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From BizTalk Server to Azure- Modernizing App Integration

Microsoft’s BizTalk Server has been a workhorse of enterprise IT during the last decades, providing streamlined integration of disparate systems and powerful orchestration capabilities. It is still today used by some 12.000 customers including 81% of Fortune Global 100 companies1.

As part of their ongoing cloud journey, many companies now look for cloud-native alternatives that can provide the same level of excellence while also reaping the benefits that the cloud offers. In addition, there has not been a new version of BizTalk Server announced following the 2020 release and the mainstream support end date has been pushed forward from 2025 to 2028, which suggests that the product is being retired. In a Microsoft-centric environment, the natural cloud-native solution is Azure Integration Services, which is a curated suite of products designed to work well together and offer a future-proof replacement to BizTalk Server.

Why the Cloud Is the Right Choice

Cloud computing offers many advantages over traditional on-premise infrastructure:

  • Rich scalability options ensure good performance during usage peaks and mitigate the cost of over-provisioning.
  • The options for redundancy, backup and recovery offered by cloud vendors enable a level of availability that is often not achievable with on-premise hosting. These improvements are often unlocked already through the default configuration of Azure services.
  • Massive investments go into securing cloud infrastructure and customers have access to advanced tools for evaluating the security and compliance of their cloud estates.
  • The combination of a vast catalogue of services and rapid deployment of new resources allows businesses to innovate faster, with less upfront investment in capital and time.
  • Azure Integration Services has many modern features not found in BizTalk Server and it is evolving continually.

Understanding the Landscape

A typical enterprise IT environment is a complex landscape made up of a range of different software products supplied by different providers. There may be separate systems for enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, warehouse management, business intelligence and more.

While the systems may be best of breed within their respective area, they are not necessarily designed to work well together and business processes often require an overarching orchestration function when multiple systems are involved in the same flow. Integration platforms such as BizTalk Server and Azure Integration Services provide the glue between systems, transforming a set of parts into a useful whole. They do this through functionality in a few key areas.

  • Messaging – To allow systems to interact with each other, the platform must provide interfaces that the systems can connect to, and adapters to translate vendor-specific data formats into forms suitable for processing and information exchange. Connections may be initiated by the systems themselves or the platform and may be synchronous or asynchronous. BizTalk Server internally operates on XML data and uses SQL Server for storing messages in transit while Azure Integration Services typically uses Service Bus to forward messages in JSON format. Modern REST APIs are an integral part of Azure Integration Services but not natively supported by BizTalk Server.
  • Orchestration – The orchestration component of BizTalk Server provides a designer interface where business processes are implemented as logical flows in a drag-and-drop fashion from within Visual Studio. The same kind of experience is found in Azure Logic Apps which is the orchestration part of Azure Integration Services. The graphical interface helps to visualize what a particular flow does, and how it does it. In addition, it is also possible to represent flows in textual form that can be managed as infrastructure as code.
  • Monitoring and analysis – BizTalk Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) provides insights into running business applications with real-time visualization, alarms and more. Azure Integration Services provides the same capabilities and more through the monitoring in Logic Apps and the rich features of Azure Monitor in general.
  • Business rules engine – The business rules engine available in BizTalk Server makes it possible to implement business rules using a dedicated XML schema consisting of conditions and actions. Rules can be aggregated into policies which can then be evaluated as part of orchestration flows. Azure Integration Services does not have a corresponding rules engine currently (although it is on the road map2) but rules can be implemented either directly in Logic Apps or in Azure functions which can then be called from Logic Apps.

Planning the Migration

Which steps are needed for a migration to Azure largely depends on how far the busines’s digital transformation has evolved in general. The Azure Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) provides a framework for all phases of cloud adoption and is applicable also in the context of BizTalk Server.

  • Some organizations may prefer a quick and cautious first step and choose a lift and shift strategy where BizTalk Server is deployed in a virtual machine hosted on Azure. This approach already realizes a few important benefits such as high availability and rightsizing. 
  • A likely better approach though is to iteratively move functionality out of BizTalk Server into new cloud-native implementations based on Azure Integration Services and enjoy the full benefits of Azure. An iterative approach allows the business to start with the least critical flows and gain experience and valuable insights that will be valuable in later stages.
  • A third option is a hybrid approach where solutions such as on-premise data gateways and the Biztalk Server Adapter for Logic Apps are used to integrate on-premise and cloud resources.

The Time to Act is Now

Azure Integration Services is an attractive, future-proof, offer that can provide many benefits over existing on-premise setups. Due to the eventual retirement of BizTalk Server, now is an excellent time to start planning a migration project which can be conducted in different ways depending on the complexity and criticality of the current flows. With solid experience in integration and migration, Devoteam is a trusted partner who can assist you in all stages along the way.

I’d be happy to discuss the best solution for your business needs. You can find my contact information in my author details to set up a conversation.


  1., retrieved on 2024-04-24
  2., retrieved on 2024-04-24