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Next-generation SharePoint Server

Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services provide users with a robust and customizable work environment for users to create, collaborate, and store valuable business information. With Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, users now can attach custom business processes to these documents or list items.

 

Users can represent these custom business processes by means of workflows. A workflow is a natural way to organize and run a set of work units, or activities, to form an executable representation of a work process. This process can control almost any aspect of an item in Windows SharePoint Services, including the lifecycle of that item. The workflow is flexible enough to model both the system functions and the human actions necessary for the workflow to complete.

 

Users can create workflows that are as simple or complex as the business processes require. Users can also create workflows they initiate, or workflows that Windows SharePoint Services automatically initiates based on some events, such as when an item is created or changed.

 

Suppose you need to create a simple workflow that routes a document to a series of users for approval or comments. This workflow would include actions that the system needs to perform, as well as provide interfaces for the users to interact with the workflow in the prescribed ways. For example, Windows SharePoint Services would send an email message to the selected users when the document was ready for review. Those users would then need to be able to notify Windows SharePoint Services when they had completed their reviews and, optionally, enter any comments. The workflow framework included in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, and extended in SharePoint Server 2007, enables you to model such complex work processes and present them to end users in an easily understood, unobtrusive manner that guides them through each step of the process.

Workflow Architecture

The workflow functionality in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is built on the Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). It is a Microsoft Windows platform component which provides a programming infrastructure and tools for development and execution of workflow-based applications. WF simplifies the process of asynchronous programming to create stateful, long-running, and persistent workflow applications. The WF run-time engine manages workflow execution and allows workflows to remain active for long periods of time and to survive restarting the computer. Run-time services offer functionality such as transactions and persistence to manage errors gracefully and correctly.

 

The WF run-time engine provides the services that every workflow application needs, such as sequencing, state management, tracking capabilities, and transaction support. The WF run-time engine serves as a state machine responsible for loading and unloading workflows, as well as managing the current state of any workflows that are running. WF allows any application process or service container to run workflows by hosting WF, i.e. loading WF within its process.

Workflow Types

Windows Workflow Foundation supports two fundamental workflow styles:

  • Sequential workflow
    Represents a workflow as a procession of steps that execute in order until the last activity completes. However, sequential workflows are not purely sequential in their execution. Because they can receive external events and include parallel logic flows, the exact order of activity execution can vary.
  • State machine workflow
    Represents a set of states, transitions, and actions. One state is denoted as the start state, and then, based on an event, a transition can be made to another state. The state machine can have a final state that determines the end of the workflow

 

Users can create workflows of either type for Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Server.

Sequential workflow

State machine workflow

 
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