AJ's blog

October 6, 2007

Workflow Communication Clarification

Filed under: .NET, .NET Framework, ASP.NET, C#, Software Architecture, Software Development, WF — ajdotnet @ 2:47 pm

My last post may need a clarification…

Tim raised the question whether it is such a good idea to synchronize the communication between web application and workflow instance. To make it short: Generally it isn’t! Period. It hurts scalability and it may block the web request being processed. Therfore from a technical perspective it usually is preferable to avoid it. Ways around this include:

  • Redirect the user to a different page telling him that his request has been placed and that it may take a while until it is processed.
  • Ignore the fact that the current page may show an outdated workflow state, hope for the best and take means that another superfluous request won’t cause any problems.
  • ….

However sometimes you cannot avoid having to support a use case like the one I presented. But even then — if the circumstances demand it — it might be possible to avoid blocking on the workflow communication. E.g. the web application could write a “processing requested…” state into the worflow instance state table (contrary to what I wrote in an earlier post, but that was just one pattern, not a rule either). The actual call could be made asynchronously, even be delayed somehow.

If you still think about following the pattern I layed out, make sure the processing within the workflow instance is fast enough to be feasibly made synchronously. E.g.:


As you can see, synchronization encapsulates the whole processing.

What if the processing takes longer? Well, the pattern still holds if you introduce an “I’m currently processing…” state. The callback won’t tell you the work has been done any longer, but it will still tell you that the demand has been placed and accepted by the workflow instance.


In this case synchronization encapsulates only the demand being accepted, not the processing itself. However it still serves the original purpose, which was telling the user that his request has been placed.

What if you need to synchronize with the end of a longer running task? In that case this pattern is not the way to go. The user clicking on a button and the http post not returning for a minute? This definitely calls for another pattern.

I hope this has made things clearer.

That’s all for now folks,

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