Windows Workflow Foundation and BPEL
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Two things are worth pointing out about Microsoft's recent announcement
of BPEL support in Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). First, it's not a surprise. The company has been talking about its intent to do this since WF went public in the fall of 2005. The only real surprise is that it's taking so long.
This delay is probably indicative of the second point, which is that no one should interpret the announcement as an embrace of BPEL-based development by Microsoft. True, WF's BPEL activities will let developers create workflows that can be directly exported as standard BPEL. But the developer sees those workflows in the usual WF way, i.e., as .NET-based code, rather than as XML-based BPEL. Similarly, any imported BPEL workflows will be converted into WF's internal representation. Like BizTalk Server today, WF treats BPEL as a way to move process logic between different workflow engines, not as an executable format (and certainly not as a development language).
If the popularity of BPEL in BizTalk is any indication, we shouldn't expect widespread use of WF's BPEL support. I very rarely run across organizations that are using BPEL with BizTalk Server today, and I remain skeptical about BPEL ever achieving widespread popularity. Adding the ability to export and import BPEL workflows to WF--and thus to Windows itself--will help WF in situations where support for BPEL is a political necessity. Yet I'll be surprised if it becomes a widely used aspect of WF applications.