Integrate 2017 – The aftermath!

Last week we had the incredible Integrate 2017 event.  First of all thumbs up for the BizTalk360 team: it was a real smooth organization!  This blog post describes my personal thoughts, after digesting the enormous amount of presentations.  I’ve tried to capture the most important statements and their related challenges for integration experts.

Really better together!

There were several smaller announcements, but no real game-changers.  It’s clear that the “better together” story, which popped up last year, has become a reality nowadays.  Microsoft heavily invested in smooth integration between its Azure services and this pays off.  They are determined to continue this commitment and to enrich it with artificial intelligence, so we can build even smarter and better integrated cloud / hybrid solutions.

The challenge: integration experts need to inspire and empower the business!  Get out of your comfort zone, showcase the endless integration capabilities and become one of “the-can-you-do-this?”-guys!  Integration has never been as “sexy” as it is nowadays.

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Logic Apps is crucial!

Logic Apps is really the beating heart of Microsoft’s integration strategy.  This was reflected in the number of sessions that focused on Logic Apps.  Whether you’re dealing with SaaS connectivity, hybrid enterprise integration, smart bots or connecting multiple Azure services: you’ll definitely end up with Logic Apps!  The product has matured enormously throughout the last year and it’s ready to handle your critical production workloads!  It’s important to be aware that Logic Apps supports at-least-once execution and that serverless comes with some additional latency.  Despite the fact that Logic Apps is crucial for cloud integrations, Microsoft gives BizTalk Server again the attention it deserves.

The challenge: good monitoring is a success factor when it comes to integration solutions that are spread across various services.  The announcement of the improved Logic Apps monitoring experience confirms this statement.  However, it’s a big challenge as some Azure services have native monitoring in OMS, where others seamlessly integrate with Application Insights.  It would be good to see some uniformity in that area.

Build cloud-native integrations!

Richard nailed it in his presentation about cloud-native integrations.  Cloud is not purely about technology and lower costs, it’s about leveraging all the opportunities cloud platforms offer!  This requires a real change in the organizational and architectural mindset.  Some advice: create cross functional teams, ensure fast and zero downtime deployments, embrace exceptions and deal with them, apply high security standards, think about self-service, leverage on-demand technologies, create a flexible and agile environment to serve the rapidly changing business needs! If you go cloud: do it the right way, not the chicken way.

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As an example, we had Microsoft IT presenting their solution for zero-downtime deployments: by using API Management policies, they gradually upgrade parts of their solutions to newer versions, starting with the least critical ones.

The challenge: proof of concepts are often introduced to convince a customer of the cloud potential: “happy-path” solutions that focus on quick value creation.  It’s important not to underestimate the effort to move from a PoC towards reality, as Sam pointed out in his session.  Reality means a robust and secure solution, with a cloud-native DNA!

Very approachable product teams

Throughout the last years, the Microsoft product teams have become a lot more agile and customer/partner-driven.  They really listen, ask for feedback and most importantly: they take into account your concerns.  Next to the various User Voice pages, the Microsoft program managers are always open for mail conversations, replying to Yammer posts or having a short conference call.  This was emphasized during the Integrate 2017 conference.  The product teams stressed on the fact that they need our feedback in order to shape the product towards the good direction.  During the breaks, they were available to have a chat and to tackle many questions of the attendees!

The challenge: it’s difficult to remain up-to-speed with all cloud technologies that evolve so rapidly.  My advice is to focus on a limited set of Azure services that seem the most important to you.  Try to completely understand them and provide the required feedback to the product teams.  Follow community members on Twitter or engage with colleagues, to stay updated about the new features of other Azure services.  And most important: get your hands dirty, it’s the best way to get to know a technology!

Conclusion!

The conference was a very positive experience for me.  I was able to meet a lot of interesting people that I only “knew” from Twitter.  The integration community is awesome and I’m glad to be part of it.  We’re facing exciting and challenging times in the integration space, so I’m really looking forward to what the (near) future will bring! Thank you Codit, for the opportunity to attend Integrate 2017!

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