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BizTalk Orchestration and XLANG

By now, we have seen all the key technologies, techniques and tools that provide basic B2B routing functionality. However, B2B scenarios not only have routing issues that need to be solved, but they also involve significant business logic challenges. For one, B2B scenarios are usually huge. And what makes it even harder; B2B scenarios run over a long period of time. When we receive an order from West Wind, we try to fulfill the order immediately, but what if we need to ask a third party to drop-shop the order for us? In that case, we have to forward the request and wait for them to get back to us. Although we wouldn’t hope so, this could take several days.

What we need is a methodology and a tool to handle this kind of a scenario. And as you already guessed, I wouldn’t be writing about all of this if BizTalk couldn’t handle it. The methodology is called
BizTalk Orchestration. It allows us to visually design a long-running business scenario and compile it into a so-called XLANG Schedule. XLANG is an XML based compiled BizTalk application. To make this a little clearer, lets have a look at an example.

Designing a Business Scenario

BizTalk Server 2000 ships with a tool called the BizTalk Application Designer. This is basically a Microsoft Visio 2000 based design tool. It utilizes a flow chart based approach for designing (orchestrating) long running B2B scenarios. Here’s a picture of the application designer.

The basic concept is simple: Every scenario has a main entry point labeled “Begin”. The designer or analyst then drops more flow chart items on the diagram, such as action items, decisions, splits, joins and transactions (we will be talking about all of those). All the flow chart items are then connected to each other, in order to indicate the proper flow of events.

In the example above, I dropped the “Action 1” item on the diagram, and then I highlighted the “Begin” shape and dragged the bottom connection point to the action item in order to connect the two items. I then added the decision shape. By default, decision shapes only have the “Else” statement, so I right-clicked on it, clicked “Add Rule” and added the “Something” decision. I also connected the previous action with the decision shape. Subsequently, I added to more action shapes and connected each individual rule to one of the shapes.

The diagram isn’t done at this point, but you get the idea. Here’s a larger diagram that describes the entire EPS Purchase Order and fulfillment process:


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