Microsoft's microservices vision for Azure starts taking shape

Microsoft is building a new platform called Azure BizTalk Microservices that could be key to what's next for the company on the cloud platform-as-a-service front.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's microservices plans for its Azure cloud got a bit more concrete today.


On December 3, at "Integrate 2014," an on-campus BizTalk Integration Summit in Redmond, Microsoft officials shared more about "Azure BizTalk Microservices."

Azure BizTalk Microservices is a new platform service that will allow Azure customers to build composite applications using granular microservices, explained attendee Sam Vanhoutte -- Chief Technology Officer and Product Manager with Codit and a Microsoft Integration Most Valuable Professional (MVP) -- in a blog post about the first day of the event.

According to Vanhoutte's write-up, the BizTalk services team will be building the platform. The new workflow capabilities in BizTalk will be built on top of it, "leveraging various micro services offered by the BizTalk team and integration partners.

BizTalk is Microsoft's integration server with an installed base of 12,000 customers, according to the company. The server includes more than 25 adapters for connecting systems inside and outside a customer's organization. The Azure-hosted version of BizTalk is known as BizTalk Services.

Vanhoutte also said that the new BizTalk Micro Services platform will be available through Microsoft's Azure Pack, which will allow customers to run the service "in the cloud of their choice." According to another attendee, @phidiax, a platform preview of Azure BizTalk Microservices is due in the first quarter of 2015.

"BizTalk Micro Services will all run in their own scalable container (similar to Azure web sites) and that the communication engine seems to be following the lightweight HTTP approach," Vanhoutte blogged.

Microservices are key to the future of Azure, as Cloud & Enterprise Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich told me last month at Tech Ed Europe. Russinovich said Microsoft's plan is to make Azure platform-as-a-servfice more microservice-oriented.

Today, Azure's PaaS is "infrastructure oriented, with roles," Russinovich explained. But the Azure team is moving toward a world where Azure apps can be "decomposed into tiny pieces, with each piece coming with a declarative model."

What will enable this microservice support is a layer that the team internally calls "Windows Fabric." (This fabric is not the same as the Azure Fabric Controller, which is the part of Azure that corresponds to the Windows Server kernel, but is specific to Microsoft's cloud.) The Windows Fabric works in a distributed way, with the various piece parts talking to one another via application programming interfaces (APIs), he said.

Microsoft already has a few of its own services running on Windows Fabric, Russinovich said, including the Service Bus (its cloud-based messaging service), SQL Azure and Lync.

Rob Helm an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, also attended today's Integrate event and tweeted that Azure BizTalk Services will "regroup into 'microservices' that also include partner components sold in the marketplace." Helm said the new stack includes a new workflow engine that is based on neither BizTalk orchestration nor .Net Workflow Foundation.

I've asked Microsoft officials for more details on what's going on in this space and will update this post if and when I hear back with more details. So far, there doesn't seem to be any Microsoft blog post about what was unveiled today.

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