Yossi Dahan [BizTalk]

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is Michael right?

Michael Stephenson has suggested here that in his opinion the pipeline as a component is obsolete.

While something told me as I was reading this I could not agree with him 100%, I simply could not put my finger on the reason, I could not come up with a good enough argument against it; in fact - I still can't - which probably means he is right, but I have thought of the following two points -

The first one is not a justification, but a possible explanation of how things came about - as far as I understand it pipelines have always meant to be created at design time, then "compiled" and deployed; in 2004 there wasn't a straight forward way of using per-port configuration of pipelines, but soon enough the information that this can be done, and how to do so, became public and some developers (not all, obviously) have started using this method.

It was only in BizTalk 2006 that the ability to configure a pipeline was exposed in the UI; I guess that this points out that it was not the planned use initially (and also that MS definitely "listens" to the community, or market - call it as you wish)

It is worth noting that Michael does not stop at the pipeline component's configuration, but suggest the entire pipeline, i.e. - which components exist in the pipeline and in what order - should be configurable; this is taking the per-port configuration to another level, but it does make sense.

The second point I have in mind is that there's one benefit of having the pipeline as an artifact of sort, and that is re-use (and I'm guessing this was at least one of the considerations by MS, when making the decision to make the pipeline a compiled component) and in my experience I do find pipelines fairly highly reusable artifacts.

But this last point is not a very strong counter-argument (not that I intended it as such), just expanding on Michael's opinion and suggesting that the latter should be provided similar to ports, which are completely configurable through binding files, but are re-usable.

If we could create a pipeline in the admin console as an entity on it's own right (or through bindings) and then select it in ports, we could have the best of both worlds, mostly.

There would only be one thing I can think of that we would be missing out on, and that is the rich design environment we get when creating the pipelines in the pipeline designer - and I'm not talking necessary about the drag-and-drop way of adding components, I could not care less about that if I'm honest, but the rich property editor which is not currently supported in the generic per-port-pipeline-configuration.

Again - I'm sure this can be handled in the same way that adapter settings are handled in ports, given enough attention.

So - Michael - I am officially supporting your idea - where do I vote?

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