Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 10 - Database Functoids#
This category contains both Database and Cross Referencing Functoids – but they all connect to a database to retrieve/update data.
Unlike all other default functoids, these functoids all call classes/methods in external assemblies – no inline C# is emitted at all. Because of this, this is the only category that emits an ExtensionObjects file listing the strong names of the external assemblies used.

Note: in this category I show some of the source code from the external assemblies as well.

Functoids covered in this category:
Database Lookup Get Common Value
Error Return Remove Application ID
Format Message Set Common ID
Get Application ID Value Extractor
Get Application Value Common Code
Get Common ID  

Monday, February 18, 2008 3:20:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 9 - Cumulative Functoids#
Of the functoids in this category, only Cumulative Sum has a counterpart in XSLT v1.0 – all the others can be performed in XSLT v2.0, but not XSLT v1.0.

Functoids covered in this category:
Cumulative Average Cumulative Minimum
Cumulative Concatenate Cumulative Sum
Cumulative Maximum Common Code

Saturday, February 16, 2008 3:20:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 8 - Scientific Functoids#
Yet another category which has no direct support in XSLT v1.0 or XSLT v2.0!
However, given the strong support for scientific functions in .NET, it's easy to call out to .NET classes, which is exactly what every single one of the functoids in this category does.

Having said that: have you ever used one of these functoids in a map? Care to share a real world example?
I'd be interested to find out how often they are used.

Functoids covered in this category:
10^n Natural Logarithm
Arc Tangent Sine
Base-Specified Logarithm Tangent
Common Logarithm X^Y
Cosine Common Code
Natural Exponential Function  

Friday, February 15, 2008 3:19:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 7 - Conversion Functoids#
Surprisingly, neither XSLT v1.0 nor XSLT v2.0 have any built-in conversion support (well, not for the scenarios represented in this category anyway).
It is possible to download XSLT libraries which can do this sort of conversion (as mentioned in the notes below each functoid), but the XSLT is not pretty, and I'm not convinced about performance.
So C# is generally your only option here.

Functoids covered in this category:
ASCII to Character Octal
Character to ASCII Common Code

Thursday, February 14, 2008 3:18:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 6 - Date/Time Functoids#
XSLT v1.0 has no support for Date/Time values, whilst XSLT v2.0 has full support.
Therefore it's not surprising that your only option is to use C#'s rich support for Date/Time values.
And this is why all of the functoids in this category emit inline C#.

Functoids covered in this category:
Add Days Time
Date Common Code
Date and Time  

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 3:17:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 5 - Logical Functoids#
Whenever I've looked at the XSLT generated by a map I've always been confused by the amount of inline C# generated by these functoids.
After the String Functoids I'd say that these are the next most widely used and yet all but one of them has an XSLT v1.0 equivalent!
The code emitted for "Logical Equal" always makes me laugh – 12 lines of C# code can be replaced by... (wait for it)... one "=" symbol!

Functoids covered in this category:
Equal Logical Existence
Greater Than Logical NOT
Greater Than or Equal To Logical Numeric
IsNil Logical OR
Less Than Logical String
Less Than or Equal To Not Equal
Logical Date Common Code

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 3:16:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 4 - Mathematical Functoids#
Mathematics is not a strong point of XSLT. XSLT v1.0 has very poor mathematic support, whilst XSLT v2.0 has better support, but only by a small amount. Therefore most of the functoids in this category can only be implemented in C#.

So if you want to perform a complicated mathematical function (i.e. anything more than addition or subtraction!) you’re better off using one of these functoids, or an external assembly.

Once again, inline C# isn’t the fastest, but given a choice between a slow function and no function, you might not have a choice.

Functoids covered in this category:
Absolute Value Modulo
Addition Multiplication
Division Round
Integer Square Root
Maximum Value Subtraction
Minimum Value Common Code

Monday, February 11, 2008 3:13:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 3 - String Functoids#
The String Functoids are probably the most frequently used in maps (in my experience), mainly because they're the most familiar to a procedural programmer (i.e. a C# or VB programmer). However because they all emit inline C#, they perform the slowest so if you want your maps to run faster you're better off using the corresponding XSLT, or implementing the functionality you require in a separate assembly.

Functoids covered in this category:
Lowercase String Left Trim
Size String Right
String Concatenate String Right Trim
String Extract Uppercase
String Find Common Code
String Left  
Saturday, February 09, 2008 12:28:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 2 - Functoids Overview#
This whole series of posts started because I wanted to show what XSLT was emitted when using the default functoids provided by Microsoft.
Specifically, I wanted to show the XSLT emitted by the Advanced Functoids. Understanding this XSLT can help in understanding how to use the functoids.
For some reason (as seems to happen with me) the post expanded into a whole series on the Mapper... every time I explain one thing, I seem to want to explain all the things that the first thing is based on... oops.

Anyway, suffice to say that the next 9 posts will cover the code emitted by all of the default functoids provided with BizTalk 2004 / 2006 / 2006 R2.

One thing to realise is that the majority of the default functoids emit inline C# code – which is odd as quite a lot of the functionality can be performed using pure XSLT.

So for each functoid I've shown:
  1. Whether XSLT or C# is emitted
  2. Whether an XSLT equivalent exists
  3. The XSLT or C# emitted by the functoid
  4. Where C# is emitted, the equivalent XSLT to achieve the same functionality (in both XSLT v1.0 and v2.0)
Friday, February 08, 2008 12:03:15 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Understanding the BizTalk Mapper: Part 1 - Introduction#
In this post:
BizTalk Mapper 101
BizTalk Mapper in BTS 2004 / 2006 / 2006R2
What happens when a map is compiled
What happens when a map is executed
XslTransform vs XslCompiledTransform
XSLT 1.0 vs XSLT 2.0

The BizTalk Mapper is an integral part of the BTS toolkit and, depending on your inclination and experience, you will probably either love, hate it, or not care about it.
At its core, the BizTalk Mapper is simply a visual tool for specifying XSLT (eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations).
This XSLT is used to transform one stream of XML data into another stream of XML data. And since a "stream of XML data" = "message in BizTalk", this means transforming one message into another message.

[Aside: you might think that the Mapper allows you to specify multiple source or destination messages, but this is actually a trick - BizTalk creates a special schema with one part per input/output message - there's still only one input/output message]

How well the BizTalk Mapper performs its task depends on the complexity of the transformation you're attempting - and the skill/experience of the developer using the BizTalk Mapper!

Thursday, February 07, 2008 11:38:44 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


XPath – the hidden language of BizTalk?#

For those of you who are unaware, XPath is a powerful query language for XML (ignoring XQuery for now).

In my experience I've worked with a lot of BizTalk developers who have come from a C# (and usually VB before that) background, and so haven't always had the background in XML, XSLT, XSD, and XPath needed to fully appreciate BizTalk.

Because let's face it: before you were working on BizTalk, how often did you need to deal directly with Xml? When writing ASP.NET web services, the .NET framework abstracts away the need to understand XML, leaving you with classes which are handily serialised/de-serialised across the wire for you.

Note: I have come across a similar pattern in the J2EE world – ask many Java developers about an Xml document they received as a request in a J2EE Web Service, and they'll only know about Beans, as the framework looks after the de-serialization from Xml into a Bean for them).

However, BizTalk is a different beastie: it works predominantly with data streams containing Xml.
Therefore the ability to know how to query this Xml without having to resort to C# code is very very important.

BizTalk 2004 and 2006/2006R2 support XPath 1.0 - as at this time, there is no support for XPath 2.0 in BizTalk.
You can get a good idea of the functions available in XPath 1.0 here (which is a useful summary of the W3 Recommendation)

(as a comparison, here's what XPath 2.0 gives you - here's hoping we get this in BizTalk sometime soon...!)

Friday, November 30, 2007 4:53:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Auto-generating BizUnit Test Cases#

This post follows on from yesterday's post: Creating BizUnit Test Cases for comparing Xml Files

If you are using the XmlValidationStep/XmlValidationStepEx BizUnit steps and using XPath validation, then it can be a pain to write all these XPathValidation statements by hand.

So I wrote a utility to generate the XPath statements for you.
In fact, it generates the entire BizUnit Test Case for validating an Xml file.
Once it has been generated, all you have to do is[...]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 5:59:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback


Creating BizUnit Test Cases for comparing Xml Files#

BizUnit is a great tool for performing end-to-end testing of BizTalk applications (and can even be used for testing non-BizTalk applications like Web services too).
Although you're not strictly performing unit-testing of your BizTalk artefacts per-se, with the right setup you can get very close to unit testing.

For example if you want to test an orchestration in isolation you can:

  1. Hook your orchestration up to file send/receive ports
  2. Write a façade orchestration which calls your orchestration, and is itself hooked up to file send/receive ports or
  3. Write your own orchestration hosting engine

I don't know many people who'd be crazy enough to do 3) (although I do know one…) but BizUnit is of great help for 1) and 2)

In its simplest form you can use BizUnit to[...]

Monday, November 26, 2007 5:51:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


DanSharp XmlViewer#

The source code and MSIs for this tool (inc v1.1) have moved to GitHub here: https://github.com/probertdaniel/dansharpxmlviewer

The source code and MSIs for this tool (inc v1.1) are now available on CodePlex here: http://dansharpxmlviewer.codeplex.com

I'll release v1.1 this week - only has minor bug fixes (one of them related to problems with opening files from the recently used file menu).
Also I'm planning to release the source code this weekend.

So here's a little utility that I've been using for myself for a while, but thought I'd release in case it's of use to anyone else.

There are three tasks I perform quite regularly when doing XML or BizTalk development:

  1. Building and testing the XPath needed to retrieve a value from a given request/response document
  2. Validating a document against a schema
  3. Generating BizUnit tests cases (from an Xml instance doc, creating XPath statements to validate for all the data in the document)

This tool does all three of these things:

XmlViewer main form

Generating a BizUnit Test Case

Although there are good tools on the market for doing 1. and 2. (e.g. Altova XmlSpy and Stylus Studio) most of them require installation and are not free.
And none of them generate BizUnit Test Cases!
I wanted a single EXE which would do the most common tasks for me.

Also note that Visual Studio will give you the XPath for an element/attribute in an Xsd, but not an Xml document.
And although you can validate a document in Visual Studio, it's a hassle each time you want to change the Xml document used (right click schema, choose properties, change Input Instance Filename, cick OK, right click schema, choose Validate Instance).

Having a scratch pad to play with XPath queries has been very useful, and is the original reason I wrote this.
But generating BizUnit Test Cases has so far been the most useful... if you use the REG file provided, you can even right-click an Xml file to generate a BizUnit TestCase for it.

There is a command line version supplied as well, so if you need to generate a lot of BizUnit Test Cases, you can do so in a batch file/script.

The utility is written as a single EXE, with no additional files needed (other than .NET 2.0) and it doesn't need to be installed.
I have a copy on my USB key and I run it from there.

Caveat: I use this tool every day, so most bugs have (hopefully) been eradicated.
So my apologies if you come across something I haven't tested yet - please let me know if you do.

Files available to download:
Note: I will be making the source code for this utility available, but need to tidy it up a bit first.
Will add it here when it's ready - probably in a week or so.

MSI Installer (contains all of the below files)
    DanSharp.XmlViewer.Setup.msi (1.8MB)

Executable (Windows version)
    XmlViewer.exe (80kb)

Executable (Command line version)
    XmlViewer.com (80kb)

Registry File (.reg) for adding right-click support to Xml files
    GenerateBizUnitTestCase.reg (2kb)

    DanSharp XmlViewer Documentation v1.0.pdf (860kb PDF)
    DanSharp XmlViewer Documentation v1.0.doc (600kb Word 97 Doc)

Source Code
   (Coming soon)

If you come across bugs or have any comments, then leave a comment here, or email me at:

Sunday, November 25, 2007 5:45:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback


BizUnit: XmlValidationStep using .NET 2.0 Schema Validation#
This is something that bit me recently:
The current version of BizUnit (v.2.2.1003.0)  uses the .NET 1.0 XmlValidatingReader to do schema validation in both the XmlValidationStep and XmlValidationStepEx steps.

.NET 2.0 deprecated the XmlValidatingReader class, proposing that you use the XmlReader class and the new XmlReaderSettings class instead.
Microsoft also introduced a slew of bug fixes to the validation logic[...]
Saturday, November 24, 2007 6:43:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Distinguished Fields and Optional Elements#

Thought this might be of interest to a few BizTalk developers out there.

It's quite common practice to use Distinguished Fields in orchestrations, to get/set the value of an element or attribute.

However, if the element you're trying to set/get doesn't exist, then this poses a few problems.

Setting a Distinguished Field
If the element/attribute doesn't exist in the target message, then you'll get an exception, no questions asked – there's no way around this.
Under the covers, the SetDistinguishedField method is called to set the value – and it doesn't check if the element/attribute exists first.
The same thing happens if you use the xpath() function to set a value, and the element/attribute doesn't exist – BizTalk isn't about to modify your message and add the element/attribute for you[...]

Thursday, November 15, 2007 3:09:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Manually sending a response back to a waiting Web Service client#

(or how to do asynchronous processing of a synchronous request/response message)
[Note: this post follows on from my previous post How to validate Xml Documents against schemas in BizTalk. For example, if you validate a message in a pipeline and validation fails, how do you send a response back to a waiting web service client.]

For a while now, people have been struggling with how to asynchronously process request/response messages - basically, how to get away from having a request/response port in an orchestration bound to a request/response  receive location.

For example, Yossi Dohan blogged on this a while back, and came up with a solution involving multiple orchestrations:

The problem revolves around the fact that BizTalk will always demote the EpmRRCorrelationToken context property when your message leaves the orchestration if you try and manually set it yourself.

Sunday, September 09, 2007 11:41:48 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback


How to validate Xml Documents against schemas in BizTalk#
I got asked a question the other day: How would you validate an incoming message against a schema if the message was the request part of a request-response pair and you wanted to return a response if the request wasn't valid?

In the example given, an orchestration had been exposed as a web service, and the requirement was to validate the incoming message. If the message did not validate they wanted to return a response message with an error message in it.

I gave two of the ways I would do it, but that wasn't what they were expecting: they were expecting the simplest (and computationally slowest) way of doing it. And I realised that many people use this mechanism as they don't know there's any other way.

Why do I say this? I'll explain as I give my solutions.
First of all: The solution that was expected was to use an orchestration to do the validation - as the person explained to me, that was the only way to get the response message back to the same "connection" i.e. have it go back out as a response to the matching request.
As you'll see this is not true.
In this post I'll cover the ways to do validation.
In the next post, I'll cover how you correlate the response back to the client who is waiting for a response.

Let me say one thing: BizTalk is not magic. There is no magic (thanks Nakor). There's simply some COM+ applications, some .NET assemblies, instances of a Windows Service, some database tables... and a lot of unmanaged code.
What gets confusing[...]
Saturday, September 01, 2007 11:16:55 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Sending HTML emails with embedded images in BizTalk#
Ever wanted to send emails from BizTalk (using the SMTP adapter) which have images embedded in them? I did recently.

Sending HTML emails (or text emails) in BizTalk without embedded images has been done to death – all you need is the RawString message type.

But how do you use the SMTP adapter to send emails with embedded images?
I didn't want to cheat and write a helper class.

I first looked at using the MIME/SMIME encoder pipeline component.
By default the MIME encoder uses a mime Content-Type of multipart/mixed.

So if you have a multipart message with an HTML body part and a single image as a second part, this is what the MIME encoder generates[...]
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 10:01:16 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) #    Comments [0]  |  Trackback


Validating Schemas in WebMethods using Attributes#
One of the most annoying things in BizTalk is when an error is generated in a Receive Pipeline indicating that a message has been suspended because of the content of the message doesn't validate against the given schema (for the moment, we'll gloss over the fact that in an ideal situation this should only ever happen during testing).

Using BizTalk 2006's new Failed Message Routing feature, it's fairly simple to write something which can deal with this situation (using either an Orchestration or SendPort subscribing to the Error Report).
Returning a message back to a Web Service caller indicating that there is something wrong with their message, is non-trivial – it's possible, but requires some in-depth knowledge of how instance subscriptions work.

However, there is an easier way: validating the message at the endpoint (i.e. inside the Web Service itself).
Aaron Skonnard and Dan Sullivan wrote an article for MSDN magazine in July 2003 on how to implement attribute based schema validation for Web Method parameters.

It's a great idea: decorate a Web Method with an attribute, and when the web method is called then any messages received will be validated against their schemas – if they don't validate, then a SOAP Fault is returned back to the caller[...]
Sunday, April 15, 2007 5:44:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00) #    Comments [1]  |  Trackback


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