Why are companies still using Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) when it has been deprecated?
“It’s great for combining processes,” the message boards will say – and it’s true, but its time has officially passed.
Although not dead, WF was dropped from the .NET roadmap when .NET 5 was released and it no longer receives support from Microsoft. WF will last until 2024 when .NET 8 releases (and probably longer), but it’s better to switch now to a more versatile framework.
Depending on your team, now may be the time to try microservices.
Microservices have great potential
When leaving WF, stakeholders may turn to another framework, but it’s entirely possible to use no framework at all. Many businesses already develop large applications from small parts arranged in a flexible order without a workflow – via microservices.
Microservices development is when you break down your application into discreet services and develop each independently. It’s the same strategy as WF: you make each business action a service, then combine them into one process.
WF offered flexibility and support for long-running processes. Microservices offer these benefits and give more control over how you connect each service compared to a workflow framework. You can pick gRPC, ASP.NET Core, or dozens of other frameworks and APIs that better fit your exact problem.
The only issue you’ll face transitioning from WF to Microservices is that non-developers are left out. If you don’t have the developers on staff, leaving WF is not ideal. Microservices must be built and maintained by developers, so non-developers are unfortunately out of luck.
How to Prepare for Microservices
Organizations that want to replace WF with microservices should start with these steps.
- Have a discussion within the development team about the pros and cons of removing workflow from the development process. Is microservice an option worthy of pursuing? How comfortable is the team? How much training will be needed?
- Research more on microservices, learning of their specific use cases in your field. Try to get a sense of how your organization would like to build the project and what needs it would fulfill.
- Prototype a section of your application(s) based on previous research and compare the results to the expectations. Consult with the developers on how working with WF compares to working with microservices.
- Finally, discuss with stakeholders the results of the prototype and, if microservices fit your need, develop an official plan to replace WF.
If Workflows are integral to your organization
At Inedo, we think Microservices is one great alternative to WF, but we understand it’s not for everybody. Some organizations need workflows for their systems.
You may want to consider a low-code or no-code framework that is like traditional workflow frameworks but designed to use pre-made components instead of custom-coded components.
CoreWF, the community, open-source runtime of WF, may also be a solution. We don’t recommend planning to target CoreWF, since it may never be production ready, but there is no reason not to keep an eye on it.
There’s time to prepare
Like WCF or Webforms, WF isn’t going away just yet. There is still time to decide the best solution for your problems, test potential solutions, and devise a plan to successfully transition away from WF.
The most important thing for your organization is to begin the conversation about aging technologies. Starting the planning process now saves you from the risks of hasty decision-making later.
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