Learning BizTalk Server: How to start?

On BizTalk Server General forum I sometimes see people asking how to start learning BizTalk. Responses to these questions vary a little and links are provided to numerous resources, but what would be a good starting point? In my view the Microsoft BizTalk Server site and BizTalk Server Developer Center are good starting points. A successful  learning path for BizTalk Server depends on:

For publish/subscribe, see patterns/practices article and understanding BizTalk Server 2009.

Knowledge of .NET and Visual Studio

Development for BizTalk Server is done through Visual Studio. Visual Studio has templates for BizTalk artefacts like orchestration, pipelines, schemas and maps, so a BizTalk solution can be created (design time) and deployed to the BizTalk runtime. Besides artefacts .NET development can be done in creating pipeline components, custom functoids, custom adapters, and .NET helper classes to aid in orchestrations. As a BizTalk professional Visual Studio is your friend and required to build BizTalk solutions.

Knowledge of SQL Server

BizTalk Server depends on SQL Server and Microsoft BizTalk Server databases and their health is very important for a successful BizTalk Server messaging environment. How to achieve this is explained in How to maintain and troubleshoot BizTalk Server databases and if you review that article it will become obvious that you need SQL Server knowledge.

Invest in time and money

When you start learning BizTalk you will need to invest in time and get hold of some budget to get training, books (Amazon, see list here), software (MSDN) and hardware (you need at least a laptop/desktop with enough memory, disk and processor power). Learning can be done at a local training facility or you can go to Quicklearn and Pluralsight. If you do not have enough resources as in software/hardware you still can learn/experience BizTalk through BizTalk Server Virtual Labs.

I have explained the success factors for a successful learning path for BizTalk and if you have the necessary prerequisites as in software and a machine (laptop/desktop) you can start cracking. Best way to proceed is to build your own BizTalk environment with the installation guide in your hand (I assume you start with the latest version available, currently BizTalk Server 2009) .

A BizTalk development environment can best be installed and configured on a Virtual PC or Hyper-V (see this post BizTalk Virtual Machines with Windows 2008 R2 Hyper V). As soon as you have your environment available, download the BizTalk help file and follow the tutorials  described in there(which can be viewed online too or downloaded). Through self study you setup your own environment, do tutorials, try virtual labs and read books. If that is not enough you can get training:

QuickLearn offers BizTalk training classes and Pluralsight also offers BizTalk training classes ranging from introductory to advanced. If you're just getting started, you might want to check out their self-paced BizTalk Developer Fundamentals class. Finally, visit QuickLearn's Technical Library for resources and articles on BizTalk.

Besides that, there are several good resources available online:

ESB Toolkit

It is possible that after gaining experience- and building/strengthen your knowledge in BizTalk you want to take it a step further by learning the ESB Toolkit. If you have your BizTalk environment available you can download and then install and configure ESB Toolkit 2.0 (targeted for BizTalk 2009, while version 2.1 is target for new BizTalk 2010). For reading you can start with a whitepaper by Jon Flanders. In general you will find a lot of resources at BizTalk Server Development Center –> BizTalk ESB Toolkit 2.1.

I hope with this post it will be clear to people how to start with learning BizTalk Server. Although you my find it a long learning path, you will find that there are plenty of resources at your disposal.


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