In this section we will discuss the Azure BizTalk Services EAI Bridge technology.
What is it?
BizTalk Services is a cloud hosted platform as a service integration product which contains a number of integration technologies. EAI Bridges is one of those technologies and it is intended to act like a messaging bridge where it can receive a message from somewhere and act up on the message before forwarding it to a destination.
To those who are familiar with BizTalk Server, a BizTalk Services EAI Bridge is similar to the concept of a BizTalk port. Inside the bridge you are able to take some actions on the message such as transformation of the data with a BizTalk map.
The below diagram shows you what a bridge can look like:
In the diagram you can see a typical usage of EAI bridges where a source is defined which receives a message and then it is processed by the pipeline. When the message is acted upon it is then sent to a destination. In the case of the diagram the source is a passive HTTP source which means the bridge will expose an HTTP endpoint. The destination is an Azure Service Bus queue.
EAI Bridges contain the following features;
- Message transformation via maps
- A range of sources
- A range of destinations
- Extensible points to add your own custom logic within the pipeline
- Message Tracking capabilities
- Basic management capabilities
The key strength of the Azure BizTalk Services EAI Bridge technology is that it is very easy to get your solution up and running quickly. You would be taking advantage of the cloud platform as a service capability and can get an environment up and running within minutes. The development speed for EAI bridges is also pretty fast so its entirely feasible to get a solution from nothing to a usable testable integration component in a very short space of time.
The biggest weakness of Azure BizTalk EAI Bridges is that like many very new products which are released with agile and regular release cycles the first releases include functionality which you can use to deliver certain solutions but there are some constraints in the things that you can do with the product. An example of these constraints is the limited number of source and destinations that are available.
Another weakness is the lack of maturity in the development and deployment and operations experience.
We expect that overtime these features will evolve with each subsequent release of the product and since releases on the Azure platform are quite frequent we expect this to be mature soon.
Azure BizTalk Services EAI Bridges have a dependency on a BizTalk Services subscription within Azure. A BizTalk Services subscription is easy to setup and gives you access to some additional integration capabilities.
EAI Bridges are hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud as a platform as a service integration component. They can not be hosted on premise but can be combined with other technologies to connect to on premise resources.
Azure BizTalk Services as a package is a relatively expensive integration product compared to some of the other things in the Microsoft integration stack. The price is a per month cost based on the number
There is a free tier which will give you access to some capabilities within BizTalk Services but this does not include EAI bridges at this time. For dev/test scenarios you will be able to utilise MSDN credits and there is also a developer edition of BizTalk Services.
Customers who have an Azure Enterprise Agreement are likely to have specific pricing options which are discounted on the official list prices and customers who are going to acquire BizTalk Servies are recommended to look at the option of having an Azure Enterprise Agreement as this may give you benefits for BizTalk on its own but certainly help you with any other Azure usage you may have.
There are not really any other technologies within the Microsoft integration stack which are the same as EAI bridges.
EAI bridges can be combined with other technologies though as a way of implementing an overall solution such as Azure Service Bus.
Sample Usage Scenarios
The following are some example usage scenarios for EAI Bridges: