Why you need to conduct health checks
No matter how well you’ve built your infrastructure, any BizTalk expert will tell you that once you begin running traffic, you’ll need to optimize your integration engine and ensure it’s scaled appropriately to the capacity you’re sending through.
It is our view that the health of your BizTalk environment should not only be of concern to IT, but to the whole organization. For many companies, BizTalk is seen as a black box, something only IT can understand, and largely a mystery to top managers. Today, with the explosion of connected apps and systems that need to be integrated, BizTalk has become business-critical to the companies that use it, and any downtime can have a severe business impact. Therefore it's important that you visualize to managers the health of your BizTalk environment, and how BizTalk directly supports the various business processes. To create a complete visual report, you need to be able to extract a great amount of data from your environment, and be in posession of a tool that allows you to create complete graphs and charts that are easy to understand for anyone in your company.
How to conduct a health check
So how do you conduct a BizTalk health check? Well, it's all about extracting enough data to create a meaningful report. What data you extract will vary according to what the purpose of your report is, and who you're reporting to. It could be the overall health of your environment, a specific business process, or you may even want to look at separate ports and orchestrations. The main point to communicate to managers is that BizTalk performance directly impacts business performance. Overall, a general health check should include:
- A review of HW performance counters of servers and networks, and BizTalk-specific performance counters for BizTalk business processes, and ports and orchestration.
- A review of overall system behavior and any cyclicality of patterns. Are system cycles/business cycles causing any peak-performance impacts? Based on the overall growth of the system and throughput – can you forecast limitations in your environment?
- That your BizTalk is configured correctly, and according to best practices
Specific performance parametres you may want to extract data from include:
- CPU, throttling and message count per server
- Delivery, publishing throttling per host (if you are running low latency or online processes)
- Stopped components
- Number of suspended messages and errors
- Individual business processes (message count and latency)
- Ports and orchestrations that you wish to highlight - message count, message volume and latency per component
So how do you extract all this data?
Getting enough data from your BizTalk to create elaborate health check reports like this is no easy task. You'll want to gather enough data to create visual reports that can easily be understood by anyone in your company. Some BizTalk admins/developers use Perfmon which lets you examine performance data in a graph, histogram, or report. It provides you with insight on your CPU, memory and hosts. However, Perfmon doesn't really give you enough data to gain the type of comprehensive insight that you need to be in complete control of the state of your BizTalk. You can also use Microsoft's Power BI and connect it to your BizTalk databases, but this will have a significant impact on your BizTalk's performance, which is something you'll ALWAYS want to avoid. It also provides you with data only for a vey short period of time.
Microsoft's own built-in option, the BizTalk Health Monitor, has a limited set of features, and requires extensive configuration and developing to function as a complete monitoring tool.
The best option is often to obtain a third-party monitoring tool. These are specifically designed for you to gain the insight you need into your BizTalk to prevent any performance issues.
However, there are significant differences between the tools currently available, and you'll want to make sure that you acquire one that will ensure you a high Return on Investment (ROI). Not all monitoring tools out there contain enough useful features to actually be worth the time and money you invest in them. This is why we created our guide to optimizing your BizTalk monitoring, which includes a monitoring checklist to help you evaluate what your monitoring tool should be able to do.