Windows Workflow Foundation

Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) has been introduced as part of Microsoft .Net 3.0 framework (also called WinFX). It is a namespace and a set of tools designed for building workflow enabled applications on .Net. WF is standard component in Microsoft Windows Vista and it is available as a separate component for older versions of Windows. Workflows are collections of activities that describe a real world scenario. Today workflows are used for document lifecycle management, application workflow (CRM, ERP), business process managment (BPM) and page flow (user interfaces). All of this is supported by WF.

Microsoft WF is a very sofisticated workflow engine that supports persistence (hydratation, dehydratation), tracking, visual design, compiling, communications, timer and rules services and it is highly extensible from new activities to new hosts. Windows Workflow Foundation also provides an extensible model and designer to build custom activities which encapsulate workflow functionality for end-users. WF it is heavily object oriented designed and a bit overbloatted.

Sample workflow designed with Visual Studio 2005

Some of you have be familiar with WSFL (Web Services Flow Language), XLang (Web Services for Business Process Design) or BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) and other efforts devoted to easy workflow development using software. In Mono we have NetBpm that is a .Net Port of JBpm1, an open source platform for building, executing and managing workflows.

Microsoft has set up a web site devoted to this technology where you can find additional documentation, samples and the blogs of most of the WinFX team at Microsoft. The WWF is implemented using three assemblies: System.Workflow.Activities, System.Workflow.ComponentModel and System.Workflow.Runtime. Workflows can be used in web services, desktop applications, console applications or even in Microsoft Office 12. There is also already a Visual Studio 2005 extension that works very well that allows you to visually design Workflows and integrate them very easily in your new or already existing solutions.

For those interested in the technology there is a book called Presenting Windows Workflow Foundation (ISBN 0672328488) that is good introduction. There are three or fours books comming in the following weeks, like Essential Windows Workflow Foundation that looks really promising.

Today I have just committed an initial open source implementation of WWF for Mono in which I have been working for a few months. In the next few days I will explain what is implemented right now and how you can contribute to this effort. See also my blog post Windows Workflow Foundation Mono implementation.
jordi Friday 01 September 2006 - 11:00 pm | | Default

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