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Friday, August 13, 2004

The state of workflow 

According to Tom Baeyens
If database systems are like a respected, wise man telling a clear story, then workflow must be a buch of spoiled brats shouting their own truth at each other. With this statement I would like to point out that workflow management systems are at the very initial phase of the technology hype curve. We are heading for some exciting times in this area.
See also (in discussion)
In the article, I show that state management is an important part of workflow and BPM. State management is not covered by normal programming logic. So the purpose of a workflow management system is to define a declarative extension that adds state management to plain programming. In its essence BPEL defines a programming language that is expressed in XML and has WSDL services as primitive constructs. BPEL does not have a notion for state. We should use programming languages for what they are good in and extend it with a notion for state management. BPEL takes a fundamentally wrong direction because it duplicates the notions in which a programming language is good (e.g. sequential execution, if-then-else, looping, ...) and it does not define an extension for state management. This conclusion is not affected by the fact that you could map WSDL to plain java method calls (which I would still consider a heavy-weight approach).

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