Using WF rules in .NET applications and WCF services

by Matt Milner 22. December 2008 05:11

THe business rule engine in Windows Workflow Foundation is an often overlooked feature that provides powerful business logic processing and rich business rule engine execution semantics.  Some mistakenly believe this functionality can only be used from within a workflow.  I worked with Microsoft recently on a couple of articles to provide developers  hands-on examplesof using rules in .NET applications and in WCF services.   These articles are part of a new series intended to provide small concrete examples of how to use the technology.  You'll find links in the sidebar to other articles on using sequential and state machine workflows.  If you are learning WF , don't forget about our screencast series as well where we have information on WF, WCF and more. 


Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Screencast: Using the WCF Send activity in Windows Workflow Foundation

by Matt Milner 20. November 2008 10:51

My latest screencast in the Windows WF developer screencast series has been loaded up as of last week.  In this session, I discuss the basics of using the Send activity to consume a service from a workflow using WCF.    I extend the workflow created in the previous screencast to consume a service that authorizes credit cards. 


Endpoint Screencasts - Using the WCF Send Activity in Windows Workflow Foundation (WF)




Previous screencasts in this series can be found on the screencast section of the Pluralsight website. You will also find short screen casts on other technologies both current (e.g. WCF) and future ("Oslo") on this page. 


Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Microsoft's Next Gen application server offering: "Dublin"

by Matt Milner 1. October 2008 09:26

Microsoft announced today the details of upcoming features that will be added to Windows Server 2008 to provide a rich host for WCF Services and WF workflows.  In addition, the announcement provides some information about upcoming features in the .NET Framework v4.0 including.  I'm extremely excited to have a host process for WCF and WF applications out of the box with management features for my services and workflows.  This has been a big detractor for many customers looking at adopting these technologies.  The great thing is that this host technology is integrated with IIS so I don't have yet another management story or some specialized application server, I get to leverage all the work the IIS team did to make IIS 7 and the tooling so great. 


With WCF and building workflow services, having the correlation components is a huge step forward and addresses one of my biggest gripes with the correlation available today.  It's a very exciting time to be building connected systems on the Microsoft platform.  As more information is released at PDC, I'll start blogging about some of the new features and capabilities in the framework and using "Dublin" as a host.  That's right, I said I'd actually start blogging some technical information.  :) 


Check out the information about what's coming and look for more information to come out of the Professional Developer's Conference (PDC)


BizTalk Server | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

WF and WCF resources

by Matt Milner 15. September 2008 02:09

I just found out about a few new resources that Microsoft has put together to help developers locate relevant information for developing applications using WF and WCF. This includes some of the screencasts that Aaron and I have been doing on those technologies.  It is nice to have this information in one place and provides a great jumping off point for people wanting to learn about these great technologies. (the home of our screencasts and other podcasts) -


WF on the MSDN Social Server


WCF on the MSDN Social Server -


In addition, we are Pluralsight attempt to keep our resource pages for this stuff up to date with articles books etc. on our Wiki.  The links to those

Pluralsight's WCF wiki -

Pluralsight's WF wiki -


Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Upcoming talks and webcast

by Matt Milner 9. June 2008 08:28

I've got a couple of fun talks coming up this month.  First, I'm going to be doing an MSDN webcast on Windows Workflow Foundation - Communication in Depth.  I'm going to dive into the core communication architecture, discuss how some of the OOB activities use it, and how you can build your own activities to take advantage of it.  We'll cover one way communication between the host and the workflow, but we'll also look at how to do two-way communication to get a response back from the workflow. 

The talk information can be found at this link:

Windows Workflow Communication in Depth

This talk is also part of a series where you can find other talks from my friends Jon Flanders and Jesus Rodriguez on other .NET 3.5 topics.  The link for the series is here:


I'm also doing a local talk this month at the Microsoft office if you are in the Minneapolis area.  I'll be talking about building connected systems with WF and WCF for developers and architects.  This will be a good talk if you are interested in these technologies and want to learn more about how to use them to build real applications. 

Event information and registration

I had a great time at Tech Ed and I'm looking forward to the conferences coming up this fall (Minnesota Developers Conference where I'll be doing talks on LINQ and ADO.NET Data Services and Heartland Developers Conference where I'll be talking about BizTalk Services and the "Internet Service Bus"). 


General Musings | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Not just a service pack (VS 2008 and .NET 3.5 SP 1)

by Matt Milner 12. May 2008 12:50

Microsoft has rolled out the beta of SP1 for .NET Framework version 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008.  Now don't get confused, this is not just a simple set of bug fixes, this thing is big! 

  • Entity Framework and LINQ to entities
  • ADO.NET Data Services (formerly project "Astoria")
  • Dynamic data web sites (highly RAD data driven web sites)
  • Performance improvements across the board (WCF, WPF, AJAX, debugging, etc.)
  • New client profile (not quite the slimmed down CLR of silverlight, but gives you a smaller footprint without server technologies you don't need).  Now, if they could do the opposite and remove the Windows UI stuff so I could run Windows Server 2008 Server Core with IIS and ASP.NET. 
  • a bunch of perf and usability improvements in VS 2008

I think the Entity stuff, plus the Dynamic data and data services is a killer combination for many web site developers to get their data modeled and quickly expose an admin tool for data maintenance  and service endpoints for interaction. 


Check out Soma's blog for some high level details and download links:Visual Studio 2008 and .NET FX 3.5 SP1 Beta available now

Scott Gu has details on many of the new features in the IDE and framework:

Brian Harry has the details on the TFS improvements in the SP: Team Foundation Server 2008 SP1 Preview


A metric b*#&load of enhancements for a service pack - awesome job folks, I can't wait for the released bits this summer. 


General Musings | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Spaghetti Code Podcast - Connected Systems

by Matt Milner 12. May 2008 10:56

I got a chance a few weeks ago to sit down with Jeff Brand at the local Microsoft office and talk about something I love - Connected Systems.  We discussed Workflow and Biztalk, WCF and web services and how it all fits together.  Jeff is fun to talk to and does a good job of asking questions that developers are interested in.  The issues most developers face when building connected systems and trying to pick technologies were especially fun to discuss.  If you are interested, check out the audio -

You can also check out some of his other podcasts with more Minneapolis folks on a range of topics:





BizTalk Server | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Visual Studio 2008 released!

by Matt Milner 19. November 2007 11:25

Hot off the presses, you can get it now from MSDN subscriber downloads or the trial version.  See Soma's blog for more details on the new features, etc. 

Surprisingly, being a WF and BizTalk guy, I'm least excited about the WF/WCF integration.  I'll talk more about what I dislike later, but this is a happy post!  I'm jazzed about the new web models in WCF if only because it provides a nice affirmation of the extensibility of WCF.  I might not like all of the details of how they have accomplished things, but the CSD team has certainly shown that WCF is a solid platform with all the extensibility hooks you need. 

I'm also excited to spend some time with LINQ now that I'll have the bits on my main PC (I have only put the beta on VMs or my secondary machine in my office).  Like everyone else, I've done the simple examples to get some data out of a database and bind it to a UI, but I really want to dig in and see how it works after I have some code written and want to change something in the database. I want to see what the visual modeler/designer can and cannot do, and how using XML files might benefit me more than using the simple path that is there in V1.  

The main thing that really sells this, and some folks don't know this, is that VS 2008 and .NET 3.5, build on the existing .NET 2.0 framework.  So, it should be close to a no-brainer for organizations to upgrade because they can still build their 2.0 applications without having to worry about using 3.5 assemblies if they use the multi-targeting correctly in VS / MS Build.  That's right, there are only additive changes and bug fixes in 3.5 and it uses the same 2.0 runtime that you are using today.  So there should be no issues with breaking changes to core things like datasets and remoting like there were moving from 1.1 to 2.0.  I'm upgrading all my boxes to take advantage of the new features and perf improvements.  The only reason I could see for not updating is if you have other tools like BizTalk or Commerce Server that depend on the 2005 version.  Then you can run both side-by-side, and maybe strip out some of the tools from 2005 that you no longer used to free up some space on your hard drive.   

So, download, enjoy, and happy coding! 


General Musings | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Microsoft announces next big wave of products "Oslo"

by Matt Milner 31. October 2007 14:00

I attended the Microsoft SOA and BP conference this week in Redmond where they announced their plans for future of connected systems (the division responsible for BizTalk, WCF, WF, AD, and much more).  You can read more about the announcement and what impacted products are on the Microsoft SOA site.  What I found most interesting is that this effort is not just about the Connected Systems Division (CSD) but also includes the Developer Division with the next release of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework, as well as the System Center products.  The close alliance of those product groups is something we don't often see from Microsoft and can only be better for customers as we'll get a better story about using those products together. 

Now being a BizTalk/WCF/WF guy, I'm pretty interested in how all of those technologies get impacted by the modeling and management tools as well as how the integration of these technologies continues to improve.  It's only going to get better, but like all technology, we'll continue to have things to learn and understand about these technologies and how they get leveraged in different environments. 

Most interesting to me is that the keynote included information stating that CTPs and Betas would be available in 2008. That makes this stuff much more real for the near term than say a 5 year timeline.  Microsoft obviously won't be able to create the entire vision in a single release of each product, but the next phase is pretty exciting and being able to get your hands on the technology and see what they are doing and thinking can be critical as you plan for your future projects.  It's also a great way to give feedback and help direct the product team about what is important to you as a customer. They really do listen, even if you don't always get exactly what you want, significant changes happen based on customer feedback.  

We also had our two day pre-conference training on the new features in BizTalk R2 and .NET 3.5.  In addition we had some fun talking about "Astoria" and BizTalk Services which are emerging technologies built on WCF and other CSD technologies that provide some really compelling options for messaging and data access.  The class went really well and we're thinking about making it available as a seminar course for people who want to get a good deep dive into the broad range of technologies.  Let us know if you are interested in the class for your company. 


BizTalk Server | General Musings | Windows Workflow Foundation | Windows Communication Foundation

Tech Ed Demos for WCF Adapter session and chalk talk

by Matt Milner 9. June 2007 03:21
For those of you who attended Tech Ed and wanted the demos from the breakout and chalk talk about the WCF adapter, you will find them below.  Thanks to all who attended, and enjoy. 
Breakout session (445 kb) (Connected Systems application) includes transaction flow example and basic adapter configuration. See the setup folder for db scripts and setup directions.
Chalk Talk (5.5 MB) -- includes three demos: BTS as WCF message router, WCF channel extensibilty in BTS (PO + line items = single transaction), and using BizTalk Services in the cloud (multi-cast vendor request).  Each demo should have an installer for the BTS portion and other files to update configuration etc. 
any questions, just add them in comments on this blog post, or contact me through this blog. 


BizTalk Server | General Musings | Windows Communication Foundation