Had a chance this week to go check out a talk by David Chappell held at the Las Colinas office of Microsoft. The subject of the day was BizTalk Server 2004.
I've worked with BizTalk Server since before it was publicly available. While working for HealthAxis I was on a team of two developers who were working with an Alpha version of BizTalk Server (before they even settled on the names ports and channels). I've since worked with BizTalk Server 2000, and 2002. I'm hard to impress when it comes to BTS, they've made lots of promises in the past, and all have fallen short. That said, all I can say about BizTalk Server 2004 is ... WOW!
They seem to have actually gotten Orchestrations to the point where I won't cry every time I have to use them. The complete integration with Visual Studio is very nice, no more swapping between fifty different tools. The EDI solutions are better, and their partnership with COVAST means that if you're willing to lay out the dough, you can make BizTalk a real EDI solution.
The speakers as a whole were ok, David Chappell was the best, though a close runner up was the ever animated Terry Gore. Terry's presentation also proved you not only could do stuff with BizTalk, but you could do it fast. His presentation created Message definitions from scratch, wrote an orchestraion to handle some logic and conditionally return 1 of 2 documents. The he re-wrote the orchestration (from scratch!) to use the Business Rules Engine, and demonstrated how to setup rules in the BRE. Then he published that orchestration as a Web Service, used InfoPath to create a form to submit to that Web Service, and finally published the Infopath form to Windows Sharepoint Services forms Library. All in an hour and a half. Impressive, and I feel confident I could repeat that process, though it might take me 2 hours.
Anyway, comes the end of the long day of training and the infamous drawings. Top prize was an XBox ... and I won it! Very cool, of course now I need to get a Wireless-G connector for it, and another copy of HALO. HALO2 is November 9th, according to my local GameStop, and I can't wait.