BizTalk servers and groups are managed through the BizTalk Server Administration console, a standard MMC console included with BizTalk Server. Through this console, you can expand a group and right-click a server within the group to display its properties. Within the properties for individual BizTalk Servers, you'll find settings that determine the server's role within the group. Let's look at the key properties that will help you understand the role that servers can play in a group, and also the role that groups play in the server environment.
The Participate In Work-Item Processing option determines whether the server processes documents from the work queue (Shared Queue database). If this option is enabled, the server processes documents from the queue; if not, the server will not process documents. You might want to dedicate one or more servers in a group to receiving documents and exclude them from processing documents in order to help balance the workload across the group and fine-tune specific servers to specific functions. You would disable the Participate In Work-Item Processing option on a server if you wanted it to exclusively focus on document receipt.
The remaining properties for an individual server let you specify performance-related settings. For example, you can set the Maximum Number Of Allowed Receive Function Threads to tune receive function throughput. You can also set the Maximum Number Of Worker Threads Per Processor to further tune performance. The option Time Between BizTalk Server Scheduler Calls determines the frequency at which the server polls the work queue for new documents. You can use these latter two options to indirectly control the amount of traffic to the databases.
The management console is also where you stop or start individual servers in a group. You simply right-click a server and choose either Stop or Start, depending on the current state of the server. You need to stop a server prior to performing certain tasks, such as removing the server from a group, taking it offline temporarily for backup, or redirecting a group to a different set of databases.
You have several properties you can set when you open the property sheet for a group. On the General tab, for example, you specify the SMTP server that the group uses when SMTP is enabled as a transport protocol. You can also set the URL to which the group's reliable messaging delivery receipts are sent. Reliable messaging in BizTalk Server ensures one-way delivery of documents. You can specify a file location, a Message Queuing URL, HTTP or HTTPS URLs, or an SMTP address. If you opt for the HTTP/HTTPS route, you can create your own .ASP script to process the receipts. Initially, however, you might prefer to use the ReceiveStandard.asp script included with BizTalk Server, either using it as-is or customizing it to suit your needs. You can also specify proxy settings on the General tab to allow the group to use a proxy server to access the specified URL.
The Connection tab for the group specifies the database name and server location for the Tracking and Shared Queue databases. You specify these when you install BizTalk Server and create the group, and you can use the settings on the Connection tab to redirect the group to a different database. For example, you might decide after an initial testing phase to move the databases to a more capable server or cluster, or you might need to temporarily redirect a group during disaster recovery or backup operations. To do so, you simply stop all servers in the group, change the database locations, and restart the servers.
The Tracking tab contains settings that enable/disable document tracking and also specify the level of logging. You can log incoming and outgoing interchanges, as well as the original MIME-encoded message. Use the Parsers tab to configure the order in which BizTalk Server accesses the defined parsers to parse documents. You create the order according to the percentage of documents the group receives of each type. For example, if you primarily receive XML-formatted documents, you'd use the default order that has the XML parser at the top of the list. Tailoring the parser order improves performance by reducing the number of parsing attempts.
Managing server properties
You can also manage two general BizTalk Server properties through the console. When you right-click the Microsoft BizTalk Server 2002 node in the left pane and choose Properties, the console gives you a single tab with two settings, both of which define the Messaging Management database. The Messaging Management database stores BizTalk Server's configuration data, such as server and group configurations, receive functions, and messaging configuration information.
The console allows you to change the database server and name to address situations in which the database server needs to be taken offline for backup or is offline during disaster recovery. For the cutover to work, however, the newly specified database should be a valid replica of the original. If not, you'll likely have problems when you try to point back to the original database server when it comes back online.
When you manage settings with the BizTalk Server Administration console, you're actually managing settings stored in the Messaging Management database. Opening the BizTalk Server Administration console on a BizTalk Server will give you access to the settings stored in the group Messaging Management database of which the local BizTalk Server is a member. However, you can also install the console on a workstation to give you the ability to manage multiple databases, and therefore the servers and groups associated with those other databases.
When you change the Messaging Management database, you're changing the database to which the groups and servers under the scope of management will look for their configuration data. But that's not the approach to take if you need to simply manage a different Messaging Management database. To do this, you open the BizTalk Server Administration Console on the management workstation, and then click on the Microsoft BizTalk Server 2002 node.
Choose Action | Select Config Db, and then enter the database name and database server name in the resulting dialog box. Click OK and the console will switch context to the new database. You can then refresh the view to begin managing the servers and groups hosted by the database. If you try this on a BizTalk Server, you'll find that the action isn't available—it's available only in a tools-only installation of the software.
A tools-only installation also differs in other ways. For example, although you can switch to a different Messaging Management database to configure other groups and servers, you can't change the Messaging Management database to which the servers point. You have to do that from one of the servers, instead. You also can't change parser order through a tools-only installation or create new receive functions. You can, however, manage existing receive functions.
Ready? Set? Go!
To sum up, the BizTalk Server Administration console provides the means by which you manage servers and groups. This includes moving servers from one database to another, removing a server altogether, and changing group and server properties. Once you understand the roles that BizTalk Server groups play and their relationships to their respective databases, you're ready to move to the next deployment phase: planning and carrying out the installation.