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Archive for the ‘MockingBird Diary’ Category

MockingBird Futures – Mock BizTalk Adapters

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MockingBird v2 has almost reached RTM. Just a few more days to make some final touches and it will be ready. The team has been discussing how to take it further and one thing that’s been on my mind for a long time is the topic of mock BizTalk adapters. What I would like to do is write some adapters with the WCF LOB Adapter SDK that link up with MockingBird’s simulation engine so we can then simulate various protocols such as SQL, Oracle, MSMQ, MQSeries etc.

The first question that anyone would ask me is “Why? “. Currently MockingBird works decently as a receiver from BizTalk in one way and solicit response mode. (It also supports duplex channels). If you have a one way message from BizTalk or a solicit response, then all you need is to replace the URL of the endpoint with the MB url and with the right config, the system will send back the messages you were expecting. So, why do we need to mock an adapter when we can simply avail of the WCF-Custom adapter?

While the first thing that comes to mind is that MB only handles the send side and does nothing on the receive side, i do think that there are many other reasons to go down the adapter route (on both the send and receive sides)

For the send side

  1. Adapters will allow us to manipulate & use context properties. For situations where transport level correlation is being used (MQSeries, MSMQ etc), the adapter will let us force copy correlation identifiers to the response. Without this, we would need to have a queue listener that understood the MQ/MSMQ protocols and set properties accordingly.
  2. Adapters will allow us to simulate transactional behaviour.
  3. Minimizes the ‘intrusion footprint’ of the tool. Currently even if you were targeting SQL you would need to switch to WCF Custom and make a lot more binding changes. If we could adhere to the SQL adapter properties, it would reduce the amount of work. In fact all we should require is a change of url (eg: mbsql:// )
  4. If an application interface doesn’t support web services, then piggy-backing on WCF LOB adapters will allow us to mock that system (assuming we are wrapping that system with the WCF LOB Adapter, we could potentially leverage that adapter to direct messages into mockingbird). So if there is a SQL/Oracle database, because we can connect to that via WCF-SQL , WCF-Oracle etc, we can just add the mock flavors of the same otherwise we would have to mock the entire SQL/Oracle protocols which is not feasible.

For the receive side

  1. Although we can always create a test receive location with the file adapter, this is limited to ‘unit tests’. We cannot simulate other transport protocols (for example, polling sql. Also with queues (MQ/MSMQ) we would need an app that could send to the queue to activate the receive location.
  2. We could extend an adapter to use the ‘Submit Direct’SDK  sample to send messages into BizTalk directly and configure this.
  3. The context properties argument also applies here. A lot can be set artificially on the message. Similarly transactional behaviour could also be applied.

So, what about other current tools in this general area ?

  1. Some of this kind of testing can be done with BizUnit (example : sending messages to a queue or reading from a queue). BizUnit could also be extended (example : a correlation aware queue listener) but BizUnit’s focus is on distinct steps that verify behaviour rather than on causing/forcing some behaviour which we can do via the adapters. The adapter approach also keeps this testing ‘within the boundary of Biztalk’ . while BizUnit will complement this nicely from the outside.
  2. LoadGen can also help on the receive side. Again, LoadGen’s focus is on load/stress testing rather than functional behaviour. I think it may be possible to use LoadGen with Mockingbird (maybe as part of these adapters).
  3. BizMock is another tool that is in similar territory. But having discussed MockingBird with Pierre Milet Llobet, the author of BizMock, I don’t see any overlap here. BizMock is focussed on providing a fluent interface to help with a TDD approach to BizTalk testing and on providing a mock adapter that is used within that test scope, but MockingBird’s adapters will be ‘proper’ infrastructure and integration test faciliators rather than a unit test tool.

Okay, so these are my thoughts on extending MockingBird into the arena of mock BizTalk adapters and I would really like to get feedback from the BizTalk community on this. What do you think of the idea? If you have some experience with the WCF LOB Adapter SDK (which I’ve only played with briefly) perhaps there’s some suggestions you can make or tips/gotchas you can make us aware of ? Is this an area you could get involved with (not necessarily have to contribute code, there are bandwidth constraints on all of us, but potentially send us suggestions, design ideas , maybe be an early tester etc?) .

Let me know. All feedback would be greatly appreciated.


Written by santoshbenjamin

June 20, 2010 at 1:28 PM

MockingBird meets WCF in v2.0 RC

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I’m delighted to announce that MockingBird v2.0 is now available as a Release Candidate.   This is the long awaited ( 🙂 ) version that adds a WCF Message Interceptor that now sits alongside the HttpHandler and uses the same generic simulation engine.

I owe this release pretty much entirely to the stellar contributions of Bram Veldhoen who wrote the entire WCF interceptor and dived into the Unity based dependency resolution and fixed a number of issues with threading and concurrency and even introduced me to the awesome (and scary) Microsoft CHESS concurrency testing tool which I’m still trying to get my head around.

Basically we have now added 2 things to the mix namely a “SimulatorService” (.svc) endpoint that implements a generic contract. The message exchange patterns are modeled after the BizTalk WCF adapters and the current set is : IOneWay, IOneWayDuplex,  IOneWaySession, ITwoWay, ITwoWayVoid and the corresponding Async interfaces (for example ITwoWayAsync ). The SimulatorService.svc can be hosted in IIS or in a ‘SimulatorHost’ console application (which also supports http and https). Although both are installed, it is not possible to run them simultaneously because of port sharing issues, so if you want to run the SimulatorHost ensure that the website that contains the ASMX and SVC is stopped.

The high level design of the system is shown in the following diagram

(If you are not familiar with it from previous versions, essentially it consists of a generic HttpHandler and a generic WCF message interceptor that can pick up any message sent to the endpoint and to respond to this message it looks at a model XML file that instructs it how to respond. All it needs to function straight out of the box is the model file which is very simple to setup)

In terms of the physical layout MockingBird is manifested as follows

  • A virtual directory : This contains the SimulatorService.svc file (the WCF message interceptor)  and in the bin folder we have the Interceptor.dll which contains HttpHandler (implemented as a class that inherits the IHttpHandler interface rather than an .ashx) . The bin folder also contains the WCF Simulator Host application and a simulator host tester application. The .svc and the httpHandler both share the web.config and as explained in the technical documentation, there are a number of other .config files
  • A folder (usually in Program Files) containing the Service Studio GUI application.

Please note that in the RC, due to the single package and co-location of the WCF SimulatorHost with the web application, the 4 config files are duplicated in the root of the web app as well as in the bin folder. This is intentional because the system looks for ‘sibling’ configuration files and for web apps they need to be in the root whereas for the Simulator Host they need to be co-located with the .exe.config which happens to be in the bin folder of the web app.

In v2 RTM we plan to split this up so that the simulator host is installed in a separate folder (under Program Files). This will avoid the confusion that may appear when the user sees the config files in 2 adjacent folders, however, the apps still need their own copies of the configuration files. Perhaps in a future version, we will build some advanced centralized configuration so that irrespective of the simulator chosen, the configuration is always taken from a single central location.

I hope you find this new version useful. Looking forward to the bug reports and feedback. I hope to be able to get the RTM out in a month or so (approx 20 April 2o10). Do check it out and let us know what you think of it.

Written by santoshbenjamin

March 17, 2010 at 11:35 PM

MockingBird – The Roadmap

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I’m really chuffed to have not one but 3 new team members on board the MockingBird project. Welcome to Shen Chauhan, my MCS colleague and WPF whizz-kid, Bram Veldhoen and Cormac O’Brien.

So, whats cooking for MockingBird in 2010 ? I have a veritable laundry list of features for the next release(s) but here’s the broad themes we are working towards.

(1) WCF : The first is the port to WCF which is long overdue and Bram has been hard at work in getting this off the ground so I expect to have something to announce soon. We will be implementing a message interceptor / router with a generic contract and from there leverage the simulation framework that is currently available with (hopefully) minimal changes. The challenge will be in the area of bindings since most teams customize bindings heavily so the service will need to support custom bindings.

(2) REST, XML/Http etc: Here we are looking at moving beyond just SOAP based services to plain XML/Http services and even REST based services. Cormac had come across some non SOAP services recently for which he had to manually code a mock, so we will be looking to incorporate such functionality here.  REST is an area that I haven’t paid much attention too so i see  a crash course in REST around the corner. If you have experience with REST and are keen to see support for this in MockingBird and can contribute in some way, do drop me a line.

(3) Generic ‘Action’ processing: For processing requests and building responses, there needs to be a more generic approach. Currently there is support for running an XPATH query on the request and returning a response based on the result of the XPath expression., But this is only one solution. What if we wanted to do a custom evaluation of the request where XPath is not enough? Further for the response, what if we wanted something more dynamic than just pointing to a specific response file? for example, Cormac suggested we dynamically execute an XSLT against the request. So, for this we need to look at the system executing a supplied “IAction” (IRequestAction, IResponseAction) and behaving accordingly. Unity and MEF should help here.

(4) Dynamic Mocking With BizUnit: This would be an API (+ a BizUnit step) which reduces the amount of upfront configuration needed. I envisage being able to say “For this endpoint, at the next request, return “X” response (and extend it to say, “do that for the next 10 calls or forever etc). We should then be able to “assert” that the system did indeed send the response. This would require surfacing the configuration file management code so that a config file could be written on the fly by the API/ Test step.

(5) .NET 4, AppFabric and Workflow Service: This is probably a longer term (MockingBird v3) where I am considering implementing the handler as a dynamic workflow service and using XAML. Now with this approach all the header parsing, IAction components etc would all  become custom workflow activities and it would be possible to dynamically compose specialized handlers on the fly. The message interceptor component would move to the official WCF Router.

So these are the big ticket items. For all of them I would appreciate your feedback as to what would give you the most value. We would also welcome more participation and contribution of ideas/code.  Looking forwad to your feedback.

Written by santoshbenjamin

January 18, 2010 at 11:20 AM

MockingBird- Beta 2

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MockingBird – Beta 2 is now available.

The changes/ fixes are as follows
(1) The system can handle remote WSDL’s now (using DiscoveryClientProtocol). [But this will use the Default network credentials to get the WSDL. There are no facilities as yet for providing this information as settings for the tool).
(2) Fixed the WSDL Browser which crashed when loading WSDLs into the tree view where there were one way operations in the WSDL.
(3) Xml Instance Generator now allows an overloaded constructor where a GeneratorSettings instance can be passed in to control the output.
(4) Documentation has now been split into a User Guide and Technical Documentation and thoroughly revised.

As mentioned in previous posts, the system is very stable (at least for the WSDLs and services I have tested and used it with) , so the fact that it is still officially a beta-2 shouldnt prevent anyone from using it.

Things that need to be done for RTM are

  • some additional entry points into the XmlInstanceGenerator,
  • adding some “settings” forms where users can set things such as network credentials when dealing with remote WSDLs etc.
  • Update the class library documentation
  • Use Unity in the Service Studio
  • Run the code-base through StyleCop and FxCop. (This last part has me worried :-). How much am I going to need to rewrite?))

Check it out and, as always, feel free to send feedback.

Written by santoshbenjamin

May 22, 2009 at 2:55 PM

MockingBird – Beta

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Whew! I’ve finally managed to get the first beta release of MockingBird out the door, almost 3 months after the alpha. The past 3 months have gone by in a blur with my first major project in MCS and the associated tight deadlines and long hours. Technically its been a good learning experience, but it doesnt leave any time at all for side projects like this one, but I’ve managed to steal the odd weekend here and there and get this done.

The key elements of the beta release are

  • The branding and naming is now beginning to work out quite well. As I had written earlier, it started life as MockWeb, then became MockingBird and now I have decided that I like the name “MockingBird” so much its worth promoting to the ‘brand’ or the name of the toolset. The constituent applications now have their own names. The web application with the HttpHandler is now called the “Service Simulator” and the main WinForms application is now called the “Service Studio” which will hold many modules and plugins.
  • The Service Simulator has been completely revised using Unity IoC. I feel a lot happier with the design now and i think its more loosely coupled and the DI /IoC has a good side effect in increasing the test surface. The Service Studio doesnt use the Unity configuration yet, but will do so by RTM.
  • The little ‘Driver’ GUI of the alpha has now been rolled into the “Service Studio” and is officially called the “Service Invoker”. The layout has changed and now uses tabs so occupies less screen real estate.
  • There is a new “WSDL Browser” module in the service studio that allows you to load up a WSDL and it will parse the WSDL for you and list all the operations and allow you to generate sample request and response messages.
  • The WSDL  Browser in turn makes use of an Xml Instance Generator module that provides a more usable facade over a sample from the MSDN archives. The XIG module can stand on its own and will grow in future releases.

The design principle of the Service Studio is that every piece of functionality must be accessible independently and not depend on a UI. This is one of the reasons it took so long to get this done. I came across quite a few samples of WSDL handling where the authors were willing to share and/or the license permitted extension, but the code was simply too deeply hooked into the UI and did not have any “API” to speak of. In the end I wrote the whole thing myself. I’m still looking for ways to plug it into related tools such as WSCF which I also participate in developing.

There are some limitations in the beta especially with regard to WSDL Parsing.

  • The first limitation is that it cannot handle WCF multi-part WSDLs. This will be done by around RTM time or along with the V2 release as V2 should be fully WCF based.
  • While developing i tested it with different types of WSDLs but in the final push I focussed on testing it with a local monolithic WSDL and so it may fall over with complex WSDL documents. The WSDL spec allows for a wide variation in the actual WSDLs so its not possible for me to cater to all possible kinds of WSDLs. I hope that if you come across an issue, then the source is easy to fix or that you can share the WSDL with me and I will try and sort out the parsing.
  • I also only finalised the testing with a “local” WSDL on the file system. The “SimpleWSDLRetriever” class that I have implemented does not use DiscoveryClientProtocol (although i shall plug in a new class soon that does this) so it cant handle connecting to a non local service and downloading the contract and associated metadata. (As you can see, I know how to address the limitation – just havent had the time to write it 🙂  ).

Anyway, those limitations aside, I’m happy with the code base so far and it really is quite stable and if you need to extend and use the source, i think the current structure is easy to understand. On the codeplex space I have written more documentation on how the internals of the system work so hopefully that will be useful to you. If you do end up extending it, I hope you will let me know what you are doing with it and maybe I can incorporate some of those extensions if it will make the product more generic.

As always, please send me feedback, especially if you run into any bugs. Hope you like the new release.

Written by santoshbenjamin

May 7, 2009 at 10:39 PM

VS2008 – Generate XML Instances

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It’s funny how we take things for granted. As Biztalk developers, we get used to the idea of being able to right click on a schema and generate an instance . In non Biztalk projects however, this couldnt be done. Till now.

I was playing around with writing some XML Instance Generation for MockingBird to finish off the next release and spent a lot of time poking around the Schema Object Model etc. While doing that, I quite accidentally opened the XML Schema Explorer tool window. Now I had seen that in the past and navigated through some types etc (and thinking it was just a simple add-on to the old VS i kind of took it for granted and didnt investigate further). 

What I did not realize is that for Elements, you can generate sample instances.  Check out the following screenshot.

Generate Sample XML

Generate Sample XML

As you can see from the tree behind the popup window, elements are colored differently as well.

This is a great time-saver. I think this can be done only in VS2008 SP1.

Unfortunately, the downside is that there is no API into this tool-window (or rather, the library behind it), so we cannot programmatically generate instances in bulk. Also it will not open WSDL files, so you have to extract the XSD from the WSDL (if not already available separately) in order to work with this tool window. But i think its cool as we no longer have to depend on third party XML editors to get sample instances.

By the way, if you are looking for help in this area (of instance generation) , there is some sample code available in the MSDN article, Generating XML Documents from Schemas which is quite well written. While there are license restrictions on modification/ derivation (and then redistribution), plain redistribution without modification, I gather, is permitted, so the easiest thing for MockingBird would be to just redistribute the binaries of that sample with the GUI. No sense in reinventing the wheel.

In terms of the Biztalk Schema Editor and its instance generation, if any Biztalk folks know if there’s a programmatic way of doing that, please let me know  (Update: I mean specifically for 2006 and R2). I did a lot of digging around in the Developer Tools folder for an assembly that would allow it, but all the classes were internal. I did come across one public class finally (dont remember the assembly off the top of my head now), which had a public method but required some interface to be passed in but didnt work when i tried calling it from custom code. It would be useful to do this programmatically so we can generate instances in bulk for  a given set of schemas (useful when updating instances to correspond to schema changes etc). So, if you’ve managed to do this and are happy to share info then drop me a line.

Written by santoshbenjamin

February 3, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Waltzing with WSDL

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One of my immediate goals for MockingBird is to have the “Configurator” UI done where you can just pick a WSDL on file or point to a URL and have the tool shred it and generate sample request and response messages into the correct folders (and generate the Handler Configuration) after which the user can then do any extra XPath based configurations to make the system more dynamic. Sounds easy enough, doesnt it? Well, thats what i thought too, until i delved into the intricacies of WSDL Parsing.

The class most people use is ServiceDescription and to be fair, it gives some information about the WSDL but navigating it is not easy at all and its not all that intuitive after you get to the point of listing all Operations inside the PortTypeCollection. There is also another big issue with trying to use ServiceDescription alone and that is the fact that WCF by default gives you multipart WSDLs. So getting hold of the WSDL from a WCF endpoint is not straightforward but one class that comes to the rescue is DiscoveryClientProtocol as Mike Hadlow points out in his article. This behavior can be changed as pointed out by Tomas Restrepo in hs post on “Inline XSD in WSDL with WCF” and Christian Weyer takes it up a notch in his article on Flat WSDL in WCF.

Anyway after pondering this a while, I decided it would be in my best interests to factor the code into a WSDLRetriever and a WSDLDescriptor. The Descriptor takes a dependency on WSDLRetriever (an interface of course, so its easy to mock) and expects  a single WSDL XDocument which it can work with. Now with this approach I dont care if the endpoint (if the WSDL is not on file) is a WCF endpoint or not, the Retriever does all that work. So the Descriptor can do its work and with that sorted i wrote up the first few tests for the Descriptor using a mock Retriever. So far so good.

Now, along with the requirement stated above, I also want to build a nice UI, where, you can not only do a single click to generate messages, but you can exercise finer control over the message content before storing them in the appropriate folders. So imagine if you will, a tree view which shows all the operations and the messages in them and immediately under the message name, the name of the complex type and additionally the body of the type (not in the tree node, but in an associated panel).

Of course, I’m not trying to write a completely generic WSDL parser, but something thats immediately usable by MockingBird and for other tools which can use a WSDL as input.

I had a look around at some blog posts and samples but none seemed to go as far as I wanted. I also took a look through the code for WSCF Blue  but couldnt make immediate use of that API. (I’ve since chatted with Buddhike about that so there may be something i could do with WSCF libraries in future). I looked at WebServiceStudio as the license allows reuse of the code there, but the code structure is simply awful. It works as is but everything is so deeply tied into the UI that it will take a feat of coding to extend it or pull out any reusable logic from it. I tried re-factoring a local copy but gave up pretty soon. 😦 So I had to work through the requirement myself.

Anyway, parsing WSDL is not easy at all. Once you get to the operation and message, you then have to wak through all schemas and their associated object tables to pick out the correct complex type corresponding to the message. This took me the best part of a few hours. Given that the user will not supply any namespaces, it gets very hard indeed. Thankfully the Schema Object Model is very decent. I used LINQ to XML for little bits such as extracting endpoint information (which also required me to resort to XPath extension methods because LINQ insisted i give it qualified names but I didnt know what the namespaces were !!) but for the schemas in WSDL, i think the SOM is better than LINQ. But I’m happy to be proved wrong!!

So I’ve got it to the point where it brings back the complex types. Now to generate sample instances from that for which I’ve got some resources. Once thats done and a simple Retriever implemented it wont be hard to put a UI on that because none of this is tied to the UI.

Thats it for now, a sort of ‘progress’ post for those waiting for the GUI for MockingBird and also to point out some of the dragons that await those who venture into the WSDL arena. Talk about ‘design by committee.. its a minefield!!

Couple of really good articles are Understanding WSDL by Aaron Skonnard (an old one, but an excellent read) and Walking the SOM by Stan Kitsis

Till next time 🙂

Written by santoshbenjamin

January 22, 2009 at 12:55 AM