TechEd SOA401 – Developing Service Oriented Workflows

This morning I am giving the subject session at TechEd. For those of you that attended, thanks! You can probably jump to the link at the bottom for the demos unless you want a quick review of what we covered by reading the rest of this post.

This session discusses .NET 3.5 Workflow Services, and I also touch on what is different in .NET 4.0 throughout and at the end. I also have a brief discussion at the end about cloud workflows, using workflow activities from .NET Services and running workflows in the cloud with Windows Azure.

In the talk, I demonstrate the use of the ReceiveActivity for exposing service operations from a workflow. I show how to add the receive activity to a workflow, hook it up to a service contract and the operations on that contract, how to bind the incoming parameters to other workflow properties and how to retrieve the return result from workflow properties through a binding. I then show how to host the workflow as a service using the WorkflowServiceHost class, how to get a reference to the WorkflowRuntime from the host (to hook up to workflow events), and how to configure the right bindings (context bindings) to expose the workflow. Then I write a quick client that is able to call the workflow to get it running and pass parameters to it.

Then I jump to a more complicated workflow that represents a loan application process as a state machine workflow. The loan application is submitted through a service call, and then approve or reject actions can be taken through service calls. I show how calls from the same client work out automatically through the passing of the instance ID through the context bindings, and how to allow multiple clients to interact with the same workflow by setting and getting the instance ID out of the context.

Then I show that the loan application workflow also needs to make service calls out to another credit checking service. So I demonstrate how you can use a SendActivity to act as a dynamic proxy in the workflow to call another service. Like the ReceiveActivity, you use bindings on dynamic properties to provide values for the outgoing parameters and to deal with any returned values.

I also discuss the limitations of the SendActivity and how to work around it by creating a simple custom activity to encapsulate a normal WCF proxy over which you have complete control.

Then I show an application that is composed of two workflows, a parent workflow and a child workflow. The parent invokes the child workflow and gets results back from the child. The trick with this scenario is how you need to pass the context to the child workflow of the receive activity that the call will come back into in the parent workflow so that the workflow runtime can reassociate the incoming call with the right instance and right receive activity.

If you want to take a look at the demos that do all of the above, here you go.