How to learn to be BizTalk professional one might ask? Where do I start, when there is an overwhelming amount of resources to be found on the internet? The Microsoft BizTalk Server site and BizTalk Server Developer Center are good starting points.

Learning Path

A successful learning path for BizTalk Server depends on:
  • Knowledge of .NET and Visual Studio (BizTalk artifacts)
  • Knowledge of SQL Server since BizTalk depends on SQL Server (see BizTalk Architecture picture below)

Picture 1. Logical Architecture of BizTalk Server
For publish/subscribe, see patterns/practices article and understanding BizTalk Server 2009.
  • Invest in time and money, a good training from experienced professionals can speed up the process of learning BizTalk. Spend time to build up routine and experience. 

Knowledge of .NET and Visual Studio

Development for BizTalk Server is done through Visual Studio. Visual Studio has templates for BizTalk artifacts like orchestration, pipelines, schemas and maps, so a BizTalk solution can be created (design time) and deployed to the BizTalk runtime. Besides artifacts .NET development can be done in creating pipeline components, custom functoids, custom adapters, and .NET helper classes to aid in orchestrations. As a BizTalk professional Visual Studio is your friend and required to build BizTalk solutions.

Knowledge of SQL Server

BizTalk Server depends on SQL Server and Microsoft BizTalk Server databases and their health is very important for a successful BizTalk Server messaging environment. How to achieve this is explained in How to maintain and troubleshoot BizTalk Server databases and if you review that article it will become obvious that you need SQL Server knowledge.

Invest in time and money

When you start learning BizTalk you will need to invest in time and get hold of some budget to get training, books (Amazon, see list here), software (MSDN) and hardware (you need at least a laptop/desktop with enough memory, disk and processor power). Learning can be done at a local training facility or you can go to Quicklearn and Pluralsight. If you do not have enough resources as in software/hardware you still can learn/experience BizTalk through BizTalk Server Virtual Labs.

I have explained the success factors for a successful learning path for BizTalk and if you have the necessary prerequisites as in software and a machine (laptop/desktop) you can start cracking. Best way to proceed is to build your own BizTalk environment with the Installation Guide in your hand (latest version 2010). You can also opt to download the BizTalk Server Training Kit that includes a VM.

A BizTalk development environment can best be installed and configured on a Virtual PC or Hyper-V (see this post BizTalk Virtual Machines with Windows 2008 R2 Hyper V). As soon as you have your environment available, download the BizTalk help file and follow the tutorials  described in there(which can be viewed online too or downloaded). Through self-study you setup your own environment, do tutorials, try virtual labs and read books. If that is not enough you can get training:

QuickLearn offers BizTalk training classes and Pluralsight also offers BizTalk training classes ranging from introductory to advanced. If you're just getting started, you might want to check out their self-paced BizTalk Developer Fundamentals class. Finally, visit QuickLearn's Technical Library for resources and articles on BizTalk.

Besides that, there are several good resources available online:

ESB Toolkit

It is possible that after gaining experience- and building/strengthen your knowledge in BizTalk you want to take it a step further by learning the ESB Toolkit. If you have your BizTalk environment available you can download and then install and configure ESB Toolkit 2.1 (Version 2.1 is target for new BizTalk 2010). For reading you can start with a whitepaper by Jon Flanders. In general you will find a lot of resources at BizTalk Server Development Center –> BizTalk ESB Toolkit 2.1.

See Also

Read suggested related topics: Another important place to find a huge amount of BizTalk related articles is the TechNet Wiki itself. The best entry point is BizTalk Server Resources on the TechNet Wiki.