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Things to know about Windows Workflow Foundation

by James Vastbinder on Oct 17, 2006 |
Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) is the programming model, engine and tools for quickly building workflow enabled applications.  Harry Peirson, in several blog entries delves into Windows Workflow Foundation, (WF), with “Things I didn’t realize about WF” and “More Stuff I Didn’t Know about WF”.   Paul Andrews also posted ten reasons why WF is not a toy.  WF will be embedded into several different vehicles, coming  just in time for the holidays with the launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007. 

According to Harry, 9 things to be aware of when programming with Windows Workflow Foundation :
  1. You can customize how you load workflows.
  2. You can swap out the default workflow scheduler.
  3. You can add any object to the workflow runtime as a service.
  4. All communication from the host to the workflow goes thru the WorkflowQueuingService.
  5. The built-in sequential and state machine workflows are customizable.
  6. You can execute workflows across a farm, similar to how you build a web farm.
  7. The built in SQL Persistence Service is a toy.
  8. WF Web Service integration is also a toy.
  9. Activities can generate code.
One comment in the “More Stuff I Didn’t know about WF” entry reads, “Despite these nits, I'm a big fan of WF. I like the engine design and it's fast (1ms overhead to execute a 10-step no-op sequental workflow.” 

Paul Andrew responded to points 7,8 and 9 above in Henry's blog post detailing the Persistence Service and the web service activities as well as some of the internal functionality.   He addresses the tempuri.org namespace issue with a workaround and lets bloggers know the WF team is condsidering some additional samples to ease the learning curve for WF, directly due to feedback from bloggers like Harry. Paul's Top 10 reasons why WF is not a toy:
  1. Six Microsoft products are building on it.
  2. It will be supported including the persistence service by regular Microsoft support once it releases in November 2007.
  3. WF has best practices like any programming model and following this guidance is important to be successful.
  4. The APIs for WF are carefully factored and aligned with the rest of the .
  5. No development tool that uses CodeDom can be considered a Toy.
  6. Respected software architects at Microsoft working on future internal applications are spending considerable time working on it.
  7. Performance is enterprise ready.
  8. Toys don't drive busines process like WF does.
  9. You can't buy WF at www.amazon.com because it's free for installing on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and included with Windows Vista./toys
  10. WF wasn't featured in Toy Story :-)
InfoQ contacted the WF Product Team at Microsoft and Matt Winkler, WF Technical Evangelist, responded:
"We want to hear what people do and do not like and what they would like to see changed, or if there are areas where we can provide more guidance.  If any of your readers have feedback, please feel free to direct them to my blog or they can email me."
To  download the latest bits and start coding, developers need to grab the latest .NET Framework 3.0 RC and here is ample sample code to browse.

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Performance by João Almeida

I like the engine design and it's fast (1ms overhead to execute a 10-step no-op sequental workflow


The execution is indeed fast, but the creation of a workflow instance isn't. This can ben a problem in a production scenario where you may have a high load and constantly need to create new workflow instances, specially because there isn't a way to have a "workflow pool" out of the box.

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