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TechnologyFeb 27, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Host SharePoint 2013 Workflows in Windows Azure

Credera Team

If you are accustomed to building workflows for SharePoint 2010, prepare yourself for a change of pace with SharePoint 2013 workflows. The good news is that SharePoint 2013 installs the SharePoint 2010 Workflow Platform by default, meaning all your hard work can still be used in the future. However, SharePoint2013 opens a whole new door to creating workflows with Workflow Manager 1.0.

Workflow Manager 1.0 is an Azure service introduced with SharePoint 2013 for running and managing workflows. It builds on the Windows Workflow Foundation (WF 4.5) and the .NET Framework 4.5. Also available is the Workflow Manager Client 1.0, which contains the core assemblies and client API for Workflow Manager 1.0. This service is external to SharePoint, but is able to communicate through the Azure Service Bus and the REST API. Figure 1 shows how these elements work together. In order to use the external service, you must download and install Workflow Manager then configure it to communicate with your SharePoint 2013 farm. For a more detailed guide on this process, visit Microsoft’s article, Installing and configuring workflow for SharePoint Server 2013.

Figure 1:  SharePoint 2013 Workflow Platform Architecture

The real question at hand is why should I host my workflows in Azure?  There are many reasons, several of which we will cover in this blog post:

1.  Multi-tenant hosting capability. This provides a highly efficient and fast way for the execution of workflow instances while being able to easily manage them. It is more secure, ensuring that large scale workflows do not consume all of the server’s CPU time through the use of multiple remote CPU’s to perform the workflow’s functions.

2.  Elastic scale functionality. Hosting workflows on-premise implies that resources for computing are constant while the demand for such computing remains variable. Using Azure allows for adding and removing resources as they are needed, saving on cost by paying for only the resources needed.

3.  Tracking and monitoring. New capabilities continue to be built for managing and tracking running workflow instances through the REST API and Workflow Manager Client. Administrators are provided with tools to manage their artifacts and processes while clients are able to view service health, custom configuration, and the status of running processes.

4.  Fully declarative authoring of workflows. A new concept in 2013, workflows are authored declaratively using a Trusted Surface. SharePoint Designer 2013 can be used to author powerful workflows, while Visual Studio 2012 includes workflow project templates for developing more sophisticated custom actions by using XAML.

5.  REST and Service Bus Messaging. Azure provides integrated messaging capabilities, such as REST and the Service Bus. Since these are incorporated with the runtime, inbound and outbound messages are coordinated with the workflows to guarantee reliability and consistency of processes.

Ultimately, the workflow engine for SharePoint Server 2013 has vastly improved to incorporate Azure’s Cloud-based functionality while maintaining the backward compatibility of SharePoint 2010 workflows. Azure workflows make it easy to host and manage any business process with high performance and reliability that scale to your needs.

Credera has the experience and knowledge you need to add value to your business through the use of Azure workflows for SharePoint Server 2013. To learn more, please contact Credera or send a tweet to @CrederaMSFT.

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