We are frequently criticized for not supporting enough open standards. Honestly, I think it’s negative hype. MS supports a long list of open standards, some of which we created, some of which we didn’t. This one is cool: BPEL.
When business analysts write down business processes, they use diagram tools. In the Microsoft stack, we’ve had Visio, but that tool is a general purpose diagram tool, not really a niche tool for any particular niche (much as we’ve worked to extend it). As a result, in the Business Process Engineering space, MS has fallen behind major players who produce tools that MAKE SENSE to business process people, and even provide some great analysis capabilities.
However, if a company uses one of these tools, and then wants to share those process flows with developers, it gets weird. In a pure MS world, the developer would have to re-envision the workflow using the WF Designer in Visual Studio. If that seems like extra work, it is. It’s wasteful and the models can easily become out of sync.
Enter BPEL. John Evdemon has done a good job of keeping track of this space for us, and I refer you to his excellent blog. BPEL is an open standard for sharing Business Process workflows between tools, and now WF can play in that space. This means, of course, that we can now skip the step where a developer “interprets” the workflow created by a business analyst. We can import it directly.
This is so cool. There are excellent tools out there, and through this simple feature, we allow the users of all of those tools to feed WF-based systems with workflow. I encourage all my architect collegues to become familiar with BPEL 2.0 and how WF will use it, and spread the word: WF is enterprise ready.