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Enterprise Service Bus with BizTalk Server and Windows Azure : Governance Considerations

3/18/2011 5:52:56 PM
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ESB governance is a multi-faceted issue, and can become complex depending on the runtime management requirements and the necessary involvement on an organizational level.

What provisioning ESB-hosted services entail will vary by enterprise, but typical requirements are:

  • advertising service availability (service registry or repository)

  • implementing monitoring of messages based on type or services

  • creation of custom on-ramps

  • definition of security policies

The ESB Toolkit does not add a governance layer onto BizTalk or the .NET framework. It does, however, have hooks into some third-party governance solution providers in order to integrate their governance capabilities into a BizTalk-based ESB. In addition, service virtualization solutions, such as the Managed Services Engine (available on Codeplex) can be used as containers for on and off-ramps, allowing policy-driven enforcement of SLAs or tracking at the container level.

When creating a governance plan for your ESB implementation, there are some key considerations to take into account.

SLA Enforcement

Service level agreement (SLA) enforcement means confirming that an agreed upon service level (such as response time or availability) is being met. If you are going to monitor service metrics, there are two common models used:

  • observation model

  • container model

In a Microsoft context, the observation model could mean instrumenting the service using BizTalk’s BAM capabilities . Essentially, tracking of events (for example, service start) can be monitored and subsequently reported on. This model can easily be applied over various transport protocols, although it will only capture data you need to provide the logic to respond to conditions outside of the SLAs.

Using the container model is similar, but takes a slightly different approach. The proxy is invoked at the consumer-side of a Web service call. It registers metrics, but can also perform other functions, such as usage metering and service virtualization.

Monitoring

Monitoring of an ESB breaks down into three distinct areas:

  • infrastructure monitoring (machine health)

  • ESB component monitoring (ESB health)

  • custom application and service monitoring (solution/service health)

The first is the server health type of monitoring that is provided by tools such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and IBM’s Tivoli. This is the lowest level of monitoring in that it provides confirmation that the server is running and specific services are operational through to CPU and memory utilization. In a well planned environment, these tools can give you the ability to not only monitor changing server conditions, but to also react to them and re-assign resources as required.

The next level is concerned with the monitoring of ESB core services and components. At this level, you can leverage BizTalk’s BAM capabilities to track service metrics . Metrics gathered can include historical trend data, allowing server administrators to spot service latency degradations and other trends that may not be readily apparent from a tabular listing. Furthermore, if you are using BAM scheduled aggregations, the data will be collected in SQL Server Analysis Services OLAP cubes, which allow for new views into service metrics to be created long after the metrics data has been collected. Both the ESB Toolkit and the Managed Services Engine utilize BizTalk BAM for this type of monitoring. In the case of the ESB Toolkit, tracking activity for part of an itinerary is as simple as enabling tracking on that step, and then reporting on it.

Lastly, other applications and services created in an enterprise, but outside of the realm of the ESB core services, can also take advantage of the metrics tracking infrastructure provided by BizTalk BAM.

Preparing Project Teams

Moving to an ESB topology marks a fundamental change for most enterprises, as it can involve deploying a completely new infrastructure along with new development and administration requirements. In order to ensure a smooth transition, it is essential that care and consideration be paid to the soft aspects. Specifically, any transition plan should include:

  • training and consulting

  • developer tools and SDKs

Training can take many forms. Formal training is generally encouraged given the range of technologies and architectural complexities that can be part of BizTalk Server and ESB Toolkit implementations. Also, you can help reduce common risks by planning and carrying out the initial steps of a transition with the guidance of experienced consultants.

Appropriate developer tools and SDKs can help technology architects and developers work hands-on with BizTalk components and services prior to entering actual project delivery stages. It can further help highlight where additional, non-Microsoft tools and technologies can be incorporated to ensure that the ultimate ESB architecture is in support of an overall vendor-neutral service-oriented architectural model.

Finally, ensuring that any plans, architectures, and infrastructure deployments for a specific ESB implementation are in alignment and encompassed and appropriately positioned with an overarching SOA governance plan is essential to ensuring that the eventual ESB implementation will not unintentionally establish a silo of its own.

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