Windows Workflow Foundation - Where does BizTalk fit in?

The last paragraph of my Windows Workflow Foundation posting was me being deliberately “devils advocate” to try and get you to think about the possibility of Windows Workflow Foundation being used in everything from Windows Forms Applications to ASP.NET Applications, and I didn’t really position how WWF and BizTalk should be used moving forwards so here goes.

The official message on BizTalk Vs WWF is here, but here’s my take from a BizTalk point of view which hopefully doesn’t confuse any further!

So, we are now shipping a fully-featured workflow runtime and designer in the Windows Platform as part of WinFX, the sequential workflow aspects are very similar to the BizTalk Orchestration Engine, you have a rules engine, etc. So surely you don’t need BizTalk any more?

Windows Workflow Foundation is exactly that, a Foundation or Platform if you prefer. Sure we can model Workflow and execute it using the runtime but you have to provide a container in which to host the runtime which unless you do a lot of heavy lifting will not perform as well as BizTalk Server 2004 for example.

There are no “Adapters” in Windows Workflow Foundation, you can communicate using Web Services “out of the box” but not to the wide range of systems that Adapters support – sure you can write all of the heavily lifting to communicate with a Tuxedo Box for example and this has to be highly scalable, performant code which is going to be hard to get right (and why should you be burning valuable development time doing it?). There are no pipelines so you can’t do debatching of messages, translation, security, etc.

There’s no MessageBox to safely store Messages and Orchestration Instances, and therefore no document tracking facility. Windows Workflow Foundation can persist Workflow state to a “store” and there is a SQL sample out of the box to demonstrate this.

There’s no Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) tools either, there is a tracking “framework” which you could extend to perform functionality similar but again that’s a lot of work, No business rules editing tools either.

Last but not least – there are no administration tools for Windows Workflow Foundation (it’s a platform!), you could argue BizTalk Server 2004 is a bit weak in this area anyway but we are working on this with BizTalk Server 2006 ;-)

I hope you can see from this that BizTalk brings a huge amount to the party over and above Windows Workflow Foundation, this doesn’t mean that Windows Workflow Foundation is “lacking” or of no use – it’s just aimed at different scenarios – and to illustrate just how powerful Windows Workflow Foundation is, a future version of BizTalk will use Windows Workflow Foundation as the Orchestration Engine thus demonstrating that it’s a fantastic Workflow “Platform”.


Clear as Mud? :)