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BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask Head To OASIS

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When BPEL4WS first came on the scene there was a lot of hype around it, but many people said that it would only gain mass adoption once it went to a standards body. It did eventually and became WS-BPEL, which has gone through a few revisions as a standard. The WS-BPEL TC officially closed in May 2007 and the jury is still out as to whether or not WS-BPEL has achieved what the initial hype would have suggested. However, it cannot be doubted that WS-BPEL has become one of the major WS-* standards and a tick-box on all serious Web Service vendor's implementations.

However, one of the areas WS-BPEL didn't target was human task interaction/BPM. As the WS-BPEL FAQ points out:

  1. What is the relationship between BPMN and WS-BPEL2.0?
    1. WS-BPEL is an OASIS standard for a service orchestration language.  BPMN is an OMG standard for visual representation of a business process. While a BPEL process can be represented using BPMN, some BPMN models cannot be represented using BPEL.  At the time this FAQ was prepared there were no mappings from BPMN to WS-BPEL 2.0.

 

  1. How does WS-BPEL handle human tasks?
    1. BPEL was not designed for human workflow.
There have been other attempts to provide this mapping/integration, but none of them have really had a chance to become a standard. However, this was an important omission. Therefore it didn't come as a surprise when WS-HumanTask and BPEL4People were announced by the same WS-BPEL authors. As with WS-BPEL, it's taken the authors a while to get their act together with respect to a standards body, but as John Evdemon (co-chair of the WS-BPEL technical committee) has just announced:
The BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask specs are headed to OASIS, resulting in a new BPEL4People Technical Committee (TC) - expect to see an announcement and call for participation soon.  The TC will focus on defining human interactions (“human tasks”) as part of a WS-BPEL process, enabling these definitions to be exposed as web services.
Whether the output of these technical committees will have the impact of WS-BPEL remains to be seen, but BPM is important within SOA. A standard for this in Web Services can only be a good thing.

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