A Map Through Microsoft's Integration Maze

Recently it seems like under every rock someone is talking about integration. "Integration" is now a big-time buzzword that can mean different things depending who you're talking to. Some of the confusion that surrounds the word might stem from the fact that Microsoft now has so many integration technologies.

Because I'm a business intelligence (BI) bigot, I might not always look at all my integration options when I already know how to solve a problem with the tools I always use. (What do you mean SSIS can't do everything?) But I've witnessed growing interest in integration options from clients and peers in the SQL Server community. So this month, I coordinated with Karl Rissland, my local Microsoft BizTalk Technology Specialist, to give a presentation about BizTalk Server at the monthly meeting of my Atlanta-based SQL Server users group. But Karl did better than just talk about BizTalk; half of his presentation was about BizTalk, but then he launched into a more general integration discussion that was really the best education for the sampling of SQL Server DBAs, developers, and BI geeks in the audience.

Karl referred to a great (and amazingly brief) MSDN white paper compiled by Scott Woodgate, "Understanding Microsoft Integration Technologies—A Guide to Choosing a Solution." The paper is the result of a community effort by 5 or more different product teams, which I think is amazing because it's usually difficult just to get two product groups to agree on the best use of similar technologies. I read the paper in an early draft and had almost forgotten it. (You might remember that Brian Moran alerted you to this white paper in his June 30 SQL Server Perspectives column, "Microsoft Integration Technologies," which you can read at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=1736F:7B3DA ). I want to redirect you to this paper because many of the technologies it covers are approaching their release.

The paper contains a lot of information about application and data integration. Topics include integrating applications directly by using ASMX, .NET Remoting, and Enterprise Services (and soon Indigo); through queues by using Microsoft Message Queuing and SQL Server Service Broker; and through a broker by using BizTalk Server 2006 (though nothing on Windows Workflow Foundation). For those interested in data integration (my favorite), the paper covers SSIS and Replication Services, and even application and data integration of IBM systems through Host Integration Server 2004. For each technology group, the paper walks through a description of the technology, when to use it, and how it interacts with other similar technologies.

By now you get the idea. If this is the information you've been looking for, this white paper might be an interesting read for you. At least you can find out what Microsoft has agreed is the right use of their many, often overlapping technologies. Get it here:

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