Diving in to the workflow ocean

One of the great things about this job is that I get to work with a ton of product groups at Microsoft. In just one year I've worked with the .NET 3.0, ASP.NET 2.0, ASP.NET AJAX, SharePoint, VSTO, Windows Mobile, and SQL Server teams to name a few. Coming from a development background this can be kind of overwhelming. It's kind of like having every cookie jar filled to the rim with the lid off placed right in front of you. The challenge is which cookie to take, and from which jar.

Up until now I've been trying to eat from each jar. As a result I've become well versed in the capabilities of the various technologies, without necessarily having the real life experience. With so many great offerings it's so hard to choose which one to focus on. Fortunately I am working with such tremendous folks that I don't necessarily need that experience in order to drive the visions for our products. However, I certainly still long for the old days.

With that I've decided to dive head long in to (drum roll please) Windows Workflow Foundation. Why workflow? Workflow has a bit of a place in my heart. First, I'm more of a 'back-end' developer. Most of my experience has been in building low-level solutions that are more behind the scenes. Second, I've worked in several organizations in the past where we've implemented workflow functionality / workflow engines. In most teams that I've worked on workflow is a means not an end. As such you can only get 'so far'. You see the light at the end of the tunnel but you just don't have the time, resources or justification to get there.

Back then (and even today) the holy grail of workflow was to be able to offer a declarative model for defining processes along with a sophisticated runtime engine that executes the model. When I say sophisticated I mean that the engine can handle the various levels of complex logic required in real world scenarios. In each project some different aspect of this vision would be implemented however we would never achieve the ultimate goal, mainly due to the aforementioned reasons.

Window Workflow Foundation however was built specifically to address this vision and from everything I have seen so far it has delivered.

OK, so my wet suit is on. Here I go………..