Posts Tagged ‘Support’

In my last post I wrote about BAM Portal running in Internet Explorer 11, the browser we normally have in the BizTalk Server machine. However BAM Portal can and should be remotely accessed by the users and not directly from the server.

But this can leads us to other problems. Each user has his own preference regarding to browsers, some of them like Google Chrome, others Firefox and other IE. As recently I upgrade my laptop to Windows 10, I took this opportunity to validate the BAM Portal behavior in different browsers, including the new browser from Microsoft – Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge

As I expected BAM Portal does not perform well with the new Microsoft Edge browser. It ask the authentication credentials with a nice window, with a very clean layout


But after that you still have the same compatibility problem between Internet Explorer and the site: the menu have problems and you cannot select the columns to perform the queries


But unfortunately for us Microsoft Edge doesn’t have the compatibility view option, instead you have to use the option “Open with Internet Explorer”


Conclusion: BAM Portal is not supported on Microsoft Edge.

Internet Explorer 11

Again BAM Portal does not perform well with IE11 as I described in my last post: Running BAM Portal in Internet Explorer 11: Enable Compatibility view and to fix all the problems you need to add this site to the “Compatibility View Settings”

Once you turn on Compatibility View, Internet Explorer will automatically show the BAM Portal in Compatibility View each time you visit fixing all the previous behaviors problems.


Conclusion: IE is the best browser to run BAM Portal

Google Chrome

I did not have much hope that Google Chrome will be any different. And again when we try to access BAM Portal a popup asking the authentication credentials is presented


But after that you still have the same compatibility problem, again the menu have problems and you cannot select the columns to perform the queries


Google chrome doesn’t have the “Compatibility View Settings” option that exists in IE however there are some extension that you will find in chrome web store like “IE Tab” that will display web pages using IE within Chrome


After installing this extension you will have an option in the right corner of the browser to display BAM Portal using IE within Chrome


And using this technique you will be able to run BAM Portal in chrome


Mozilla Firefox

The exact same behavior happens in Firefox, the authentication popup is presented but after that you still have the same compatibility problem, again the menu have problems and you cannot select the columns to perform the queries



As with Chrome, Firefox also does not have the “Compatibility View Settings” option and also relies in extensions like “IE Tab” to render the page using IE


After installing this extension, by right click over the BAM Portal you can find the option “View Page in IE Tab” and this will do the trick for you


A new windows asking credentials is shown and after that you will have BAM Portal running fine in Firefox


In short, Microsoft Edge does not support BAM Portal. IE is the best browser to run BAM Portal and you can run BAM Portal in Chrome of Firefox using extensions to emulate IE.

Governance and Auditing Capabilities

I leave it to the end, which in my opinion is perhaps one of the main and important functionality of this tool and that no other on the market enables: the ability to bring auditing functionalities to BizTalk Server platform.

The same way as it is imperative for organizations to be able to manage access permissions to the several resources on Microsoft BizTalk Server platform, they must also have the ability, often by regulatory requirements or simply good practice to know who’s doing what in the platform, to following and monitor all the users activities from support or administration team in their environments, mainly in production environments.

Have you ever thought that, for example, someone accidentally or purposely terminate several critical business messages (like order messages)? How will you find out who made ​​this operation? With the tools included in the product this operation or audit degree is simply impossible, yet it is extremely critical in organizations.

BizTalk360 provides comprehensive auditing capabilities, Taking note (or tracking) of normal operating activities for the following areas:

  • Audit Service Instance Operations: From time to time we’ll see BizTalk service instances getting suspended in BizTalk server for variety of reasons like unhandled exceptions, environment issues and so on. The support or administration team way have to make a business decision whether to resume/retry the instance or terminate it completely and they could take a wrong decision, costing the business a potential transaction, for that reason (and many more) it’s important to identify such activities in the system for future auditing and governance purpose. BizTalk360 address this problem by register all activities over the Service instances such as: suspend, resume or terminate instances.


  • Audit Host Instance Operations: All the BizTalk artifacts like Receive ports, Orchestrations and Send Ports runs within the boundary of a host/host instance, they are the run time engine. BizTalk Server provides the capability to start, stop, enable and disable a host instance and any operation that the operator performs on them can have serious consequences. BizTalk360 address this problem by register all activities about who stops the host instances and what’s the reason for this operation, who starts or who enables/disables Host Instances.


  • Audit Application Operations: There are three main pillars in this architecture i.e. Receive section, Processing section and Send section. All three of them are isolated from one another, and BizTalk provides us with great flexibility in controlling each one of them individually. If we disabling or stop one of them it way have great consequences to your business, for example if we disable a receive location the messages won’t be polled and processed. BizTalk360 address this problem by register all activities at the applications level such as: start, stop, enlisted and unenlisted send ports or orchestrations; or enable/disable receive locations.


BizTalk 360 also provides a consolidated Governance/Audit Dashboard to help super user see all the recent activities in the system. The dashboard shows the last 5 activities from the audited areas of the system.



There are several products on the market that allow you to perform monitoring in BizTalk Server environments, such as: System Center Operation Manager, HP OpenView, Minotaur, Moesion, BizTalk Processing Monitor and many more. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but none of them can make a complete monitoring in accordance with the real needs of customers, which forces us to use a combinations of tools to achieve our goals.

BizTalk360 is one of the most complete tools in the market for performing support and monitoring BizTalk Server environments, one of the few that focused its efforts to fill all the gaps left by Microsoft in this area and most important, always focused on the real needs of customers.

However there are many more features in this tool that were not described in this series of post and that you can discover using beta trial version here: You may also find prices information of this tool here:

Productivity Tools
Integrated Knowledge Base Repository

Once the problems, failures or incident are solved, usually two things may happen:

  1. The administration team documents the problem in an internal repository (Wiki, SharePoint) of the organization, or in a worst case scenario in their personal notebooks;
  2. The Administration team after the incident has been solved don’t make any kind of documentation;

Many of you will be familiar with step 2 … The problem with these two approaches is that the information, or does not exist or is not quickly available to users when these incidents occurs again. Sometimes the existing documentation is worthless or with difficult access which leads to people quickly stop using these internal repositories systems, sometimes new team elements are unaware of these repositories and they are quickly outdated and unfortunately there are still some who simply hate doing documentation and avoid them as much as possible.


BizTalk360 addresses this issue by providing an integrated Knowledge Base repository, which enables users to add the different events (add KB associated to the ids of the Event Viewer events or error codes of suspended service instances), information about the necessary processes to correct the problems. The next time the same error occurs, the BizTalk360 will inform you that there is a knowledge base available to this specific problem, and by that consequently will speeding up the resolution of the issue, failure or incident.

For example, consider the below screenshot of Advanced Event Viewer. If there is a knowledge base article previously attached to an event, a “?” icon will be displayed on the grid, giving visual clue to the support person telling there is additional KB information present for the event and when the user double click and open the detail window, he/she can see all the information as shown below:


And like others repositories you may also configure Knowledgebase edit permission by either granting or revoking “Edit Knowledgebase article” permission on the user access policy screen in “Settings”.

Advanced Event Viewer

One of the common problems that administration teams face when are trying to monitor or diagnose problems in BizTalk Server platform, especially on platforms with high availability (multi-server), is that errors or failures occur on different servers which forces us this way to go to all of them in order to find or to check if there is a problem. Besides this task can be time consuming it also bring security risks, since we must allow team members to access, most of the time with high permissions and with full access to the servers (which is not always allowed in most of the companies).

BizTalk360 addresses this issue by providing a functionality of a centralized Event Viewer, aggregating information from all different event logs and presents it in a unique place.


Graphical Message Flow viewer

For people in charge of diagnosing incidents with limited knowledge about BizTalk normally support teams, one of the biggest challenges is to understand way that messages travel within the platform. BizTalk being a powerful publish-subscribe engine, a message sent to the system will be subscribed by one or more ports or orchestrations and can travel internally through several phases. Typically to carry out this type of diagnostic at this level, the support team should have a thorough knowledge about BizTalk and how to use the message flow tools available with the product.

Once again the BizTalk360 removes the complexity of this problem by providing a graphical viewer of the message flow based on BizTalk tracking information (BizTalk tracking data). It will greatly reduce the time taken to diagnose issues and helps to get a better understanding of how your application is designed and therefore enabling support teams with basic BizTalk knowledge to support and diagnose problems in a simple and easy way, freeing specialized resources for critical and advanced tasks.



Complexity abstraction of certain tasks

Due to several reasons, either for not having enough work to keep resources busy, thereby justifying not having a dedicated team or simply for financial reasons, few companies have a dedicated BizTalk administration team. This way organizations tend to group these administration tasks in a team with extended functionalities to various systems or platforms, such as system administrators, DBAs or even BizTalk.

One of the aims of BizTalk360 is to abstract the complexity of some of the main concepts, functionalities or operations we need to perform in BizTalk Server environments, thereby making it possible and easy to managed and supported BizTalk Server environments by people with a basic knowledge of BizTalk, but without necessarily having to be an expert.

Throttling Analyser

Another interesting feature of this tool is Throttling Analyser. With this feature, BizTalk360 abstracts us from the complexity that is analyzing these platform behaviors, allowing in an easy way and almost in real time, monitor environmental conditions, analyzing where are happening constraints and optimizing these settings without having a thorough knowledge about BizTalk Throttling, planning thereby its capabilities and SLA’s. By default, throttling data for the last 7 days are kept in history.


Integration with Message Box Viewer (MVB)

Message Box Viewer or MBV is a major support tools from Microsoft to analyze your BizTalk Server environment (If you raise a call with Microsoft for any BizTalk environment issues, the first thing they’ll ask you to do is run MBV and act upon the report’s critical and non-critical errors). MBV retrieves information from a BizTalk System and identifies many possible issues, which could be critical or need attention, and presents them in a user friendly format. This tool is like the BizTalk Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) which is a health check tool that generates reports of a BizTalk System.

None of the others monitoring solutions like SCOM, HP Openview or even BizTalk360’s monitoring solutions will catch some of the scenarios raised by MBV, but instead of duplicating the efforts of Message Box Viewer in BizTalk360, MBV is deeply integrated with BizTalk360 and enhanced the benefits by offering the following things:

  • Ability to schedule MBV execution for BizTalk Environments
  • Reports readily available in the UI (as shown in the above picture)
  • Importantly! You can schedule alerts based on report. Ex: If critical errors more than 4, send a notification.



Tracking manager

One of important aspect of a middleware platform it’s the ability to track information flowing through the system, and being BizTalk Server a middleware, he includes tracking functionalities for the several BizTalk artifacts. However, tracking comes with a performance cost and it’s important we choose the best tracking strategy. BizTalk360 help us visualize this tracking settings at the applications level from a single location.

BizTalk360 tracking manager gives us and help us visualize a representation of our tracking configuration at application level from a single location, this will help administrators team to have a better insight because, instead of having to go to several places to see or configure these features, they can now visualize the tracking configuration easily.


Dynamic topology diagram of your environment

Most BizTalk Server environments is composed of multi-servers, typically the minimum recommendation is to have two BizTalk Server and two SQL Server to support "high availability". It is extremely important that administration teams knows the topology of their platform and have easy access to changes that occur, typically the BizTalk environment topology diagram is drawn in Visio and stored somewhere internally in document a repository like SharePoint. And again, depending from organization to organization or in the size of the organization, there will be various environments like Production, Staging, Performance and so on, and it will be a time consuming task to keep the diagrams up to date… and also we need to ensure to give access to all team members and that all team elements are aware of where these documents.

BizTalk360, solves this problem by intelligently generating the topology diagram on the fly from your environment. This solves few issues

  • You don’t need to spend time generating topology diagrams in Visio.
  • Your diagram is always in Sync with the real environment, since its generated based on the current configuration.
  • The diagram is readily available on the tool you use to support, so you don’t need to hunt for them in your document repository.
  • Diagram got inbuilt zoom-in/zoom-out capability if your environment is complex (ex: 6 BizTalk server, 4 SQL Servers)


Monitoring and Alert Notification capabilities

BizTalk360 allows us to monitor all kinds of resources associated with the different BizTalk Server infrastructure layers in which we can highlight:

Services and Applications

Allows us to monitoring HTTP address or external Web services codes for known errors (e.g. 200, 202, etc.).


We can monitor the expected state (Started, Stopped, Enlisted, Un-enlisted, Enabled or Disabled) of orchestrations, send ports or receive locations.


BizTalk360 also allow us to monitor processes. Process monitoring is designed to help customers tackle common scenarios, without any custom development, for example:

  • We expect to receive or send a certain amount of messages to or from a given environment. If this rule does not carry out, then there should be an implication in the business and someone needs to be notified.
  • Your trading partner sends you some files via FTP every day. If you receive the file, everything works smoothly, but what happens if there is a problem on your partner end (ex: some firewall patch) and you didn’t receive any messages from them for couple of days.
  • You may want to keep an eye on the sales threshold, for ex: you expect to receive certain volume of messages in your system every business day from your trading partner(s).


Automatic monitoring of failures or violations, which allows us to control how these are reported to us, for example:

  • If it is an intermittent problem? If so wait 10 minutes before sending alerts;
  • Send only 5 alerts instead of 100 in the next 4 hours;
  • If someone fix the problem, we can also configure the system to notify us.

We can define this notifications to be sent by via email or SMS.


BizTalk Server Platform

BizTalk360 allow us to monitoring the state of the Host Instances, SQL Jobs or NT Services. For each of them we can also define the state that is expected, this point for example is extremely useful to monitoring SQL job that comes with BizTalk, since it is not supposed to be all active (MessageBox_Message_Cleanup_BizTalkMsgBoxDb must be deactivated and shall be activated by the job MessageBox_Message_ManageRefCountLog_BizTalkMsgBoxDb).


SQL Server and in particular "MessageBox" database are the heart of the BizTalk Server platform and it’s for this reason that Microsoft SQL Server usually comes as a “black box” when it comes to BizTalk Server, is something that we know exists, but we shouldn’t play around! BizTalk Server brings included a series of SQL jobs to perform its entire management: backups, cleaning and so on, that ensure the prefect functioning of the platform. In reality, and contrary to what many DBA use and do, the only way to ensure a full backup and enabling its trusted restoration is using these SQL Jobs and not other processes usually created for this functionality.

To ensure that all these activities, especially the backups are working properly, the BizTalk administration team or DBA needs to periodically monitor these Jobs. BizTalk360 help us solve all these challenges by providing mechanisms for monitoring and notifications:


As well a “BizTalk Backup and Disaster Recovery" view panel that displays all the details in a simpler/graphical way.


BizTalk360 also give us the ability to monitor the Service Instances status, allowing for example to define different levels of warning and/or error for the number of services instances with specific state (Suspended, Active, Scheduled etc) in applications. If the services instances count crosses the threshold a notification will be sent.


Operation System

The ability to monitor the usage of CPU or memory consumption, allowing us to configure alert levels of error and/or warning on the amount of free memory or CPU consumption. For example send a notification if the free memory falls below the values set for a period of 30 minutes or if the consumption of the CPU is maintained above of the values defined during a period of time.


And also the ability to monitoring event logs, allowing us to be able to configure various rules based on your requirements to different notifications, for example:

  • Trigger notification if the number of errors associated with BizTalk occurs more than 10 times in the last 30 minutes;
  • You can configure if there are 10 MSI installation events in the last 30 minutes then trigger notification.
  • Or whenever a host instance is started/stopped so many times in last 60 mins


Server Hardware

Ability to monitor hard drives, allowing once again sending notifications if the free space on the disks reaches the defined values.BizTalk360-Server-Hardware

Advanced capabilities for managing permissions

The authorization model included out-of-the-box with BizTalk Server is very limited, you can give someone BizTalk administrators or BizTalk operator’s rights, but that is about it, however this is insufficient and is it’s imperative for organizations to be able to manage access permissions to various resources on Microsoft BizTalk Server platform.

With BizTalk360 this assumption becomes possible, bringing, included in the product, advanced management permissions capabilities, fully customizable, that will allow organizations to define their own authorization requirements.

BizTalk Server is too expensive to be used by only one department of the organization so it’s normal to be shared between departments or project teams. These features (Advanced User Authorization) will help the BizTalk administrations teams to properly define how the project teams or company departments will access to productions environment without the fear that they interfered with other resources that are not theirs. Administrations teams know will now be able, for example, to:

  • Define your own NT roles and dictate how user can access the environment;



  • Restrict users/groups to limited applications, give users read-only access or setting up restrictions for support staff to resume or terminate instances;
  • Restricted view for certain users/groups;
  • Restricted access to confidential messages;

Fine grained authorization brings lot of advantages for the enterprise. The foremost reason is, security, by restricting access to the various components, functionalities, applications or BizTalk artifacts. Also on the other hand it makes life easy for application support people, they are hidden away from unnecessary things, which are not related to their task.

In which BizTalk360 differs from other tools?

The BizTalk Server Administration Console is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and is the only tool included in the product that have the ability to manage and monitor, of course this is a very useful and powerful tool with many, many features allowing it to be used for just about everything we need to do on the platform:

  • Create, deploy, configure and manage BizTalk applications (Orchestrations, Role Links, Send port groups, Send ports, Receive ports, Receive locations, Policies, Schemas, Maps, Pipelines);
  • Create and configure Parties
  • Configure and manage BizTalk groups (you use the BizTalk Server group to represent a unit of organization – such as an enterprise, department, or hub – that requires a contained Microsoft BizTalk Server implementation.)
  • Add and configure adapters;
  • Create, configure and tracking Host and Host Instances;
  • Add, move or remove Servers that belong to the BizTalk Server group;
  • Managing MessageBox Databases;
  • Configure tracking mechanisms for virtually all artifacts or components in the platform (Orchestrations, Send Ports, Receive Ports, Policies, Schemas, Pipelines and so on);

We can and should use it to diagnose and resolve problems associated with BizTalk applications as well as monitoring partially the layers:

  • Services and Applications
  • And BizTalk Server Platform

But as the name indicates this is a tool with focus on administration and not monitoring, therefore is not ideal to use this tool for monitoring the platform as a whole and also there are several gaps in this tool for the latter to become the tool of choice for monitoring this platform in your organization, such as:

  1. The lack of access restrictions definition to certain resources or operations, e.g.:
    1. Read-only access to a particular Group or User Accounts or restrict them to view and/or manage certain applications; restrict that particular group to view private messages; or even not allow access or view the settings of the infrastructure (Host, Host instances, adapters , …) to the support group.
    2. The lack of auditing processes, example: Who did what: Who stopped a specific port? Who stopped or started a particular Host Instances? Who has suspended this service instance?
    3. The ability to view the topology of their environments in real time.
  2. Another important limitation is that this tool has no web interface, this mean that you need to give remote desktop access to your users in your production environment machines in order to them have access and used this tool, which not all organizations allow! In my personal experience and opinion, almost no organization allows this type of access to their production environments.

We can also monitor BizTalk Server platform as a whole using robust monitoring tools like System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). SCOM is used to monitor the health and performance of everything from servers to individual applications in Microsoft Windows environments, it is a comprehensive IT infrastructure, virtualization, and cloud management platform that allows you to easily and efficiently manage your applications and services across multiple hypervisors as well as across public and private cloud infrastructures to deliver flexible and cost-effective IT services for your business. It provides a unified management toolset for your applications and services.

However use only SCOM to monitor BizTalk platform can become extremely expensive for medium enterprises (or midsize companies) and in my opinion even for some large companies. This because the learning curve to use this tool is high, why? This tool is too complete, comprehensive and complex and for that it requires highly skilled people. Beyond the need for specialized resources it also requires a large investment in hardware and software since SCOM can monitor any Microsoft product, Azure or even third-party products. It would also be a waste of resources to just use SCOM to monitor a BizTalk Server platform.

Another tool that we can use to monitor is BAM Portal. We can monitor messages or business process by using Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). It provides visibility on business processes by tracking process milestones and business data (KPIs) allowing business analysts, developers, information workers and decision makers to monitor and gain insight on the current health and analyze data about in-flight processes they are responsible for. By using BAM, users can get information about business state, trends, and critical conditions… however we cannot use this tool to monitor our environment.

Saravana Kumar used the experience gained over many years as a BizTalk consultant in several clients to create the tool BizTalk360 ( that addresses the above issues and many more, filling almost all the gaps left by Microsoft in the area of ​​support and monitoring BizTalk Server in an incredibly simple and intuitive way, thus fulfilling the most common needs of clients and at the same time radically reducing the learning curve required to use this tool compared to tools like SCOM.


There are several features that this tool gives us, however we can highlight the following as its key features:

  • It is a web application (RIA – Rich Internet Application), which unlike the BizTalk Server administration console in which we need access to BizTalk environments, allows us to access from anywhere;
  • Advanced capabilities for managing access permissions to various resources (artefacts) of BizTalk Server;
  • Possibility of conducting audit at all levels, messages and events;
  • Availability of dashboards for monitoring very comprehensive and detailed that cover the most common needs;
  • Monitoring capabilities of the most varied resources and proactive notification;
  • Integration with BAM Portal, Message Box Viewer and other tools like HP Operation Manager Integration;
  • Multi-environment support and provides the capability to configure all BizTalk environments through a single location;
  • Knowledge base Repository;
  • Advanced event viewer and many more.

We can and should use BizTalk360 to monitoring the following layers:

  • Services and Applications
  • BizTalk Server Platform

And partially layers, this tool enables to monitor the most common and basic resources, of:

  • Server Hardware
  • Infra-structure
  • Operation System

BizTalk Server in most cases is an important part of the infrastructure of organizations because it allows us to connect different systems within organizations but most important because in most in most scenarios BizTalk Server processes critical data of the organizations themselves. This means that any data that is lost or downtime of the server can have a significant impact on the business that it supports. Like any component or service that are critical inside organizations, it should be administered and monitored by technicians who have the knowledge and experience required, however most system administrators are unfamiliar with this platform, which can hamper the proper functioning of the platform and as a result, the own organization.

The BizTalk Server infrastructure can and will vary from organization to organization, from a single server (standalone server) to a robust platform with BizTalk Server and SQL Server in a cluster environment providing high availability through server/failover clusters and load balancing, and availability through disaster recovery.

The figure below shows a graphical representation of the different layers of the BizTalk Server infrastructure that need to be actively monitored in order that BizTalk Server Administration Team can ensure maximum availability of the platform:


Failure or error events can occur on multiple servers or even in multiple locations, for example: event viewer, applications logs, and so on.

Due to the complexity in infrastructure behind BizTalk Server platform, is not very efficient and effective when an administrator must manually check each server or application by events that may have occurred. Ideally, the administration team should make use of all monitoring tools at their disposal, whether they are include with the product such as BizTalk Server Administrative console, Event Viewer, HAT or BAM. Whether they are other monitoring tools from Microsoft such as Microsoft System Center Operation Manager (SCOM) or whether they are third party monitoring solutions such as BizTalk360, in order to easily monitor all these events and thereby prevent the occurrence of failures taking preventive measures, diagnose or recover the fault.

These tools should be able to read events from all layers of the infrastructure and help the administration team to take preventive measures, notifying them when a particular incident is about to happen, for example, when the free space of a hard drive is below 10%. Furthermore, they should allow the automation of operations when a specific event occurs, for example, restart a service when the amount of memory used by it exceeds 200MB, thereby preventing incidents or failures, without requiring human intervention.

In this series of posts I intend to demonstrate how the tool BizTalk360 can help administration teams to monitoring BizTalk Server, provide support and automate operations, thereby preventing the occurrence of failures in the platform.

What is BizTalk360?

BizTalk360 ( is a web based (RIA) designed primarily to perform monitoring and support for BizTalk Server environments (Production, Test, Development). It addresses some of the common problems customers face today like governance/auditing, fine grained authentication, remote access and so on. It also makes life easy for people who support production BizTalk systems by providing various dashboard and greater visibility.

Currently the fifth version of this tool is available for download, which shows a steady growth over these three years. BizTalk360 it’s a product developed by Kovai Limited, based in London UK, but everyone knows this tool through its CTO Saravana Kumar, Microsoft BizTalk Server MVP since 2007 and a well-recognized member of the BizTalk community.