Monday, September 18, 2006

Workflow: WF, MOSS & K2.Net

After recently attending a course at the SourceCode head offices in Redmond, I started wondering about the affect that the release of Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) would have on their workflow solution product, K2.Net 2003 and their upcoming release code named "Black Pearl". When would you use K2.Net as opposed to WF and vice versa? Having worked on a couple of workflow solutions in the last few months, one implementing a K2.Net solution, and another a WF solution using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) - which is still in beta version, I have had an opportunity to see both tools in action.

The Tools

Windows Workflow Foundation (WF):
WF is the programming model, engine and tools for quickly building workflow enabled applications. It’s a part of Microsoft .Net 3.0 (previously WinFX). Developers need to design, code and run business process workflows applications using Visual Studio.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS):
MOSS serves as an enterprise collaboration system, allowing for managing content and business processes. It implements WF to facilitate basic content and document approval and provides the host application for WF to run workflows.

K2.Net 2003 & "Black Pearl":
K2.Net is an enterprise workflow platform able to host workflow solutions built on Mircrosoft.Net. It comes with the following tools:
K2.Net 2003 Studio – used to develop the workflow.
K2.Net Workspace – with reporting, task redirection,
K2.Net 2003 Service Manager – with server properties, error handling, user and group permission settings, task redirection, and security settings.

K2.Net “Black Pearl” will be built on .Net 3.0 (including WF) with the development studio being able to plug into the Visual Studio. My understanding is that their development team has been collaborating with the Windows Workflow Foundation and Office 2007 team for a couple of years and it will integrate with SQL Server 2005 and Office 2007. “Black Pearl” will also serve as the host application for WF providing an enterprise workflow solution platform. It’s slated to be released sometime in 2007.

How they fit together

While anything can be built from the ground up, WF provides a foundation for creating workflows. MOSS leverages WF to provide simple workflow scenarios that can be used through its collaboration environment. K2.Net provides a platform of ready made activities and events allowing for rapid workflow development. It has pre-built reporting, management and user workspace modules.

Ultimately the answer comes down to the complexity of the workflow and whether you want to spend time coding the infrastructure or use a ready made enterprise environment and build the workflow.

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