Tag Archive: Azure

One of the key areas to focus on when using Service Bus Relays to expose on premise BizTalk hosted WCF services externally without making any firewall changes is availability. Service Bus Relay endpoints in Azure will only be enlisted upon initialization of your on premise service. NOT when your application pool starts, NOT when you create your Service Bus Namespace, but only when a request is made to the local endpoint of the service. Browsing (effectively an HTTP GET) to the local .svc file on the BizTalk VM serves just as well to enlist the Azure Service Bus Relay endpoint.

A common solution to this problem is to use the IIS 8.0 Application Initialization module which has been really well documented here. What this effectively results in is that your .svc file is activated any time IIS resets, your application recycles, or your app domain reloads. The Application Initialization module is also available for IIS 7.5 and can be downloaded here.  This results in your relay endpoint being enlisted in Azure.

Application Initialization is an absolutely core part to any Service Bus Relay service, regardless whether the backend service is a vanilla WCF service or based on a BizTalk receive location. No WCF Service Bus Relay solution should be built without this in mind.

However, I found that when dealing with BizTalk there is an additional consideration to keep in mind. What I observed is that if your BizTalk environment encounters outages due to an inability to connect to the BizTalk Management database (due to network or database issues) the services (not the application pool, not IIS, the services themselves!) will get shut down by BizTalk. When BizTalk recovers from the outage the services will not get spun up again until someone calls on the local service endpoint or browses to the local .svc file. Because the IIS application pool has not restarted, Application Initialization will not kick in and thus your endpoint will not be enlisted in Azure.

The solution I have put in place is to generate keepalive requests to the local endpoint every minute. This makes me feel a bit dirty, but I haven’t found a better solution yet, so I will detail it for you. If you can think of a better option, please do share it and I will update this post.

What I have done is setup a receive location based on the Scheduled Task adapter that generates a keepalive message every one minute (I’ve chosen quite a regular interval because availability is really key to my services, choose your interval appropriately) that gets routed to a solicit-response WCF-WebHttp send port (actually in my case 4 send ports, one corresponding to each service being exposed by Service Bus Relays that I want to keep alive). The endpoint address on this send port is pointed towards the .svc file for the service I want to keep alive, and the “HTTP Method and URL Mapping” section of the send port’s configuration is set to “GET” since we want to perform an equivalent action to browsing to the .svc file.


One more thing of note is that since this is an HTTP GET, the target endpoint is not expecting a request message body, so we must use the WCF-WebHttp adapter’s functionality to supress it, as per the following screenshot.


Because I’m not really interested in the response messages being returned to the send port, I route these messages to a file send port which uses the BRE Pipeline Framework to discard the message (utilizing the NullifyMessage vocabulary definition in the BREPipelineInstructions.SampleInstructions.HelperInstructions vocabulary).  The address on the send port can be set to any folder since no file will actually get written out by the adapter.

Using the WCF-WebHttp adapter and pointing it directly to the .svc file helps minimize the requirement for additional development since you aren’t forced down the path of exposing additional operations in your service to cater for the keepalives.

I recently worked on a POC which had me spinning up an EDIFACT/AS2 exchange based on both BizTalk Server and MABS (Microsoft Azure BizTalk Server) and comparing the experiences.  Seeing as this was my first time dealing with AS2 (EDIFACT was already an old friend) the very first thing I worked on was finding a means of sending messages to the AS2 onramps.

I found a few open source programs that would let me submit AS2 messages but I decided I wanted to do this programmatically instead via BizUnit 4.0 so I had easily repeatable scenarios, which I could easily re-test across BizTalk Server and MABS.  Matt Frear has written a good post on how to send messages via AS2 using .NET, and I decided I was going to convert this into a BizUnit test step (with his blessing).

You can find the source code for the AS2SendTestStep here, or if you just want to download the assembly then you can do so here.

The test step support the below features.

  • Supports BizTalk Server and MABS (and theoretically other AS2 server products, but I haven’t tested any others).
  • Supports BizUnit data loaders which means that if you have many tests which require only slight variations to input messages then you don’t need to keep multiple copies of input files. You can just have a single base file and use a relevant DataLoader class to manipulate the stream as it is being read.
  • Supports signing and encrypting outbound messages.
  • Supports optional synchronous MDNs and allows you to validate them.
  • Logs decrypted MDN messages to the test execution report.

Usage tips are below.

  • You will need to reference the BizUnit.AS2TestSteps.dll assembly and the BizUnit.dll assembly provided by the BizUnit 4.0 framework.
  • Select an input file directly by supplying the file name into the InputFileLocation property or supply a BizUnit DataLoader (which allows you to manipulate the file as you read it in) in the InputFileLoader property.
  • Encrypt the outbound message – you will need a copy of the public key certificate and will need to supply the file path to it in the EncryptionCertificateFileLocation property.
  • Sign the outbound message – you will need a copy of the private key certificate and will need to know the password.  You will need to supply the path to the certificate to the SigningCertificateFileLocation property and the password to the SigningCertificatePassword property.
  • Supports setting AS2From and AS2To headers via the As2From and As2To properties.
  • Supports the use of a proxy server by setting appropriate values to the Ps property which allows you to supply the proxy server URL, and if required credentials as well.
  • Allows you to set the subject HTTP header by setting the As2FileName property.
  • Allows you to set the URL to post the request to by setting the Url property.
  • Allows you to override the default timeout of 20 seconds by setting the TimeoutMilliseconds property.
  • Allows you to run BizUnit substeps against the decrypted response message in case you want to validate it by suppying substeps into the SubSteps property.

An example test which sends an EDIFACT message to BizTalk Server (using a proxy server) and runs some regular expressions against the synchronous MDN response is below.  Note that the RegexValidationStep in use here is not part of the BizUnit framework and is proprietary so sorry I can’t share that.

var testCase = new BizUnit.Xaml.TestCase();

var as2TestStep = new AS2SendTestStep();

as2TestStep.As2From = "FABRIKAM";

as2TestStep.As2To = "CONTOSO";

as2TestStep.EncryptionCertificateFileLocation = @"c:\host.cer";

as2TestStep.As2FileName = "EFACT_D95B_CODECO_output.txt";

as2TestStep.InputFileLocation = @"c:\temp\EFACT_D95B_CODECO_output.txt";

as2TestStep.SigningCertificateFileLocation = @"c:\fab.pfx";

as2TestStep.SigningCertificatePassword = "test";

as2TestStep.TimeoutMilliseconds = 20000;

as2TestStep.Url = "http://localhost/AS2Receive/BTSHTTPReceive.dll";

WebTestPlugins.AS2Helpers.ProxySettings ps = new WebTestPlugins.AS2Helpers.ProxySettings();

ps.Name = "http://proxyserver.test.co.nz";

as2TestStep.Ps = ps;

var regexValidationStep = new RegexValidationStep();

regexValidationStep._RegexDefintion.Add(new RegexDefinition("Content-Type: message/disposition-notification"));

regexValidationStep._RegexDefintion.Add(new RegexDefinition("Disposition: automatic-action/MDN-sent-automatically; processed"));

regexValidationStep._RegexDefintion.Add(new RegexDefinition("Final-Recipient: rfc822; CONTOSO"));



var bizUnitTest = new BizUnit.BizUnit(testCase);


And below is a screenshot of the test execution results.  Note that the MDN text is logged here, and you can see the regular expressions being evaluated against the MDN as well.


You can of course take your own test steps much further by validating that BizTalk/MABS has consumed the file and written the message to its target destination, be it a SQL database or a file system folder etc… using the out of the box BizUnit test steps or your own custom ones.

The test step doesn’t currently support compression.  If anyone can point me towards any good documentation on compressing AS2 messages in C# then I might try to include that.

Any other suggestions are welcome.

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