What’s new in BizTalk Server 2020: XSLT 3.0 Support

Posted: December 2, 2020  |  Categories: BizTalk Maps

Last weekend I delivered a session about BizTalk Server 2020 in action on Global Integration Bootcamp 2020 Madrid, where I spoke about the new features available in the most recent version of the product.

Today I will start this series of blog posts about what’s new in BizTalk Server 2020 by beginning to speak about one of the most expected and log time requested features: XSLT 3.0 Support.

XSLT 3.0 represents a significant upgrade of the XSLT 1.0 (and even XSLT 2.0) standards to become a general-purpose transformation language for the most common data storage and messaging formats.

There are a lot of advantages to using XSLT 3.0 compare with the XSLT 1.0 or, in fact, XSLT 2.0, and the goal here is not to address every single of them, but we can highlight the following one:

  • Extended Function Set, Sequences, Arrays, and Maps: The initial function set for XSLT1.0 was the same as XPath 1.0 functions and was very limited. Minimal math support, no regular expression support, minimal string manipulation capabilities, no support for set (sequence) operations, no support for dates.
    • Grouping:
      • xsl:for-each-group: a set of items can be selected and arranged into groups based on specific criteria (for example, common values); then each group can be processed in turn
        • special XPath functions within for-each-group: current-grouping-key(), currentgroup()
      • Variants of <xsl:for-each-group>:
        • group-adjacent: adjacent items are allocated to the same group if they have common values for the grouping key
        • group-starting-with: whenever an item matches the pattern, a new group is started with this item
        • group-by: whenever an item matches the pattern, a new group is started after this item
    • Sorting:
      • xsl:sort: can be used inside of <xsl:for-each>, <xsl:for-each-group>, <xsl:applytemplates> and <xsl:perform-sort>. It defines the order in which the data is processed by the instruction.
      • Several subsequent sort keys can be defined

BizTalk’s default XSL transform engine implementation is based on .Net Framework XSLT Transformations. This support is limited to XSLT 1.0.

Starting with BizTalk Server 2020, users can choose Saxon:registered: 9 (Saxon 9 HE) as the XSLT transform engine. But most importantly, it will be possible to plug-in your own custom XSLT transform engine.

  • YYou can implement a custom XSLT transform engine by defining XSLT transform implementation derived from abstract class Microsoft.XLANGs.BaseTypes.ITransform2 in assembly Microsoft.XLANGs.BaseTypes.dll.
  • See more details at: Custom XSLT transform implementation.

This makes it possible for BizTalk server maps to support newer versions of XSLT. Using Saxon 9 HE, we can readily use XSLT3.0.

Use XSLT Transform Engine property to specify the XSLT transform engine you wish to use:

This was one of the most expected features, but be careful, this can be a poisoned gift because Saxon 9 HE doesn’t support embedded scripting. As a result, functoids shipped as part of BizTalk may not function well. And for many cases, this can be a showstopper.

The advantages of using XSLT 3.0 with Saxon 9 HE:

  • Development: The XSLT file can be developed separately and hosted in a BizTalk map. It will simplify specific scenarios, especially scenarios that grouping and sorting are required. As we mentioned above, XSLT 3.0 provides an extended set of functions, which was very limited within XSLT 1.0.

Disadvantages when using XSLT 3.0 with Saxon 9 HD:

  • Level of effort: Not quite as intuitive, Functoids are easier to read visually on the map grid and therefore Requires “geeky” coding skills.
  • Overview: You lose the visual map representation. You can conjugate Saxon 9 HE with the BizTalk Mapper, but it is harder to do it.
  • BizTalk Mapper Editor limitations: except for a few built-in Functoids like Scripting Functoid (not all script types will work properly) or advance Functoids, BizTalk Functoids will not work while using the Saxon 9 HE XSLT Transformation Engine.
  • BizTalk Development Tool Integration: it is a brand new feature, and it seems that doesn’t have, at least for now, the same level of integration capabilities with the BizTalk Server development tools that we are usual to have and use if we compared with the default transformation engine
Author: Sandro Pereira

Sandro Pereira lives in Portugal and works as a consultant at DevScope. In the past years, he has been working on implementing Integration scenarios both on-premises and cloud for various clients, each with different scenarios from a technical point of view, size, and criticality, using Microsoft Azure, Microsoft BizTalk Server and different technologies like AS2, EDI, RosettaNet, SAP, TIBCO etc. He is a regular blogger, international speaker, and technical reviewer of several BizTalk books all focused on Integration. He is also the author of the book “BizTalk Mapping Patterns & Best Practices”. He has been awarded MVP since 2011 for his contributions to the integration community.

2 thoughts on “What’s new in BizTalk Server 2020: XSLT 3.0 Support”

  1. Does BizTalk 2020 actually ship with the Saxon 9 HE XSLT transformation engine, or must it be purchased separately from Saxon? The BizTalk documentation is a bit sparse regarding exactly how to obtain and install this alternative transformation engine.

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