When a busy developer is running under tight deadlines, every instrument that helps increase productivity would be in high demands. Visual Studio 2010 with Power Tools is a heaven for .NET developers but developers would always ask for more and it’s natural.

We have recently come across a good tool that could help BizTalk developers save precious time so that it can be spent elsewhere whether it’s that another important feature, that last-minute bug or that delicious cup of strong Italian Espresso Doppio.

Thomas Abraham, an enterprise consultant at Digineer, Inc. and active BizTalk community member, has taken our best practices for BizTalk application instrumentation to a next level by developing a GUI tool called BizTalk CAT Instrumentation Framework Controller. It’s already published on CodePlex and here is an excerpt from the tool description put together by Thomas:

The BizTalk CAT Instrumentation Framework is a high performance tracing/logging framework for BizTalk that builds upon the Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) infrastructure. It was created by Microsoft's BizTalk Customer Advisory Team (CAT). Microsoft used essentially the same framework to instrument BizTalk itself, as well as many recently released adapters.

The downside of the CAT Instrumentation Framework is that starting and stopping traces requires running command-line scripts, and by default the log data is viewable in a text file only after a trace is stopped*. Many BizTalk developers are accustomed to using Trace.WriteLine() or Debug.WriteLine() in combination with the Microsoft SysInternals DebugView tool to see diagnostic messages in real time.

Enter the BizTalk CAT Instrumentation Framework Controller. The Controller is an easy-to-use GUI for the BizTalk CAT Instrumentation Framework. The Controller lets you start and stop a trace and adjust filter options. It can easily enable real-time tracing to Microsoft SysInternals DebugView (or other debuggers), to a log file or to both at the same time.

BTS CAT IF Controller Screenshot

If you are following our best practices and using our ETW-based Instrumentation Framework for BizTalk applications, you may want to try out the new tool. Without it, you would typically be dealing with command-line scripts and may be forced to memorize some command-line parameters.

We have tried this tool and it’s a true time saver. It has already become a first-class citizen in the BizTalk developer toolset in our customer projects. Our verdict – highly recommended.

*Real-time tracing option is also available when using the BizTalk CAT Instrumentation Framework. Please see the following post for more details.