BizTalk and WF - Which To Use When?

This came up a lot during my meetings at TechEd so I thought I would re-post some of the stuff I was saying here.  Feedback and flames are, as always, highly encouraged.


When Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) was first announced at the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference (PDC) many attendees incorrectly assumed WF was a replacement for BizTalk Server (BTS).   WF and BTS are complementary technologies designed to serve two very different needs:  

  • BTS is a licensed product designed to implement workflow (“orchestrations”) across disparate applications.   
  • WF is a developer framework designed to expose workflow capabilities within your applications.  


Since WF is a developer framework there are no fees or licensing restrictions associated with using or deploying it in your solutions or products.


Use BizTalk Server if…


  • You need to implement system to system (S2S) workflows across disparate applications or platforms. 
  • You need an Enterprise-strength Business Process Management (BPM) suite that enables complex transformations, support for popular application/wire-level protocols and integration with Line of Business (LoB) systems like SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle and JD Edwards.
  • You need to interface with a Human to Human (H2H) workflow.
  • You need to take advantage of Business Activity Monitoring (BAM).
  • You need to map authentication information between Windows and non-Windows systems (Single Sign-On (SSO))
  • You need to set up and manage trading partners in a B2B scenario.
  • You need a complete set of tools for managing the infrastructure and scalability of your solutions architecture.


Use Windows Workflow Foundation if…


  • You need to expose workflow capabilities to end users through your application.
  • Your application only needs a message or event broker.
  • You need to build a Human to Human (H2H) workflow capable of interfacing with a System to System (S2S) workflow.  SharePoint 2007 includes several predefined Human Workflows built with WF. 
  • You only need workflow or simple business rules and are not interested in the other features that BizTalk Server provides.