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Will Dublin Replace BizTalk?

Among many pressing questions that came up at last month's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) was whether Microsoft's new Dublin app server extensions will replace BizTalk Server. Microsoft says that's not the plan but it is important to understand what Dublin is.

Microsoft released the first CTP of its new distributed application server extensions to Windows Server, code-named Dublin, at PDC. Microsoft first disclosed its plans to build these extensions in concert with the introduction of its new modeling platform, code-named Oslo, last month.

According to Microsoft, Dublin will incorporate key components of the new .NET Framework 4.0 -- specifically the second iterations of Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). In addition to improving scalability and manageability, Microsoft said it will allow Windows IIS to function as a host for apps that use workflow or communications.

I attended a session at PDC that outlined Dublin, where Product Unit Manager Dan Eshner explained where Dublin fits. In short, if the modeling tool called Quadrant in Oslo lets developers create models or domain-specific languages (DSLs), think of Dublin as one deployment repository for those models. Dublin is scheduled to ship roughly three months after Visual Studio 2010, Eshner said, and will initially extend Windows Server, though it will ultimately be built into future versions of the platform.

"Dublin really is a hosting environment for WF and WCF services," Eshner said. The goal, he added, was to take the heavy lifting and skill requirements out of invoking WCF and WF services. "You can make these services work without Dublin, you just got to do some stuff. You've got to get all the configs set up and you got to do some work, create services out of them," he said.

Within Visual Studio Dublin will add project templates, and in the IIS Manager it will add WF and WCF management modules. It also adds discovery within the hosting environment, a SQL persistence provider, application monitoring, and adds versioning, partitioning and routing to messaging.

But questions abound regarding Dublin. To my original point, several people were trying to get a grasp on whether Dublin will ultimately subsume BizTalk during the Q&A portion of the session. Microsoft architect Igor Sedukhin said he doesn't see that happening. "Dublin is not intended to be an integration server at all," he said. "We aren't trying to put all the adaptors in Dublin. BizTalk is really focused on that integration scenario."

Cutting to the chase, one attendee asked: "Three years from now, will BizTalk as a product exist, and if it does, why would I want to pay for it?"

Yes, it will still exist, Eshner said. "We really believe that there is a ton of scenarios on BizTalk that we will not address in Dublin, or you would have to do a whole bunch of work to make Dublin work in the same kind of way that BizTalk does," he said, adding Dublin won't have the transforms and adaptors found in BizTalk. "BizTalk as an integration server is much more powerful than what you get with an app server like Dublin."

Eshner and his team addressed a few more questions regarding Dublin, among them:

To what degree will Dublin scale to support enterprise-class applications?
That will be more clear over the next six months. Though probably not as scalable as some would like, partners should be able to close the gap.

If Dublin is going to rely heavily on persistence, will it require shops to purchase SQL Server?
The details are still being worked out, but to scale, that will probably be a safe assumption.

What about transactions beyond the existing transaction services in Windows?
It's not clear how much will get added into version 1.

Will developers be able to deploy both locally and to Azure?
The Dublin team will be working with the IIS team using MS Deploy (Microsoft's new IIS Web deployment tool) to see if it can be leveraged. "That's a great thing to add to our future list to see how we can do that," Eshner said.

Have you looked at the Dublin bits? If so drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know what you think.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/12/2008

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