Azure BizTalk Services (formerly called Windows Azure BizTalk Services or WABS) is general available now as a service within Microsoft Azure. One of the addition to this service is an explorer similar to Visual Studio add-in for the Service Bus or Azure Storage.

Figure 1. Service Bus Explorer Add-in.

The BizTalk Service explorer offers the following features:
  • Browsing artifacts in you BizTalk Service
  • Explore tracked events within your bridge
  • Upload and download artifacts
  • Restarting the BizTalk service
  • Test and debug bridges

Installation and configuration

The explorer for WABS can be added within Visual Studio via extensions and updates, where you can search for in the Visual Studio Gallery. To add this explorer you need to go to Tools within Visual Studio. Subsequently you go to Extensions and updates… You then search in the Visual Studio Gallery online.

Figure 2. Visual Studio Gallery online: BizTalk Service Explorer.

You can now add a BizTalk Service(s) you have provisioned in Windows Azure. By simple right clicking the Azure BizTalk Services you can select Add BizTalk Service … A dialog will appear where you have to fill in service name of your BizTalk Service, the namespace and issuer secret (obtained through Access Control Services).

Figure 3. Specify details for adding a BizTalk Service to the BizTalk Service Explorer.

After clicking OK you will see the specified BizTalk Service appear in the BizTalk Service Explorer.

Figure 4. Windows Azure BizTalk Services Add-in.

Exploring the features

The BizTalk Service explorer offers several features. In the next couple of paragraphs each feature will be discussed by means of a sample bridge. This bridge is a two-way bridge that will receive a message, transform it to required format to be send to a back-end SQL database, and the response will be routed back to the caller through the bridge.

Browsing artifacts

The BizTalk Service Explorer offers the ability to browse through the BizTalk Service. You can see the assemblies, bridges, certificates, schemas and transforms that have been deployed to your BizTalk Service.

Figure 5. BizTalk Service Artifacts.

By expanding the artifact nodes you can browse through them.

Figure 6. Browsing in BizTalk Service artifacts.

Explore tracked events

Previous paragraph showed how to browse through the BizTalk Service artifacts. In case messages are send to a bridge than these will be tracked that is metadata like tracking id, track point and timestamps are always tracked. This also accounts for fault information of failed messages. The level of tracking can be specified in the bridge with Visual Studio. You can either track message processing events and/or all message properties.

Figure 7. Specify the level of tracking on a bridge.

By selecting a Bridge you can expand the tracking events to browse through tracked events.

Figure 8. Browse through tracking events.

Upload/download artifacts

BizTalk Service offer the ability to upload a new artifact. In case you right click on the Assemblies, Bridges, Certificates, Schemas or Transforms node you will see a dialog with the option Upload New…

Figure 9. Upload a new artifact (schema).

In case you want to download an artifact then you have to select a certain artifact within Assemblies, Bridges, Certificates, Schemas or Transforms.

Figure 10. Download an artifact.

Restarting the BizTalk Service

The BizTalk Service can be restarted through the BizTalk Services Explorer. By right clicking the desired BizTalk Service you have the option available.

Figure 11. Restart BizTalk Service.

Test and Debug bridges

The most interesting feature of the BizTalk Service Explorer for a developer is the test and debug feature.


The test feature gives the developer the ability to send a test message to the bridge. By right clicking a specific bridge you have the option Send Test Message …

Figure 12. Send Test Message option.

A dialog will appear. Here you can load a test message.

Figure 13. Send a test message dialog.

Subsequently you hit the Send button and the message will be send to the bridge endpoint:

Figure 14. Load a test message to be send.

The response will be appear in the right pane.

Figure 15. Response from BizTalk Service Bridge Endpoint.

As you can also see the tracking id is presented. This id can be used to browse in tracked events and access the particular event.

Figure 16. Browsing through tracked events of test message.


To debug a bridge you need to do some configuration on the BizTalk Service. By right clicking the BizTalk Service and select properties you can specify debug properties i.e. debugging credentials. Credentials depend on Access Control Namespace of your Relay.

Figure 17. Debug properties for a BizTalk Service.

To debug a bridge you select the bridge you want to debug. You right click the bridge and choose the option Debug. A dialog will appear.

Figure 18. Debug dialog (click to enlarge).

You load a test message similar to send a test message to a bridge and click Send Message.

Figure 19. Send a message in debug mode to a bridge (click to enlarge).

You can now step through the process by clicking Continue.

Figure 20. Stepping through the bridge (click to enlarge).

You can continue doing this examining each step until the end.

Figure 21. Final step in debugging the bridge (click to enlarge).

Like sending a test message you see an id i.e. request id that you can use to browse through the tracked events.

Figure 22. Tracked events of bridge that has been in debug mode.

Debugging a bridge gives the developer the ability to have a clear view on what is happening inside the bridge. When a bridge is in debug mode all messages going through the bridge can be viewed. Therefore debugging bridges in production environment is not advisable (Sam Vanhoutte - Introduction Step by step debugging of bridges in Windows Azure BizTalk Services).

Wrap up

BizTalk Services Explorer is a welcome addition to building a BizTalk Service solution (a bridge). The feature provide features that enhance developer productivity. A developer doesn’t need to build a client to test a bridge and has the ability to test the bridge in run-time. Other feature aid in the deployment aspect. A developer doesn’t have to deploy his complete solution to the BizTalk Service if you he/she makes a change to a certain artifact. The BizTalk Service explorer available now is a first version (alpha) and you can expect that it will be enhanced and updated in the future.


I like to thank Sam VanHoutte and Nick Hauenstein for their insight and information on the BizTalk Service Explorer.

See Also

Another important place to find a huge amount of Azure BizTalk Services related articles is the TechNet Wiki itself. The best entry point is Azure BizTalk Services resources on the TechNet Wiki.

If you are also looking for BizTalk Server related articles, the best entry point is BizTalk Server Resources on the TechNet Wiki.