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Comparison between Windows Workflow Foundation and Biz Talk Server

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12 Apr 2012CPOL
Comparison between Windows Workflow Foundation and Biz Talk Server in terms of features, application and implementation


When I started studying Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), I was confused with the fact that there are lots of similarities between WF and BizTalk Server. Then I did some more studies and got hold of some good posts from Microsoft regarding the comparison of WF and BizTalk Server. Let me share what I summed up.

Windows Workflow Foundation

Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) is a programming model, set of tools, and runtime environment that allows one to write declarative workflows on the Windows platform to represent the execution model of your programs. The WF runtime is part of the .NET Framework, first appearing in .NET Framework 3.0, with improvements in .NET Framework 3.5.

Microsoft BizTalk Server

Microsoft BizTalk Server provides an efficient and effective way to integrate systems and businesses through manageable business processes, enabling them to automate and orchestrate interactions in a highly flexible and highly automated manner.
Microsoft BizTalk Server provides a development and run-time environment for business process management (BPM) and automation.

Fundamental Difference between WF and BizTalk Server

WF and BizTalk are not competing technologies. Windows Workflow Foundation and BizTalk are complementary technologies that serve different needs.

Windows Workflow Foundation BizTalk Server
WF is a developer framework used to implement workflow inside an application. BizTalk Server is a product that can be used to implement workflow across disparate applications.
WF is a framework that provides the building blocks needed to build workflow-based applications. BizTalk is an integration server that includes the ability to add business process automation.
WF is a framework that provides developers with the base components they need to build the modules that will be used to automate processes. BizTalk Server is a platform that provides developers with the pieces they need to automate business process.
WF does not have the inherent features or tools for tracking, administration and so on that is available with BizTalk. BizTalk provides a lot of capabilities that are needed for serious business process automation that WF developers would have to write. To name a few, BizTalk has proven scalability, tracking, administration and transformation capabilities that a WF developer would need to write from scratch.

Comparison between WF and BizTalk Server

The following table shows the feature comparison between WF and BizTalk Server:

Feature Windows Workflow Foundation BizTalk Server
Hosting Hosted in a custom application (client-side execution, but the client could be an ASP.NET application) Server-side in the BizTalk process
Designer Included in Visual Studio, or custom designers can be written Included in Visual Studio
Scalability Developer must implement Well-proven, highly scalable
Transactional integrity Developer must implement Long running and atomic (ACID) transactions
Tracking infrastructure Simple framework pieces provided that allow you to build the tracking infrastructure Comprehensive Business Activity Monitoring infrastructure provided
Runtime modification of “in-flight” workflows Yes, but developer must implement No, workflows are defined at design time
Cross-platform integration capabilities Not supported natively Extensive adapters available
Composability WF processes cannot directly invoke a BizTalk application, although you could indirectly by calling an orchestration that had been exposed as a Web service (for example), or perhaps by API usage A BizTalk process could invoke a WF process via Web service call, or from a helper class or expression shape
Management and administration Developer must implement Extensive set of tools provided for IT pros to administer and track execution
Windows Communications Framework (formerly “Indigo”) support Natively supported Through an adapter, or could be called from an expression shape or helper class
Rules engine support Yes Yes
Extensible activities Yes No
Transformation capabilities No Yes
Programmability WF is a framework. You must implement applications to use it. BizTalk Server exposes APIs for most parts, and has numerous extensibility points such as pipeline components, adapters and “functoids” (out-of-the box and custom mapper components)


  • 30th July, 2009: Initial post


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Posted 12 Apr 2012

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