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Creating a Long-running Workflow Service

This topic describes how to create a long-running workflow service. Long running workflow services may run for long periods of time. At some point the workflow may go idle waiting for some additional information. When this occurs the workflow is persisted to a SQL database and is removed from memory. When the additional information becomes available the workflow instance is loaded back into memory and continues executing.  In this scenario you are implementing a very simplified ordering system. The client sends an initial message to the workflow service to start the order. It returns an order ID to the client. At this point the workflow service is waiting for another message from the client and goes into the idle state and is persisted to a SQL Server database. When the client sends the next message to order an item, the workflow service is loaded back into memory and finishes processing the order. In the code sample it returns a string stating the item has been added to the order. The code sample is not meant to be a real world application of the technology, but rather a simple sample that illustrates long running workflow services. This topic assumes you know how to create Visual Studio 2012 projects and solutions.

You must have the following software installed to use this walkthrough:

  1. Microsoft SQL Server 2008

  2. Visual Studio 2012

  3. Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5

  4. You are familiar with WCF and Visual Studio 2012 and know how to create projects/solutions.

To Setup the SQL Database

  1. In order for workflow service instances to be persisted you must have Microsoft SQL Server installed and you must configure a database to store the persisted workflow instances. Run Microsoft SQL Management Studio by clicking the Start button, selecting All Programs, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and Microsoft SQL Management Studio.

  2. Click the Connect button to log on to the SQL Server instance

  3. Right click Databases in the tree view and select New Database.. to create a new database called SQLPersistenceStore.

  4. Run the SqlWorkflowInstanceStoreSchema.sql script file located in the C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0\SQL\en directory on the SQLPersistenceStore database to set up the needed database schemas.

  5. Run the SqlWorkflowInstanceStoreLogic.sql script file located in the C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0\SQL\en directory on the SQLPersistenceStore database to set up the needed database logic.

To Create the Web Hosted Workflow Service

  1. Create an empty Visual Studio 2012 solution, name it OrderProcessing.

  2. Add a new WCF Workflow Service Application project called OrderService to the solution.

  3. In the project properties dialog, select the Web tab.

    1. Under Start Action select Specific Page and specify Service1.xamlx.

      Workflow Service Project Web Properties
    2. Under Servers select Use Local IIS Web server.

      Local Web Server Settings
      Caution note Caution

      You must run Visual Studio 2012 in administrator mode to make this setting.

      These two steps configure the workflow service project to be hosted by IIS.

  4. Open Service1.xamlx if it is not open already and delete the existing ReceiveRequest and SendResponse activities.

  5. Select the Sequential Service activity and click the Variables link and add the variables shown in the following illustration. Doing this adds some variables that will be used later on in the workflow service.

    Note Note

    If CorrelationHandle is not in the Variable Type drop-down, select Browse for types from the drop-down. Type CorrelationHandle in the Type name box, select CorrelationHandle from the listbox and click OK.

    Add Variables
  6. Drag and drop a ReceiveAndSendReply activity template into the Sequential Service activity. This set of activities will receive a message from a client and send a reply back.

    1. Select the Receive activity and set the properties highlighted in the following illustration.

      Set Receive Activity Properties

      The DisplayName property sets the name displayed for the Receive activity in the designer. The ServiceContractName and OperationName properties specify the name of the service contract and operation that are implemented by the Receive activity. For more information about how contracts are used in Workflow services see Using Contracts in Workflow.

    2. Click the Define... link in the ReceiveStartOrder activity and set the properties shown in the following illustration. Notice that the Parameters radio button is selected, a parameter named p_customerName is bound to the customerName variable. This configures the Receive activity to receive some data and bind that data to local variables.

      Setting the data received by the Receive activity
    3. Select The SendReplyToReceive activity and set the highlighted property shown in the following illustration.

      Setting the properties of the SendReply activity
    4. Click the Define... link in the SendReplyToStartOrder activity and set the properties shown in the following illustration. Notice that the Parameters radio button is selected; a parameter named p_orderId is bound to the orderId variable. This setting specifies that the SendReplyToStartOrder activity will return a value of type string to the caller.

      Configuring the SendReply activity content data
      Note Note

    5. Drag and drop an Assign activity in between the Receive and SendReply activities and set the properties as shown in the following illustration:

      Adding an assign activity

      This creates a new order ID and places the value in the orderId variable.

    6. Select the ReplyToStartOrder activity. In the properties window click the ellipsis button for CorrelationInitializers. Select the Add initializer link, enter orderIdHandle in the Initializer text box, select Query correlation initializer for the Correlation type, and select p_orderId under the XPATH Queries dropdown box. These settings are shown in the following illustration. Click OK. This initializes a correlation between the client and this instance of the workflow service. When a message containing this order ID is received it is routed to this instance of the workflow service.

      Adding a correlation initializer
  7. Drag and drop another ReceiveAndSendReply activity to the end of the workflow (outside the Sequence containing the first Receive and SendReply activities). This will receive the second message sent by the client and respond to it.

    1. Select the Sequence that contains the newly added Receive and SendReply activities and click the Variables button. Add the variable highlighted in the following illustration:

      Adding new variables
    2. Select the Receive activity and set the properties shown in the following illustration:

      Set the Receive acitivity properties
    3. Click the Define... link in the ReceiveAddItem activity and add the parameters shown in the following illustration:This configures the receive activity to accept two parameters, the order ID and the ID of the item being ordered.

      Specifying parameters for the second receive
    4. Click the CorrelateOn ellipsis button and enter orderIdHandle. Under XPath Queries, click the drop down arrow and select p_orderId. This configures the correlation on the second receive activity. For more information about correlation see Correlation.

      Setting the CorrelatesOn property
    5. Drag and drop an If activity immediately after the ReceiveAddItem activity. This activity acts just like an if statement.

      1. Set the Condition property to itemId==”Zune HD” (itemId=”Zune HD” for Visual Basic)

      2. Drag and drop an Assign activity in to the Then section and another into the Else section set the properties of the Assign activities as shown in the following illustration.

        Assigning the result of the service call

        If the condition is true the Then section will be executed. If the condition is false the Else section is executed.

      3. Select the SendReplyToReceive activity and set the DisplayName property shown in the following illustration.

        Setting the SendReply activity properties
      4. Click the Define ... link in the SetReplyToAddItem activity and configure it as shown in the following illustration. This configures the SendReplyToAddItem activity to return the value in the orderResult variable.

        Setting the data binding for the SendReply activit
  8. Open the web.config file and add the following elements in the <behavior> section to enable workflow persistence.

    <sqlWorkflowInstanceStore connectionString="Data Source=your-machine\SQLExpress;Initial Catalog=SQLPersistenceStore;Integrated Security=True;Asynchronous Processing=True" instanceEncodingOption="None" instanceCompletionAction="DeleteAll" instanceLockedExceptionAction="BasicRetry" hostLockRenewalPeriod="00:00:30" runnableInstancesDetectionPeriod="00:00:02" />
              <workflowIdle timeToUnload="0"/>
    
    
    Caution noteCaution

    Make sure to replace your host and SQL server instance name in the previous code snippet.

  9. Build the solution.

To Create a Client Application to Call the Workflow Service

  1. Add a new Console application project called OrderClient to the solution.

  2. Add references to the following assemblies to the OrderClient project

    1. System.ServiceModel.dll

    2. System.ServiceModel.Activities.dll

  3. Add a service reference to the workflow service and specify OrderService as the namespace.

  4. In the Main() method of the client project add the following code:

    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
       // Send initial message to start the workflow service
       Console.WriteLine("Sending start message");
       StartOrderClient startProxy = new StartOrderClient();
       string orderId = startProxy.StartOrder("Kim Abercrombie");
     
       // The workflow service is now waiting for the second message to be sent
       Console.WriteLine("Workflow service is idle...");
       Console.WriteLine("Press [ENTER] to send an add item message to reactivate the workflow service...");
       Console.ReadLine();
     
       // Send the second message
       Console.WriteLine("Sending add item message");
       AddItemClient addProxy = new AddItemClient();
       AddItem item = new AddItem();
       item.p_itemId = "Zune HD";
       item.p_orderId = orderId;
     
       string orderResult = addProxy.AddItem(item);
       Console.WriteLine("Service returned: " + orderResult);
    }
    
    
  5. Build the solution and run the OrderClient application. The client will display the following text:

    Sending start message
    Workflow service is idle...
    Press [ENTER] to send an add item message to reactivate the workflow service...
    
  6. To verify that the workflow service has been persisted, start the SQL Server Management Studio by going to the Start menu, Selecting All Programs, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, SQL Server Management Studio.

    • In the left hand pane expand, Databases, SQLPersistenceStore, Views and right click System.Activities.DurableInstancing.Instances and select Select Top 1000 Rows. In the Results pane verify you see at least one instance listed. There may be other instances from prior runs if an exception occurred while running. You can delete existing rows by right clicking System.Activities.DurableInstancing.Instances and selecting Edit Top 200 rows, pressing the Execute button, selecting all rows in the results pane and selecting delete. To verify the instance displayed in the database is the instance your application created, verify the instances view is empty prior to running the client. Once the client is running re-run the query (Select Top 1000 Rows) and verify a new instance has been added.

  7. Press enter to send the add item message to the workflow service. The client will display the following text:

    Sending add item message
    Service returned: Item added to order
    Press any key to continue . . .
    
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