Wednesday, October 7, 2009

.NET 4.0 WF Initial Impressions

A couple months ago I was asked some very direct questions about the viability of K2 and other such tools with .NET 4.0 and Dublin. I personally have just not have had lots of time to do go off and research this. However I attended a quick one hour virtual session put on by Microsoft for WF in .NET 4.0.

The big thing I found out is that the State Machine workflow will not available in the initial release of .NET 4.0. That was a big surprise to me. All you will have is Sequential and Flow Chart workflows. The presenter said that you can achieve something similar to a State Machine workflow by doing a Flow Chart workflow. This would lead me to believe that many of the workflow challenges we had with WF in MOSS 2007 have not been resolved.

They talked a little about Workflow Services and I found out that you cannot do as much with Workflow Services than what you can do with WF. I did not get any details on what those specifics were.

A lot of the discussion was about how ISV can use WF to augment their frameworks and even provide the ability to allow customizations into their products using visual tools. This is what I have been preaching for a while now. You cannot adopt WF as the business process automation platform for a company. It does not come anywhere close. It is a framework to build business process automation frameworks.

I have had conversations think where companies believe that since they have SharePoint to host their WF workflows and they believe that is all they need. In the long run your costs will be significantly hirer to maintain, extend upon and manage. I have a personal thing with WF in SharePoint because I do not like the fact that the workflows can only be tied to a piece of content. If a company wanted to do finance or accounting process automation (that would span across enterprise systems) the workflow instance would have to be tied to a SharePoint list item which is not even actor in the process itself. So ask, why do we need this SharePoint list item, it serves no real purpose in the process. Plus if someone deletes the item or the associated task, the process will just end. There is no reporting, and the list goes on.

The point is that WF in MOSS should be used to just manage content in SharePoint. It is not a good platform for human workflow – you really need to look at other tools if you need human workflow. Plus it really does not look like Microsoft is chasing after companies like K2 and Nintex and they should have a healthy future.

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