Introducing Windows Workflow Foundation
Monday, September 19, 2005
What do you think of when you hear the word "workflow"? In a field full of overloaded terms, this is certainly one of the worst. Stripped to its essentials, a workflow is just a group of actions executed in some order. With such a general definition, almost any application might qualify as a workflow, and the truth is that many, many applications actually are
workflows in one way or another. Viewing an application in this way can be surprisingly useful. Seeing an app's logic as a collection of activities can allow effectively using graphical tools to build that logic, support tracking the application's behavior at runtime, and more.
The idea of workflow also often connotes interaction with people. With this, new requirements for creating a workflow-based application appear. How do you maintain state while waiting for a human being to respond? How do you deal with long-running transactions, the kind that are typical of real business processes? It's always possible to implement this support yourself, but having it provided for you would make workflow applications much easier to build.
Windows Workflow Foundation, scheduled to ship in 2006, aims at providing a general framework for creating workflow-based applications. I've written a Microsoft-sponsored white paper, Introducing Windows Workflow Foundation: An Early Look
, that provides an introduction to this technology. Anybody who's interested in how software will be built in the near future should find this technology interesting.