Journal of Intelligent Information Systems

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 159–184 | Cite as

From Centralized Workflow Specification to Distributed Workflow Execution

  • Peter Muth
  • Dirk Wodtke
  • Jeanine Weissenfels
  • Angelika Kotz Dittrich
  • Gerhard Weikum


Current workflow management systems fall short of supporting large-scale distributed, enterprise-wide applications. We present a scalable, rigorously founded approach to enterprise-wide workflow management, based on the distributed execution of state and activity charts. By exploiting the formal semantics of state and activity charts, we develop an algorithm for transforming a centralized state and activity chart into a provably equivalent partitioned one, suitable for distributed execution. A synchronization scheme is developed that guarantees an execution equivalent to a non-distributed one. This basic solution is further refined in order to reduce communication overhead and exploit parallelism between partitions whenever possible. The developed synchronization schemes are compared in terms of the number and size of synchronization messages.

enterprise-wide workflows distributed execution synchronization communication costs 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alonso, G., Agrawal, D., El Abbadi, A., Kamath, M., Günthör, R., and Mohan, C. (1996). Advanced transaction models in workflow system configurations. IEEE Int. Conf. on Data Engineering, New Orleans.Google Scholar
  2. Alonso, G., Mohan, C., Günthör, R., Agrawal, D., El Abbadi, A., and Kamath, M. (1995). Exotica/FMQM: A persistent message-based architecture for distributed workflow management. Proc. IFIP WG8.1 Working Conference on Information Systems for Decentralized Organizations, Trondheim.Google Scholar
  3. Barbara, D., Mehrotra, S., and Rusinkiewicz, M. (1996). INCAs: Managing Dynamic Workflows in Distributed Environments, Journal of Database Management, Special Issue on Multidatabases, 7(1).Google Scholar
  4. Bernstein, A., Dellacros, C., Malone, T.W., and Quimby, J. (1995). Software Tools for a Process Handbook, Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering, 18(1).Google Scholar
  5. Bernstein, P.A. and Newcomer, E. (1997). Principles of Transaction Processing, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Blakeley, B., Harris, H., and Lewis, J.R.T. (1995). Messaging and Queuing Using the MQI: Concepts and Analysis. Design and Development, McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  7. Das, S., Kochut, K., Miller, J., Sheth, A., and Worah, D. (1997).ORBWork: A Reliable Distributed CORBA-Based Workflow Enactment System for METEOR2, Technical Report UGA-CS-TR-97-001, University of Georgia.Google Scholar
  8. Dayal, U., Garcia-Molina, H., Hsu, M., Kao, B., and Shan, M.-C. (1993). Third generation TP monitors. A Database Challenge, ACM SIGMOD Conference.Google Scholar
  9. Dayal, U., Hsu, M., and Ladin, R. (1991). A transactional model for long running activities. VLDB Conference.Google Scholar
  10. Ellis, C.A. and Nutt, G.J. (1993). Modeling and enactment of workflow systems. Invited Paper, 14th Int. Conf. on Application and Theory of Petri Nets.Google Scholar
  11. Forst, A., Kühn, E., and Bukhres, O. (1995). General Purpose Work Flow Languages, Distributed and Parallel Databases, 3(2).Google Scholar
  12. Gawlick, D. (1994). High Performance TP-Monitors—Do We Still Need to Develop Them?, IEEE Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering, 17(1), 16–21.Google Scholar
  13. Georgakopoulos, D. and Hornick, M.F. (1994). A Framework for Enforceable Specification of Extended Transaction Models and Transactional Workflows, International Journal of Intelligent and Cooperative Information Systems, 3(3).Google Scholar
  14. Georgakopoulos, D., Hornick, M., and Sheth, A. (1995). An Overview of Workflow Management: From Process Modeling to Workflow Automation Infrastructure, Distributed and Parallel Databases, 3(2).Google Scholar
  15. Gray, J. and Reuter, A. (1993). Transaction Processing: Concepts and Techniques, Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  16. Harel, D. (1987a). State Charts: A Visual Formalism for Complex Systems, Science of Computer Programming, 8, 231–274.Google Scholar
  17. Harel, D. (1987b). On the formal semantics of state charts. Symposium on Logics in Computer Science, Ithaca, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Harel, D. (1988). On Visual Formalisms, Communications of the ACM, 31(5).Google Scholar
  19. Harel, D. et al. (1990). STATEMATE: A Working Environment for the Development of Complex Reactive Systems, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 16(4).Google Scholar
  20. Harel, D. and Naamad, A. (1995). The STATEMATE Semantics of State Charts, Technical Report, i-Logix Inc.Google Scholar
  21. Harel, D. and Gery, E. (1997). Executable Object Modeling with Statecharts, IEEE Computer, 30(7).Google Scholar
  22. Helbig, J. and Kelb, P. (1994). An OBDD—Representation of state charts. Proc. European Design and Test Conf. Google Scholar
  23. IBM Corp. (1994). FlowMark Rel. 1, Programming Guide and Modelling Guide.Google Scholar
  24. IONA Technologies Ltd. (1995). Orbix Programming Guide.Google Scholar
  25. Jablonski, S. (1994). MOBILE: A modular workflow model and architecture. Proc. of the 4th Int. Working Conf. on Dynamic Modelling and Information Systems, Nordwijkerhout.Google Scholar
  26. Jablonski, S. and Bussler, C. (1996). Workflow Management, Modeling Concepts, Architecture, and Implementation, International Thomson Computer Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kamath, M., Alonso, G., Günthör, R., and Mohan, C. (1996). Providing high availability in very large workflow management systems. Int. Conf. on Extending Database Technology, Avignon.Google Scholar
  28. Kappel, G. and Schrefl, M. (1991). Object/behavior diagrams, IEEE Int. Conf. on Data Engineering, Kobe.Google Scholar
  29. Kappel, G., Lang, P., Rausch-Schott, S., and Retschitzegger, W. (1995).Workflow Management Based on Objects, Rules, and Roles. Bulletin of the IEEE Technical Committee on Data Engineering, 18(1).Google Scholar
  30. Lang, S. (1993). Algebra, Third edition, Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  31. McMillan, K.L. (1993). Symbolic Model Checking, Kluwer.Google Scholar
  32. Mohan, C. (1994). Tutorial: Advanced transaction models—Survey and critique. Presented at ACM SIGMOD Int. Conf. on Management of Data, Minneapolis, Minnesota.Google Scholar
  33. Mowbray, T.J. and Zahavi, R. (1995). The Essential Corba, John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  34. Oberweis, A., Scherrer, G., and Stucky, W. (1994). INCOME/STAR: Methodology and Tools for the Development of Distributed Information Systems, Information Systems, 19(8).Google Scholar
  35. OMG, CORBA services (1995a). Common Object Services Specification, Technical Report, Object Management Group.Google Scholar
  36. OMG (1995b). The Common Object Request Broker: Architecture and Specification, Rev. 2.0, Technical Report, Object Management Group.Google Scholar
  37. Primatesta, F. (1994). TUXEDO, An Open Approach to OLTP, Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  38. Reuter, A. and Schwenkreis, F. (1995). ConTracts—A Low-Level Mechanism for Building General Purpose Workflow Management Systems, IEEE Data Engineering Bulletin, 18(1).Google Scholar
  39. Rusinkiewicz, M. and Sheth, A. (1994). Specification and Execution of Transactional Workflows. In W. Kim (Ed.), Modern Database Systems: The Object Model, Interoperability, and Beyond, ACM Press.Google Scholar
  40. Schwenkreis, F. (1993). APRICOTS—A prototype implementation of a conTract system—Management of the control flow and the communication system. 12th Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems.Google Scholar
  41. Sheth, A. (Ed.) (1996). Proc. of the NSF Workshop on Workflow and Process Automation in Information Systems, Athens, GA. cover.html.Google Scholar
  42. Sheth, A., Kochut, K., Miller, J., Worah, D., Das, S., and Lin, C. (1996). Supporting state-wide immunization tracking using multi-paradigm workflow technology, VLDB Conference.Google Scholar
  43. TUXEDO System 5 (1994). System Documentation, Novell.Google Scholar
  44. Vossen, G. and Becker, J. (Eds.) (1996). Busines Process Modelling and Workflow Managment: Models, Methods, and Tools, International Thomson Publishing, Bonn (in German).Google Scholar
  45. Wächter, H. and Reuter, A. (1992). The ConTract Model. In A.K. Elmagarmid (Ed.), Database Transaction Models for Advanced Applications, Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  46. Weissenfels, J., Wodtke, D., Weikum, G., and Kotz Dittrich, A. (1996). The MENTOR architecture for enterprisewideworkflowmanagement. In A. Sheth (Ed.), Proc. of the NSF Workshop on Workflow and Process Automation in Information Systems, Athens, GA.Google Scholar
  47. Widom, J., Ceri, S., and Dayal, U. (Eds.) (1995). Active Database Systems, Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  48. Wodtke, D. (1997). Foundation and Architecture of Workflow Management Systems, Ph.D. Thesis, DISDBIS, Infix Verlag, 1997.Google Scholar
  49. Wodtke, D., Weissenfels, J., Weikum, G., and Kotz Dittrich, A. (1996). The MENTOR project: Steps towards enterprise-wide workflow management. IEEE Int. Conf. on Data Engineering, New Orleans.Google Scholar
  50. Wodtke, D. and Weikum, G. (1997). A formal foundation for distributed workflow execution based on state charts. Proc. of the Int. Conf. on Database Theory, Springer LNCS 1186, Delphi, Greece.Google Scholar
  51. Workflow Management Coalition. (1995). Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Muth
    • 1
  • Dirk Wodtke
    • 1
  • Jeanine Weissenfels
    • 1
  • Angelika Kotz Dittrich
    • 2
  • Gerhard Weikum
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of the SaarlandSaarbrückenGermany
  2. 2.Union Bank of SwitzerlandZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of the SaarlandSaarbrückenGermany

Personalised recommendations