exist as before, orchestrations are a must have. Many organizations are doing EAI types of projects, sorting out their internal apps, with some of these projects hitting an external entity. Some with web services, but there are cloud based providers that do NOT provide web services to communicate with. It’s much more painful when you have to talk to a client app, which then talks to the server/cloud by using some OTHER method of communication. All in all the number of web services has stayed the same.

Q: Kent Weare recently showed off some of the new Mapper capabilities in the Azure AppFabric EAI/EDI CTP. Which of those new functoids look most useful to you, and why?

A: I like the new string manipulation functiods, however the one we use the most, and is not there is the scripting functiod, as there is no functiod, and I don’t want one, that can apply complex business logic, best expressed in code, based on three elements in the source schema, to produce a single result in the destination schema.

Q: I like one of the points made in a recent InfoQ.com article (Everything is PaaSible) where the author says that sometimes, having so many tools is a hindrance and it’s better to just “make do” with existing platforms and products instead of incurring the operational overhead of introducing new things.  Where in BizTalk projects do you err on the side of simplicity, instead of adding yet another component to the solution?

A: Well it’s quite simple actually, where some organizations try and sweep it clean and put in an application that will do the job of several of their existing applications, I have seen the result to business when this occurs, it’s almost disaster for the company for a period of time.  The article suggests the right tool for the right job, BizTalk is that tool… as I have found that the better and often simpler approach is to integrate, with BizTalk, we simply slip it in, and get it communication with the other applications, sharing the information, automating the processes, where they would print it out of the one system and enter it into the other, now instantly as soon as it’s in the one system, it comes up not too much later in the other system, depends on the system, however there should also be a big move from batch based interactions, to more real time, or what I like to say, “NEAR” real time systems, that within a few minutes the other system will contain the same information as the other system.

Q [stupid question]: As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, many people focus on the things they did in the previous year.  However, what are the things you are proud of NOT doing in 2011?  For me, I’m proud of myself for never “planking” or using the acronym “LOL” in any form of writing (until now, I guess). You?

A: I’m proud in some way, of not moving a single customer to the cloud for the right reason. We are not moving our customers to a cloud based approach, we have ZERO uptake of customers who will move their critical data to the cloud, their sensitive data to the cloud, no matter how secure these companies say it is, unless it’s secure inside their building, their firewall, and their organization, they really have no way of securing the data, and rightly so they WILL NOT move it to the cloud. I deal with many financial transactions, confidential information, such as the pay grade, and bonus amount of every employee in the organisation, to what orders are coming in from who. ALL of this is critical and sensitive information, which in the hands of the wrong person could expose the organization.  This is a real problem for me, because there is no hybrid system, where I can develop it on site, and then move selective bits where processing is critical, say one orchestration that we get millions of instances, would be best served in a cloud based approach. I simply can’t do this, and sadly I don’t see anyone catering for this scenario, which is perhaps the single most likely instance of using the cloud. I want to use it more, but I’m driven by what my clients want, and they say no, and quite rightly so.

Thanks Paul!



Categories: BizTalk, Four Questions

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