Convergence Diary: Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Microsoft BizTalk

It's going to be a busy day. Three sessions and quite some work at the booths. I love Michael Rosenorn's way of presenting, so I was pleasantly surprised that he would be giving this session.

He started off with a story. Trying to compare the fact that everyone and every creature in Star Trek speaks English to the unified language that BizTalk could be between NAV and any other app out there (in that galaxy far far away (or was that Star Wars?)).

After his colorful story, a demo. He created a purchase order, and sent it with BizTalk. In the other (receiving database), there are the Inbound Biztalk sales documents, he accepts it and the purchase order in the first database has become a sales order in the receiving database, with the necessary details on the "e-commerce"-tab of the sales order. Not very exciting, but it works Smile.

He continued with some theory. This all is under the "Commerce gateway" feature of NAV, which is available out-of-the box. It's a B2B application (one of the first aplications to use BizTalk Server) and comes with 16 (quite big) schema's.

The architecture (oh man, how am I going to write this down??). It's all about sending and receiving, and when one of the services is down, don't loose data Smile. I will try to get the graphical scheme of the slideshow, because it's too damn difficult to write down. Sorry guys.

Next, the Biztalk Offerings: You have a branch-, Standard- and Enterprise Server Edition (beginning from 1800$ until 36000$), depending on what your needs are. He didn't go deep into the what the differences were - allthough that would be interesting, isn't it. Well, I looked it up, and you can find more info here and here.

He went over the hardware setup. This was pure an indication, so i won't write down the details (seemed very limited in my opinion). It came down to having three server: A BizTalk server, A NAS Server, and a NAV database server. Most ideal way is off course three dedicated servers, but you could set it up all on one box as well (lucky for him, because else the demo would be quite hard to do).

What about the software: You need VS2005 (if you want to do development), BizTalk 2006, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics NAV Application Server, Microsoft Dynamics NAV Commerce Gateway Request Server, and NAV Commerce Gateway Broker (if neede d - when you want it to split over more than one NAS - for performance). If you have all that, you have to setup a NAS , the BizTalk management Setup for a company in NAV and BizTalk partner setup in NAV. In Biztalk, you have to setup "Agreement": ports (where is a certain delivery address), Orchestrations, Schemas (This is how the message should look like (there are 16 out-of-the box available for NAV)), Maps (How I get from here to here in between).

I hope the demo will clear this up for me because until now: one big pile of empty words Sad. To be able to send a document from within NAV, you have to set it up in BizTalk. You have to set up schema's (which are grouped like the tabs (Invoicing, General, Foreign trade, ...) on the sales doc in NAV) in the Orchestration. The orchestration itself looked like a graphical overview of how the message should be handled (some kind of flow chart). He drilled down into a map, what field should be mapped to what field on the other side. It looked like a mess, but actually, there are just so many fields in a sales document, which are all set up in the map. In NAV, in the commerce gateway link (Administration Menu), there is the Biztalk Partner Setup, where you're able to set up the partner link. In this setup screen, you can also set up to automatically approve a purchase order from a certain partner, to skip the approval step (Inbound Biztalk Orders). He let it seem very easy, but in my opinion, you got to have some serious BizTalk knowledge to set it up Indifferent - which I obviously don't have.

Next, he talked about some other uses of the BizTalk possibilities. It is possible to set up a Multi Site organisation (which he didn't go into too deep, because it is handled in another session later today). Another thing was setting up RFID, where you can use BizTalk to get it into NAV ... .

Time to have some fun ... with another demo. He set up a small chat application (yes, you read it right). In two NAV databases, he set up a custom made chat application. He went over the BizTalk setup of it. The orchestration looked exactly the same, the mapping was very simple (off course). Also, in NAV, he used the Biztalk Partner Setup to set up the partners to be able to use Biztalk from within NAV to send and receive the messages. Even I understood this, so way to go, Michael! Things are getting more and more clear.

He concluded the session with some quotes saying that this solution saves money and stuff. Marketing fluff Smile. In some way, that goes in in one ear, and comes right out of the other Wink. To be honest, in our company, we (not I, but some other people) have some experience with it, and trust me, BizTalk can be a pain in the ass sometimes. In my experience, the average NAV partner doesn't have BizTalks experts in their company. This knowledge is quite specific, and too "seldom" for a general NAV implementation, which makes it for a NAV partner quite expensive to train a dedicated expert. Off course, this is only my opinion.

The session concluded with a Q&A with some questions why the current scheme was used and such. Also some advertising for partners that have good skills in setting this up. Not really exciting Wink.

Michael did a very good job with this session. I know he has a lot of presentation experience, and you can notice that right away. He knows how to amuse people, and still keep it educational. I'm off to the Community and Learning Center.

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