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Enterprise Service Bus with BizTalk Server and Windows Azure : Distributed and Scalable ESB Architecture

3/9/2011 2:23:04 PM
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Configuring for High-Availability

From a scalability standpoint, this can be beneficial because it enables us to leverage SQL Server’s high-availability SQL clusters. Specifically, the minimal configuration for us to establish a high-availability BizTalk infrastructure would consist of:

  • two BizTalk servers (Enterprise Edition)

  • one SQL Server cluster (preferably with a fast SAN as a storage subsystem)

This would result in an architecture similar to what is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A simple high-availability BizTalk infrastructure.


Techniques for Scaling

The Enterprise edition of BizTalk Server is self-clustering, in as much as it shares configuration information that is stored in a common management database. New servers join a group, and start participating in the workload. As a best practice, all servers have the identical configuration, with the same items deployed to the local GACs. Processing can be partitioned by controlling host instance and having only certain host instances running on certain machines.

In the BizTalk administrative tool, a host is a definition of a service. Many of the features of BizTalk message processing, such as throttling and threading, are defined at the host level. A host instance is a Windows Service process that is an instance of the host type running on one or more servers. Multiple instances of a host are used to add processing power (horizontal scaling) and ensure high availability. Only one instance of a specific host is allowed on a BizTalk Server. Note that host instances can be defined on many or all of the BizTalk Servers and enabled or disabled as appropriate to loading conditions.

This partitioning means that you can (for example) have certain machines that are dedicated to receiving messages, others that only send, and still others that only run transformation services. This approach allows you to scale specific partitions as needs evolve and requirements change.

The Systems Center Operations Manager Management Pack for BizTalk Server provides further visibility into the health and activities occurring on the server. Using Operations Manager, it is possible to script compensations to events. For example, if you have two BizTalk Servers running a receiving host instance, and you suddenly receive a surge of messages that stress the servers, you can script a compensating action that starts that host instance on other machines. Most small and medium enterprises will never need to go to this extreme; however, it’s reassuring to know that you have the ability to construct adaptive networks that will respond to changing needs and that you can enable services dynamically on an as-required basis.

An example of a high-availability and scalable architecture is shown in Figure 2. By studying this diagram we can identify multiple receive hosts behind a load balance that distributes HTTP traffic. Because BizTalk nodes are self-clustering in groups, the load balancer does not affect the nodes. It is strictly there for the Web service.

Figure 2. High-Availability Infrastructure Diagram (scaled-out sample)



Should there be load pressure over time, more machines can be added to the various BizTalk groups, either dynamically or in advance, to accommodate anticipated usage surges and increased workloads. For example, more processing hosts can be added to accommodate complex processing.

To complete a high-availability BizTalk infrastructure, disaster recovery can be implemented through a combination of the BizTalk backup jobs and log shipping. “Complete” high-availability needs highly-available installations to be mirrored in separate (and geographically separated) data centers, with log shipping being performed through a high-speed connection. You can have high-availability in a given data center, but should there be a catastrophic event that disables the data center, you would need to fail over to the other data center.

Distributed ESBs

No discussion of ESBs would be complete without touching on the topic of distributed (or federated) ESBs. The notion here is that although you already have distributed services within an ESB, you may have additional ESBs within your enterprise, perhaps each in a separate domain service inventory or several within the same service inventory.

Regardless of the stratification reason, the existence of distributed ESB implementations will result in a need to flow messages across ESB boundaries. The ESB Toolkit provides building blocks that can be helpful to enable this type of inter-ESB messaging framework.

If they are in direct communication, then an off-ramp on one ESB would send a message to an on-ramp of another ESB. In other cases, you may opt to relay through an intermediary, where a message is sent from one ESB to the Windows Azure platform Service Bus and from there it is relayed to another ESB.

Note

Also worth noting is that there are various strategies you could consider around using SQL Server’s replication features to replicate the itinerary repository. You can also explore using UDDI 3.0’s syndication capabilities to federate distributed UDDI directories.

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