Look Ma ! An evil middleware product!
I couldn’t resist commenting on this issue. I was just doing some final prep for my VBUG talk tomorrow and came across Richard Hallgren’s oddly titled post – Does BizTalk have man-boobs?. Richard writes about a QCon webcast of a session done by Martin Fowler and Jim Webber and writes
“Their main point is that we use much to bloated middleware (BizTalk is mentioned as an example here) and that we should have a more agile approach to implement SOA and ESBs. They’ve used all the agile ideas (testing, isolated testable functionality, deliver small and often, continuous builds etc, etc) and applied them to integration..”.
Richard goes on to make some good points which I totally agree with. Check out the post for details. I commented on the post and decided I would make those points again here and add a couple more, which is also quite good timing (for me) considering I’m speaking on BizTalk tomorrow.
So, I agree that BizTalk is totally unsuitable for small situations and if it is naively (read – most often) used without any performance tuning whatsoever, then its latency can be bad. But if its tuned, it can totally rock (and I know this from MCS colleagues who’ve experienced it in very large BizTalk projects).
BizTalk is big. Yes, totally. But it has to be because it addresses a vast set of use cases. Same goes for its competitors like TIBCO, webMethods etc. If you dont want all the features, dont use them. They are in the box anyway and they wont slow you down if you dont use them. You want content based routing – its in the box; you want long running business processes – check, you want ‘aspect oriented’ interception of messages for tracking , you’ve got BAM. You want monitoring tools – check. You don’t want tracking – turn it off. You dont want business rules – ignore the BRE. The list goes on.
There’s also a case to be made for using something like the ESB toolkit to give you a decent jumpstart on your routing infrastructure.
If you only have a couple of systems to integrate (and you are very sure there wont be more) then go ahead and custom code it. Its not worth buying a product for that.
The problem I have is with some “agilists” who, it would seem, want to custom code every darn thing under the sun. As I commented on Richard’s post, the irony is that the very same folk will then stress the importance of having good, robust pre-built frameworks and good tools to help with the “agile” approach. But wait, those tools have to be on the “acceptable” short list. Take NHibernate for example. An excellent tool, no doubt. And for many folk, since its open source, so it must be sent from above, totally divine, but not BizTalk. That’s way too big. And besides, its from Microsoft. Gasp! horror! It must be evil !!
Some take the view that its about having confidence in your code. I can understand that. Having been exposed to a fair amount of TDD etc, I can attest to the feeling of security when your edge cases have all been tested and you see all those “green signals”. But in an integration scenario where use cases are similar , how many times will you write a test, write the code, refactor, refactor, blah.. till the code comes out of your ears. Pretty soon customers are going to wonder how many times they have to pay for something thats already been written.
If Ican have confidence in code I write, I can have the same amount and more in a product thats been tested out in hundreds of more scenarios than I could imagine. Do these products (such as Biztalk and its competitors – I’m not selling anything here 🙂 ) have bugs? Well of course they do. But in many cases, you can be just as confident in commercial closed source as in open source. Besides, if pre-built tools werent a good idea, there wouldnt be any open or closed source tools would there?
I’m not partial. Go in for the Neuron ESB if you a want a pure WCF ESB, or go in for something thats gaining a good reputation like NServiceBus. Just don’t give me that story about having to write a 100 tests first and inherit a dozen interfaces before I can deliver anything of value. Bah! Humbug!
Ok, so enough of the rant.. Got to go and write some custom components now 🙂