Monitoring BizTalk

July 3, 2019


What is BizTalk?

According to the BizTalk Server documentation, “BizTalk Server is a publish and subscribe architecture that uses adapters to receive and send messages, implements business processes through orchestration, and includes management tracking of these different parts. BizTalk Server also includes trading partner management for business-to-business messaging, high availability to maximize uptime, a development platform to create your own components, an administration console to manage your artifacts, and business activity monitoring to manage aggregations, alerts, and profiles.”

Biztalk Server Components Overview 2

The BizTalk Server Engine has 2 main parts; a messaging component that provides the ability to communicate with a range of other software and a Business Rule Engine that evaluates complex sets of rules.

How to Monitor BizTalk

When running your applications on BizTalk Server it is important to be able to monitor both the applications and infrastructure. To help with this, Microsoft offers BizTalk Server Administration Console as well as some other basic tools to understand the health of your applications. According to Microsoft, there are 3 main areas to consider when monitoring your BizTalk Server and applications:

Availability Monitoring is available in the BizTalk Server Administration Console to see if applications or their components are stopped. The availability monitoring looks for things such as an adapter failing because a service has stopped, if a server assigned to a host fails and messages start backing up, or if an application is stopped.

Health Monitoring helps you determine if any of your applications or resources are in bad health. BizTalk Health Monitor monitors the health of BizTalk Server environments and detects critical and non-critical issues. Use cases include detecting when applications are experiencing exception conditions or when messages are suspended for invalid data in the payload.

Performance Monitoring is used to understand how efficient your applications and services are handling their workloads. For Microsoft, the main focus is load on physical resources like databases and disks. Microsoft offers both a SQL Query Analyzer and the Biztalk Server Administration Console to uncover things like CPU utilization, number of service instances, and whether they’re ready to run or are suspended.

While it is nice that Microsoft provides basic monitoring capabilities for BizTalk Server, it leaves a lot to be desired. To start, BizTalk Server Monitoring is computationally intensive so it is configured and automated to only run once a week and Microsoft recommends scheduling it during low traffic periods. It is nearly impossible to catch issues before they impact users when you only receive monitoring data on a weekly basis.

Additionally, monitoring is isolated from the rest of the application. When monitoring is in a silo you can’t connect the downstream service calls to the metrics and KPIs you’re monitoring. Without full correlation, you are left with disconnected pieces that must be manually connected after an outage has occurred. To troubleshoot health problems, users must use the Group Hub page and Query pages to manually group service instances by application, error type, or host to investigate different errors one by one. All of the work that is done in this console is reactive by nature as it requires you to manually query the data to try and understand the root cause of issues.

How to Monitor BizTalk with Instana

Monitoring BizTalk Server and the applications running on them requires visibility at both the application and infrastructure level. It is important to understand how different components and processes run within the BizTalk environment.
To begin, Install the Instana Agent onto the host. The agent will then automatically discover all BizTalk Server instances and components running within the environment. Once the instances are discovered, the agent deploys all appropriate monitoring sensors and automatically starts tracing and analyzing ever request. By leveraging machine learning and preset health rules, Instana Automatically determines the health of the applications and infrastructure components.

Metrics – The Instana agent automatically identifies BizTalk Server running, and with no manual effort, deploys and configures Instana’s BizTalk monitoring sensor. To understand what metrics are relevant to collect as well the parameters that must be configured, Instana references its curated knowledge base.

Health – The Instana BizTalk monitoring sensor will also collect KPIs on the monitored environments processing pipeline to determine its health. Health signatures from the curated knowledge base are used to raise Incidents or Issues depending on the extent of user impact.

How to Monitor BizTalk based applications and services with Instana

To monitor BizTalk based applications and services with Instana, only a single agent per host is required. Once installed, Instana automatically discovers every BizTalk Server instance running on that host and will send monitoring data through the single, lightweight agent, minimizing overhead while also simplifying the overall deployment of Instana. Instana will also automatically trace every application request flowing through your environment and pull together each distributed trace for a full, end-to-end view of every request. There is no sampling of any kind and no partial traces so you’ll always have a complete data set to identify the root cause of any problematic request.

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With Instana, you will have a full analysis of every user impact, performed automatically, that correlates all of the data from the traces with the underlying BizTalk Server metrics. By doing so, Instana provides root cause analysis within a few seconds so that you can update your services as often as you need to without worrying if there are regressions impacting your customers.
Instana’s BizTalk Server monitoring includes automatic and continuous discovery, dependency mapping, metric monitoring, distributed tracing, anomaly detection, and analytics across the complete trace data set. This means you’ll always know everything that BizTalk Server processes are doing and the impact to user requests at all times. To see Instana’s BizTalk Server monitoring in action sign up for a free trial of Instana today.

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