Setting up a BizTalk Server Environment

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by Steef-Jan Wiggers | April 2012 | Enterprise Articles Microsoft

BizTalk enables the integration and managment of automated business processes within or across organizational boundaries. To build a solid BizTalk solution, deploy a robust environment, and keep it running smoothly you sometimes need to broaden your spectrum, explore all possibilities, and choose the best solution for your purpose. In this article by Steef-Jan Wiggers, author of BizTalk Server 2010 Cookbook, we will cover:

  • Gathering requirements by asking the right questions
  • Analyzing requirements and creating a design
  • Installing and using the BizTak Best Practices Analyzer
  • Validating BizTalk installation with the BizTalk Benchmark Wizard tool
  • Automating performance analysis by using the PAL tool

Gathering requirements by asking the right questions

Although, this is not an exact recipe, asking questions to obtain requirements for your BizTalk environment is important. Having a clear view and understanding of the requirements enables you to deploy the desired BizTalk environment that meets expectations of the customer. What are the right questions you may ask yourself? Well, there is quite a large area in general you basically need to cover with questions. These questions will be around the following topics:

  • A BizTalk work load(s) that is functional
  • Non-functional (high availability, scalability, and so on)
  • Licensing (software)
  • Hardware
  • Virtualization
  • Development, Test, Acceptance, and Production (DTAP) environment
  • Tracking/Tracing
  • Hosting
  • Security

Getting ready

Organize the sessions, and/or the workshop(s) to discuss the BizTalk architecture (environment), functionality, and non-functional requirements, where you do a series of interviews with appropriate stakeholders. This way you will be able to retrieve the necessary requirements and information for a BizTalk environment. You will need to focus on business first and IT later. You will notice that each business will have a different set of requirements on integration of data and processes. Some of these are listed as follows:

  • Business is able to have the access of information from anywhere any time
  • Have the proper information to present to the proper people
  • Have the necessary information available when needed
  • Manage knowledge efficiently and be able to share it with the business
  • Change the information when needed
  • Automate the business process that is error-prone
  • Automate the business process to reduce the processing time of orders, invoices, and so on

Regarding the business requirements, BizTalk will have certain workloads, and with the business you determine if you want BizTalk to aid in automating processes, exchange of information with partners, maintaining business rules, visibility of psychical events, and/or integration with different systems. One important factor to reckon with bringing BizTalk into an organization is risk-associated with transitioning to its platform. This risk can be of a technical, operational, political, and financial nature. BizTalk solutions have to operate correctly, meet the business requirements, and be accepted by stakeholders within the organization and should not be too expensive.

With IT, you focus more on the technical side of the BizTalk Environment such as, "What messages in size, format, and encoding are sent to the BizTalk system or what does it need to output?" You should consider security around it, when information going to or coming from trading partners is confidential. Encryption and decryption of data such as, "What processes that are automated need to interact with internal and external systems?" or "How are you going to monitor messages that are going in and out?" can come into play. Support needs to be set up properly to keep BizTalk and its solutions healthy. Solutions need to be developed and tested, preferably using different environments such as test and acceptance. For that, you will need an agreed deployment process with IT. These are factors to reckon with and need to be addressed when interviewing or talking to IT stakeholders within the organization.

How to do it…

Categorize your stakeholders into two categories—business and IT. Create a communication plan and list of questions related to areas mentioned earlier. With the list of questions you can assign each question to a person you think can answer it. This way you ask the right questions to the right people. The following table shows a sample of roles belonging to business and/or IT. It could be that you identify more roles depending on your situation:

Category

Role

Business

CEO, CIO, Security Officer, Business Analyst, Enterprise Architect, and Solution Architect.

IT

IT Manager, Enterprise Architect, Solution Architect, System/Application Architect, System Analyst, Developer, System Engineer, and DBA.

Having the roles clear belonging to either business, IT, or both, you will then need to have a list of questions and assign these to the appropriate role. You can find an example list of questions associated to a particular role in the following table:

Question

Role

Will BizTalk integrate with systems in the enterprise? Which consumers and host systems will it integrate with?

Enterprise Architect, Solution Architect

What are the applicable workloads?

Enterprise Architect

Is BizTalk going to be strategic for integration with internal/external systems?

CEO, CIO, Enterprise Architect, and Business Analyst

Number of messages a day/hour

Enterprise Architect

What are the candidate processes to automate with BizTalk?

Business Analyst, Solution Architect

What communication protocols are required?

Enterprise Architect, Solution Architect

Choice of Microsoft platform-Operating System, SQL Server Database

Enterprise Architect, Security Officer, Solution Architect, System Engineer, and DBA

Encryption algorithm for data

Enterprise Architect, Security Officer, Solution Architect, and System Engineer

Is Secure Socket Layer required for communication?

Enterprise Architect, Security Oficer, Solution Architect, and System Engineer

What kind of certificate store is there?

Enterprise Architect, Security Officer, Solution Architect, and System Engineer

Is the Support for BizTalk going to be outsourced

CEO, IT Manager

There's more…

The best approach to gather the requirements is to view it as a project or a part of the project. You can use a methodology such as PRINCE2.

PRINCE2

Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE) is a project management method. It covers the management, control, and organization of a project. PRINCE2 is the second major release of it. More information is available at http://www.prince2.com/.

Microsoft BizTalk Server website

The Microsoft BizTalk Server website provides a lot of information. Especially, the Production Information section provides detailed information on system requirements, roadmap, and the FAQs. The latter sections provide details on pricing, licensing, and so on. Go to http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/en/us/default.aspx.

Analyzing requirements and creating a design

Analyzing requirements and creating a design for the BizTalk landscape is the next step forward before planning and installing. With the gathered requirements, you can make decisions on how to design a BizTalk environment(s). If BizTalk is used for the first time in an enterprise environment capacity, planning and server allocation is something to focus on. Once you gather requirements and ask questions, you will have a clear picture of where the platform will be hosted and whether it needs to be scaled up or out. If everything gets placed on one big server, it will introduce a serious single point of failure. You should try to avoid this scenario. Therefore, separating BizTalk from the SQL Server is the first thing you will do in your design, each on a separate hardware preferably.

Depending on availability requirements, you will probably cluster the SQL Server. Besides that, you can choose to scale out BizTalk into a multiserver group, because of availability requirements and if the expected load cannot be handled by one BizTalk instance. You can opt for installing BizTalk and SQL separately first and then scale-out after performing benchmark tests. You can scale vertically (scaleup) by increasing the number of processors and the amount of memory each server uses, or you can scale horizontally (scaleout) by adding more servers to your BizTalk Server configuration. Other options you can consider during your design are as follows:

  • Having multiple MessageBox databases
  • Separate BizTalk databases

These options are best visualized by the scale-out poster from Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=13103).

Based on the requirements, you can consider isolating the BizTalk hosts to be able to manage BizTalk applications better and divide the load. By separating send, receive, and processing functionality in different hosts, you will benefit from better memory and thread management.

If you expect a high load of large messages or orchestrations that would consume large amounts of resources, you should isolate send and/or receive adapters. Another consideration is to separate a host to handle tracking and relieve processing hosts from it.

So far we have discussed scalability and design decisions you could consider. There are some other design considerations for a BizTalk environment such as security, tracking, fault tolerance, load balancing, choice of license, and support for virtualization (http:// support.microsoft.com/kb/842301). BizTalk security can be enhanced by deploying Secure Socket Layer (SSL), IPSec Tunneling, the Inter Security and Acceleration (ISA) server, and certificate services included with the Windows Server 2008. With the BizTalk Server, you can apply access control, implement least rights to limit access, and provide integrated security through Enterprise Single Sign-On (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa577802%28v=bts.70%29.aspx). Furthermore, you can protect and secure applications and data by authenticating the sender of a message and authorizing the receiver of a message.

Tracking messages in BizTalk messages can be useful to see what messages come in and out of the system, or for auditing, troubleshooting, or archiving purposes. Tracking of messages within BizTalk is a process by which parts of a message such as the body, properties, and metadata are stored in a database. These parts can be viewed by running queries from the Group Hub page in the BizTalk Server Administration console.

It is important that you decide, or take up into the design, what needs to be tracked based on the requirements.

There are some considerations to make regarding tracking. Tracking everything is not the smart thing to do, as each time a message is touched in BizTalk; a copy is made and stored. Focus on scope by tracking only on a specific port, which is better for performance and keeps the database uncluttered. For the latter, it is important that the data purge and archive job is configured properly. As mentioned earlier, it is worth considering a dedicated host for tracking.

Fault tolerance and load balancing for BizTalk can be achieved through clustering, separating hosts as described earlier, implement a Storage Area Network (SAN) to house the BizTalk Server databases, cluster Enterprise Single Sign-On (SSO) Master Secret Server, and configuring the Internet Information Services (IIS) web server for isolated host instances and the BAM Portal web page to be highly available using Network Load Balancing (NLB) or other load balancing devices. The best way to implement this is to follow the steps in the Checklist: Providing High Availability with Fault Tolerance or Load Balancing document found on MSDN (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg634479%28v=bts.70%29.aspx).

Another important topic regarding your BizTalk environment is costs and based on requirements you will choose the Branch, Standard, or Enterprise Edition. The editions differ not only in price, but also in functionality. As with the Standard Edition, it is not possible to support scenarios for high availability, fault tolerance, and is limited on CPU and applications. The Branch Edition is even more limited and is designed for hub and spoke deployment scenarios including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). With any version, you probably want to consider whether or not to virtualize. With virtualization in mind, licensing can be difficult.

With the Standard Edition, you need a license for each virtual processor used by the virtual OS environment, regardless of whether the number of virtual processors is less than, or greater than, the number of physical processors on the server. With the Enterprise Edition, if you license all physical CPUs on the server you can run any number of instances in the physical or virtual OS environment. With both of these, a virtual processor is assumed to have the same number of cores as the physical processor. Using less than the number of cores available in the physical processor still counts as a full virtual processor (http://www.microsoft. com/biztalk/en/us/editions.aspx).

Last, but not least, you need to consider how to support your BizTalk environment. It is worth considering the System Center Operation Manager to monitor your BizTalk environment using management packs for the SQL Server, Windows Server, and BizTalk Server 2010. The management pack for the BizTalk Server 2010 provides two views, one for the enterprise IT administrator and one for the BizTalk Server administrator. The first will be monitoring the state and health of the various enterprise deployments, the machines hosting the SQL Server databases, machines hosting the Enterprise SSO service, host instance machines, IIS, network services, and is interested in the overall health of the "physical deployment" of a BizTalk Server setup. The BizTalk Server Administrator will be monitoring the state and health of various BizTalk Server application artifacts, such as orchestrations, send ports, receive locations, and is interested in monitoring and tracking the BizTalk Server's health. If necessary, he/she can carry out corrective measures to keep applications running as expected.

What you have read so far are considerations, which are useful while analyzing requirements and preparing your design. You need to take a considerable amount of time for analyzing requirements to be able to create a solid design for your BizTalk environment. There is a wealth of information provided by Microsoft in this book. It will be worth investing time now as you will lose a lot time and money if your applications do not perform or the system cripples under load while receiving the process.

How to do it...

To analyze the requirements, you will need to categorize them to certain topics mentioned in the Gathering requirements by asking the right questions recipe. You will then go over each requirement and decide how it can be met best. For each requirement, you will consider what the best option is and capture that in your design for the BizTalk setup. The BizTalk design will be a Word document, where you capture your design, considerations, and decisions.

How it works...

During analysis of each requirement, you will capture your considerations and decisions in a word document. Besides that, you will also describe the situation at the enterprise where the BizTalk environment will be deployed. You will find an example structure of a design document for a Development, Test, Acceptance, and Production (DTAP) environment, as follows, where you can place all the information:

  1. Introduction
    1. Purpose
    2. Current situation
    3. IT landscape
  2. Design Decisions
    1. Considerations/Issues
  3. Overview
    1. DTAP landscape
    2. Scope
    3. MS BizTalk and SQL Server editions
    4. SQL Database Server
  4. ICT Policy
    1. Operating systems
    2. Windows Server
    3. Backup
    4. Antivirus
    5. Windows update
    6. Security Settings
  5. Backup and Restore
    1. Backup procedure
    2. Restore procedure
  6. Development
    1. Development environment
    2. Development server
    3. Developer machine
  7. Test
    1. Test server
  8. Acceptance
    1. SQL Server clustering
    2. BizTalk group
    3. Acceptance server
  9. Production
    1. SQL Server clustering
    2. BizTalk group (load balancing)
    3. Production server
  10. Management and security
    1. Groups and accounts
    2. SCOM
    3. Single Sign-On
  11. Hosts
    1. In process hosts
    2. Isolated hosts
    3. Trusted and untrusted hosts
    4. Hosts configuration DTAP
  12. Resources
  13. Appendix A Redistributable CAB Files

Design decisions are the important parts of your document. Here, you summarize all your design decisions and reference them to each corresponding chapter/section in the document, where a decision is described; you also note issues around your design.

There's more...

Analyzing requirements is an important task, which should not be taken lightly. Knowing architectural patterns, for instance, can help you choose the right technology and create the appropriate design. It can be that the BizTalk Server is not the right fit for the purpose. The following resources can aid you in analyzing the requirements:

Installing and using the BizTalk Best Practices Analyzer

The Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) examines a BizTalk Server 2010 deployment and generates a list of issues pertaining to best practice standards for BizTalk Server deployments. This tool is designed to assess the configuration of a BizTalk installation. The BPA performs configuration-level verification by gathering data from different information sources, such as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) classes, SQL Server databases, and registry entries and presents a report to the user. Under the hood, it uses the data to evaluate the deployment configuration. It does not modify any system settings and is not a self-tuning tool. The tool is there to deliver support in achieving the best suitable configuration and report issues or possible issues, that could potentially harm the BizTalk environment.

Getting ready

The latest version of the BPA tool (V1.2) can be obtained from the Microsoft download center (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=93d432fe-1370-4b6d-aaa8-a0c43c30f5ab&displaylang=en) and must be installed on the BizTalk machine. As a user, you need an account that has local administrative rights, that is a member of the BizTalk Server Administrators group, and a member of the SSO Administrators group to be able to run the BPA.

You may need to explicitly set some WMI permissions before you can use the BPA in a distributed environment, where the SQL Server is not installed on the same computer as the BizTalk Server. This is because when the BPA tries to connect to a remote computer running the SQL Server, WMI may not have sufficient access to determine whether the SQL Server Agent is running. This may result in incorrect BPA evaluations.

How to do it...

To run the Best Practices Analyzer, perform one of the following:

  • Start the BizTalk Server Best Practices Analyzer from the Start menu. Go to Start | Programs | Microsoft BizTalk Server Best Practices Analyzer.
  • Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the Best Practices Analyzer installation directory (by default, c:\Program Files\BizTalkBPA\) and double-click on BizTalkBPA.exe.
  • Open a command prompt, change to the installation directory, and then enter BizTalkBPACmd.exe.

The following steps need to be performed to do the analysis:

  1. As soon as you start the BPA, it will check for updates. The user can decide whether or not to check for updates for newer versions of the configuration:

  2. (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

  3. If a newer version is found, you are able to download the latest updates. The next step is to perform a scan by clicking on Start a scan:

  4. After starting the scan, starts data will be gathered from different information sources as described earlier.
  5. After the scan has been completed, the user can decide to view the report of the performed scan:

  6. You can click View a report of this Best Practices scan and the report will be generated. After generation of the report, several tabs will appear:
    • Critical Issues
    • All Issues
    • Non-Default Settings
    • Recent Changes
    • Baseline
    • Informational Items

How it works...

When the BPA is running, it gathers information and evaluates them to best practice rules from the Microsoft product group and support. A report is presented to the user providing information on issues, non-default settings, changes, and so on. The report enables you to take action and apply the necessary changes to resolve identified issues. The BPA can be run again to verify that it adheres to all the necessary best practices. This shows the value of the tool when assessing the deployed BizTalk environment before it is operational. When BizTalk becomes operational, the MessageBox Viewer (MBV) has more value.

There's more...

The BPA is very useful and gives you information that helps you to tune BizTalk and to keep it healthy. There are more tools that can help in sustaining a healthy environment overall. The Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 BPA is a diagnostic tool that provides information about a server and a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 or Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 instance installed on that server.

The Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Best Practices Analyzer can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=15289.

There are a couple of analyzers provided by Microsoft that do a good job helping you and the system engineer to put out a healthy, robust, and stable environment:

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Validating a BizTalk installation with the BizTalk Benchmark Wizard tool

The BizTalk Benchmark Wizard (BBW) is a tool to validate a BizTalk installation and was built by Mikael Håkansson and Ewan Fairweather. It is intended to verify your BizTalk installation and is a useful tool to prove the performance characteristics prior to deploying the first solutions. You may also want to use it before you are about to scale out your environment, to make sure you are really using all resources, before investing in additional hardware and licenses. The BBW performs load to BizTalk Server in relation to specific scenarios. During the execution of the test, counter information is collected and benchmarked against collected statistics relevant to your BizTalk Server environment.

Microsoft provides guidance on performance optimization through the performance optimization guide that provides in-depth information for optimizing the performance of a BizTalk Server.

Even though the BizTalk Server 2010 Optimization Guide (http://www. microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=10855) is very useful while designing a BizTalk system, it does not provide any expected performance numbers related to specific environments.

This is where the BBW comes into the picture. After having configured the BizTalk group and applied some of the best practices by using the BPA, you can test your BizTalk configuration.

The tool is not a load or analyzing tool; it doesn't give advice or hints like the BPA. However, if the test fails, you can analyze the data using the PAL tool. You can run the tool on either a single-server or a multi-server installation. Regardless of the number of BizTalk Servers in your group, you should not run it with more than two "active" servers (http://www.microsoft. com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=2290), as it will otherwise not be covered by the benchmark values.

This tool should be used after the BizTalk Server has been installed and before any solutions are deployed to the environment. This will ensure that you are getting consistent and clean results from the BBW.

How to do it...

The latest version of the Benchmark Wizard tool can be obtained from CodePlex (http://bbw.codeplex.com/) and must be installed on the BizTalk machine. Follow the steps given next:

  1. In a browser, such as Internet Explorer, navigate to the BBW download location (http://bbw.codeplex.com/).
  2. On the BBW download page, download and run the self-extracting file.
  3. Open a command prompt window and navigate to [installation folder]\ Artefacts\BizTalk. By default, the installation folder is C:\Program Files\ Blogical\BizTalk Benchmark Wizard.
  4. In this folder, you will find the InstallHosts.vbs file. Execute it using the following parameters:
    • NTGroupName: The name of the Windows NT group
    • UserName: The name of the user account running the service instances
    • Password: The password of the user account running the service instances
    • Receive Host: The name of the server where you want to run the receive host instance
    • Send Host: The name of the server where you want to run the send host instance
    • Processing Host: The name of the server where you want to run the process host instance
  5. If you have a single box installation, your script command might look similar to the following:
    cscript InstallHosts.vbs "BizTalk Application Users" "\MyUser" "MyPassword" "BtsServer1" "BtsServer1" "BtsServer1"
  6. The result will be as depicted in the following diagram:

  7. If you have a multi-server installation, your script command might look similar to the following:
    cscript InstallHosts.vbs "MyDomain\BizTalk Application Users" "MyDomain\MyUser" MyPassword" "BtsServer1" "BtsServer2" "BtsServer2"
  8. The result will be as depicted in the following diagram:

  9. Execution of the script in a command line will result in creation of the hosts and the result of these actions is displayed in the following screenshot:

  10. Open the BizTalk Administration Console, point to the Applications node and import the BizTalk Benchmark Wizard.msi found in the folder [Installation folder]\Artefacts\BizTalk.
  11. Run the BizTalk Benchmark Wizard.msi on all BizTalk servers to add the assemblies to the Global Assembly Cache (GAC).
  12. Go to Start | All Programs | BizTalk Application Wizard to start the application.

When the installation of the BBW is successful, you can start it from C:\Program Files\ Blogical\BizTalk Benchmark Wizard and follow the steps given next:

  1. You will be welcomed first and then you will have to set up some prerequisites such as the BizTalk Management Database:

  2. The user can opt to collect data for further analysis but this is optional. Collection of datasets enables the creation of a log file that contains all information of a Benchmark run. This log can be analyzed later using, for instance, the PAL tool:

  3. Then the user gets to select one of the two scenarios—Messaging or Orchestration. Each scenario has a set of tested environments as follows:
    • Single server (2*Quad CPU, 4GB RAM)
    • 1*BTS (1*Quad CPU. 4GB RAM) + 1*SQL(1*Quad CPU, 8GB RAM)
    • 2*BTS (2*Quad CPU. 8GB RAM) + 2*SQL(2*Quad CPU, 16GB RAM)

  4. The user can select the environment that best resembles his own environment. The next screen will display what will happen given the chosen scenario:

  5. As a user, you will have to select where each host instance resides on each machine, if applicable. In case of a single-server installation, all the hosts are on the same machine:

  6. One of the following steps is to configure the Indigo Service, a console application hosting service which will be called from the BizTalk Send port. You will have to either host the service on a separate server or go to the folder [Installation folder]\Artefacts\IndigoService and then right-click IndigoService. In the BBW, you will have to either follow instructions and/or fill the Server name and click Test the Indigo Service. There is also the option of collecting performance counters:

  7. As the user clicks Run Test, the tool continues to start ports and orchestrations. It will also start the Perfmon collector sets if the user has chosen to create those (refer to step 2).
  8. As the test proceeds, the user can monitor the counter values through the gauges (Avg Received msgs/sec and Avg Processed msgs/sec). The default test duration is 30 minutes, with a warm-up of two minutes. In this case, five minutes has been chosen.
  9. After warming up, the test will run and you will see the gauges moving certain values.
  10. Finally, the user is presented with a result, which is either Succeeded, Acceptable, or Failed. After the test is run, you can save a report:

How it works...

By completing the BizTalk Benchmark wizard installation, the following artifacts have been created:

  • Three hosts – BBW_RxHost, BBW_PxHost, BBW_TxHost
  • Three host instances
  • One BizTalk application
  • Two Receive ports
  • Two Send hosts
  • One Orchestration

Hosts and instances are created through scripts and ports, orchestration is created through installing the msi files. The user can start the wizard and, at the end, run a test based on the selections made. During the test, loadgen will generate the xml messages that will be sent over NetTcp to BizTalk. The messages will be published in the MessageBox database and picked up either by the subscribing send port or orchestration. Finally, the messages will be sent to the backend web service through the WCF-NetTcp adapter.

There's more...

The following section deals with KPIs in detail for certain scenarios.

KPIs

The test run failed as it did not meet the KPIs, at least not all of them. Meeting the KPIs is not easy. The following is the list of KPIs for each scenario. They are based on separate machines for BizTalk and the SQL Server instance, Intel Xeon CPUs with multiple cores, x64 bit platforms and software (refer to the Test Environment table).

Scenario KPIs: Messaging a single-message and multi-message box

KPIs for the scenario of Messaging a single-message and multi-message box are stated in the following table:

Number of BTS

CPU BizTalk Server

Number of SQL Servers

CPU SQL Server

Msg/Sec Received

Msg/Sec Processed

1

1 Quad

1

1 Quad

160

200

1

1 Quad

1

1 Quad

280

350

1

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

390

490

1

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

560

700

2

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

620

770

2

2 Quads

1

2 Quads

730

910

2

2 Quads

1

4 Quads

780

980

Scenario KPIs: Orchestration single-message box

KPIs for the scenario of an orchestration single-message box are stated in the following table:

Number of BTS

CPU BizTalk Server

Number of SQL Servers

CPU SQL Server

Msg/Sec Received

Msg/Sec Processed

1

1 Quad

1

1 Quad

110

140

1

1 Quad

1

1 Quad

170

210

1

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

190

240

1

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

220

270

2

1 Quad

1

2 Quads

230

290

2

2 Quads

1

2 Quads

260

320

2

2 Quads

1

4 Quads

300

370

Test Environment

Each has a Windows 2008 Enterprise x64 Edition as the operating system, with 64 bit CPUs having four cores:

Type

Model

CPU Type

Number of CPU

Logical Disks

Software

Database

DL875

Intel Xeon

8 * 2,4 Ghz

2 x 72gb 10k*

SQL Server 2008 SP1

BTS Host Receive

R805

Intel Xeon

2 * 2,33 Ghz

2 x 72gb 10k SAS

BizTalk Server 2009

BST Host Send

R805

Intel Xeon

2 * 2,33 Ghz

2 x 72gb 10k SAS

BizTalk Server 2009

Load

R805

Intel Xeon

2 * 2,33 Ghz

2 x 72gb 10k SAS

BizTalk Benchmark Wizard

Backend

R805

Intel Xeon

2 * 2,33 Ghz

2 x 72gb 10k SAS

Indigo Service

Following is the configuration of the test environment for Storage: EMC Clarion CX-240 (five solid state drives):

  • Global tracking enabled
  • Partitioning of the TempDb (SQL Server system database), BizTalkDTADb and BizTalkMsgBoxDb to as many files as CPUs
  • Separation of the BizTalk MessageBox database into multiple file groups or files
  • Enabled the T1118 flag on the SQL service Disabled throttling on send and processing hosts
  • Updated the thread settings (CLR Hosting) on all hosts (there you will find the update install path of BBW artefacts\registry settings)

There are a couple of things you can do to improve performance and one is to use the PAL tool before applying changes. Usage of the PAL tool is explained in the next recipe. Actions that can be done, based on analysis are scaling out your environment.

Microsoft case studies

Finally, you can read more on case studies from Microsoft, where tests have been run on different sets of hardware.

Automating performance analysis by using the PAL tool

The Performance Analysis of Logs (PAL) tool is a powerful tool that reads in a performance monitor counter log (any known format) and analyzes it using known thresholds. Basically, it automates the analysis of performance counter logs, for instance, one that is generated by the Benchmark Wizard. At the end, you can generate an HTML or XML-based report that graphically charts important performance counters and throws alerts (in red), when thresholds are exceeded. The thresholds are originally based on thresholds defined by the Microsoft product teams, including the BizTalk Server, and members of Microsoft support.

Before PAL, it was quite hard to analyze logs, which had to be done manually and required quite extensive knowledge of the Windows Architecture. It could also require a lot time to analyze the logs and so investment in money. There are tools that could help in the analysis such as the Microsoft System Center Operation Manager, but might not collect critical data that is necessary or the Microsoft Server 2008 Performance toolkit, which is limited for Windows 2003. There was not really a tool that could analyze log file(s) easy and fast. PAL does just that, it analyzes logs and does not require much time, and is free. This tool has the following benefits:

  • Consolidated guidance, central repository of guidance gathered from multiple sources
  • Log file data access layer using the Microsoft Log Parser
  • Analyzes more data points, breaks down the data into smaller slices, and analyzes them individually
  • Dynamically changing thresholds, learning environment asking questions
  • Reusable (open source); code is open source
  • Extensibility of thresholds; add, edit, or delete thresholds

Getting ready

The PAL tool is available through CodePlex version 2.0.8 (http://pal.codeplex.com/) and it requires the Microsoft Log Parser. The latter is a powerful, versatile tool that provides universal query access to text-based data such as log files, XML files, and CSV files, as well as key data sources on the Windows operating system such as the event log, the registry, the filesystem, and the Active Directory Service. Log Parser version 2.2 is available at http:// www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=890cd06b-abf8-4c25-91b2-f8d975cf8c07&displaylang=en. Other prerequisites are as follows:

  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service pack 1
  • Microsoft Chart Controls for Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5
  • PowerShell 2.0

How to do it…

You can start PAL from \PAL\PAL v2.0.7\PALWizard, where the install path is presumably C:\Program Files.

You will now go through a Wizard, where the following steps will be performed:

  1. Select the log files to analyze.
  2. Select the time frame for the analysis.
  3. Select the appropriate threshold file.
  4. Answer questions.
  5. Select the analysis interval.
  6. Select the output options.
  7. Execute or add to the queue.
  8. Select the template.

With the following steps you can perform analysis of a BizTalk Benchmark Wizard log file:

  1. With the PAL tool you can select, for instance, the Counter Log generated by the BizTalk Benchmark wizard. These files can usually be found at \Blogical\BizTalk Benchmark Wizard\COUNTERLOGS\\_BizTalk Server\\ or \_SQL_ Server\\:

  2. Next, you can select the appropriate Threshold File. You will select the Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006/2009/2010 file. You are able to edit this file if you wish to do so:

  3. Next, you will find the Questions tab, where you need to answer questions on your environment regarding the memory, processor, and platform:

  4. In the next tab, you will be able to select the Output Options:

  5. After determining the output options, you should select Output Directory and which format you want your report in—HTML or XML:

  6. Now, you will be able to queue the analysis, if there is any. This can be done by using the Queue tab:

  7. Finally, you can execute the analysis. After the analysis, you can open the report and investigate the possible issues.

How it works...

PAL analyzes the performance log data using the BizTalk thresholds. The tool aids in performance analysis by automatically interpreting data in the log file instead of doing it manually. Thresholds used in the BizTalk threshold file include operating system thresholds (CPU, disk, memory, and network), Microsoft SQL Server counter thresholds, and BizTalk counter thresholds. Focus lies on host throttling, adapter latency, service instance statistics (suspended, dehydrated, and so on), database sizes, and memory usage.

The generated report is separated by categories and each category has a collection of analyses. Each analysis focuses on a specific performance counter. An alert is raised when thresholds are exceeded, by yellow (warning) or red (critical) color. When critical alerts are present, there will be a description of the analysis, a description of the thresholds used, and a link for more information on the topic.

The analyses in the report contain content describing the purpose of the analysis, why the thresholds are there, and references for more information. To learn more about interpreting the PAL report for the BizTalk analysis, read the article available at (BizTalk 2006 related, but still applicable to 2010): http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc296652.aspx.

There's more...

Besides the BizTalk instances, you can also analyze the SQL Server environment.

On MSDN blogs, you will find a story of around three parts using PAL for the SQL Server. The PAL tool is useful in analyzing bottlenecks in the BizTalk environment, but you can also analyze the performance in the SQL Server. For more details, refer to the following documents:

The creator of the PAL tool is Clint Huffman and he has a blog related to his tool at http://blogs.technet.com/b/clinth/.

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About the Author :


Steef-Jan Wiggers

Steef-Jan is IT architect/Consultant (motion10) with over 13 years of experience as a technical lead developer and application architect, specializing in custom applications, enterprise application integration (BizTalk), Web services and Windows Azure. He has experience in architecting, designing, developing, and supporting sophisticated and innovative software using many different Microsoft technologies and products. Steef-Jan is very active in BizTalk community as blogger, Wiki author/editor, forums, writer and public speaker. He has been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award (2010) for his contributions to the world-wide BizTalk Server community. He has been re-awarded July 2011 and July 2012. On his personal blog (Azure Thoughts, EAI Challenges) and BizTalkAdminsBlogging he shares his knowledge around BizTalk, Windows Azure (ServiceBus) and Microsoft integration technology in general. His certifications are: MCSD, MCSD.NET, MCSA, MCDBA, MCAD, MCTS: BizTalk Server 2006, BizTalk Server 2006 R2 and BizTalk Server 2010. Steef-Jan is the author of the BizTalk Server 2010 Cookbook, published 5th of April 2012

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