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Mister.Wong

 

The Process Virtual Machine - By Tom Baeyens and Miguel Valdes Faura at OnJava

Introduction

This article will show how both business analysts and developers can benefit from workflow, Business Process Management (BPM), and orchestration. We'll explain the core essence of workflow engines in simple terms, and how this can be leveraged in a Java environment. While every self-respecting developer knows the relational model behind databases, such a model is absent for workflow engines. The Process Virtual Machine will provide that missing piece.

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The Process Virtual Machine is the conceptual model that should be in every developer's repertoire, because it helps to explain all the diverse workflow engines that are out there. Furthermore, because Microsoft has come to the same approach independently (see the upcoming section The Other Side), we are convinced that it will be the foundation for all next-generation process engines. This article will clearly outline the goal and value of the Process Virtual Machine, and guide you through the most important parts of the Process Virtual Machine paper that is referenced below. You'll also learn what workflow technology is and when it makes sense in a software project.

For this article, the differences between workflow, BPM, and orchestration are not relevant, so we will refer to this collection as workflow for short. The common goal of most workflow languages is that long-running processes can be expressed in a graphical way and executed on a workflow engine. The big advantage of the graphical diagram is that developers and business analysts get to speak the same language. Typical workflow examples are:

  • Insurance claims
  • Expense notes
  • Hire of a new employee

But workflow technology can be applied to any aspect of software development that has state machine characteristics, as indicated by these additional examples of workflow:

  • Defining a coarse-grained web service as a function of other web services
  • Pageflow describing the navigation between pages in a web application
  • Job scheduling
  • Message queue orchestration
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