BizTalk application – what is it?

There is a lot of confusion regarding the mysterious BizTalk application that has not been dispelled with the release of BizTalk Server 2013. When comparing the Enterprise and Standard versions of BizTalk, you will find out that the maximum allowed number of BizTalk applications is still one of the main differences indicated in their licences, besides the support of High Availability/failover for multiple RFID Servers and scale out/failover of multiple message boxes. So what is this BizTalk application?

Let’s look at what “BizTalk application” means in terms of BizTalk licensing and functionality. According to Microsoft:

In BizTalk Server 2010, an application is a logical grouping of all the BizTalk Server design-time artifacts (schemas, maps, pipelines, orchestrations), messaging components (receive ports, receive locations, send ports) and other related items, such as policies that comprise an integrated business process. BizTalk Server applications simplify the deployment and management of BizTalk Server–based solutions. For example, if you are deploying a 401K solution using BizTalk Server 2010, the related orchestrations, schemas, and artifacts would constitute a single BizTalk Server application.
(Source: http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/en/us/pricing-licensing-faq.aspx)

Does it sound clear to you? To us, unfortunately, it doesn’t. We have to admit that the term “application” is very confusing since in the IT world “an application” is most often used as a synonym of a system, like a Warehouse Management System, an e-mail system, an ERP System, a CRM System, while Microsoft, when discussing BizTalk, refers to an application as to a “logical grouping of (…) artifacts”, stating that “applications simplify the deployment and management of BizTalk Server–based solutions”.

In our opinion the best description of “a BizTalk application” is a file folder. A folder is also a logical grouping of files and it simplifies management. Neither “BizTalk applications” nor file folders have limits of how many artifacts or files they can store, however, with a growing number of artifacts or files the management becomes more challenging.

For a better illustration we present three examples showing what one BizTalk application can store:

1) A simple proof of concept of BizTalk implementation we have performed for one of our clients where we have integrated three systems: SAP R/3, Oracle CRM on Demand, and Exchange/SMTP. All artifacts are stored in one application.

Figure 1: Components in one application

2) A screenshot from another of our BizTalk projects showing many components in one BizTalk application.

Figure 2: Many components in one BizTalk application

 

3) A screenshot from another of our BizTalk projects showing one BizTalk application per logical process.

Figure 3: One BizTalk application per logical process