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In this article, I will attempt to steer you through the pitfalls of designing service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications using Business Process Execution Language or BPEL models.

The problems with designing application systems are many when drawing comparisons to the work of an architect designing a building. The rules, standards, principles and techniques utilized in architecture have been clearly defined and well understood for centuries. The guiding viewpoint for their designs have centered on equal parts of functionality and aesthetics.

Additionally, the cost of design failure can be catastrophic, thereby leading to considerable governmental regulation. Unfortunately, we have few of these benefits when modeling applications for our SOA integration systems.

This is not to say that we don't have some pretty good methodologies and design principles for guiding our work efforts -- we certainly do. We just don't execute them effectively or apply them in a timely fashion. Many times we feel rushed and compelled to meet an urgent emerging need with a quick solution with no thought to the overall strategy.

Enter process modeling

So what exactly is this concept known as process or BPEL modeling? These models are the technical progression of SOA modeling from multiple historical predecessors: flowcharts, data flow diagrams, program structure charts, UML models, Gantt and PERT charts to name a few.

When fully developed it is simply the process of linking together multiple deployed web services, which return standardized corporate data into an automated and sequential workflow. Through the process model, we utilize the deployed web services to provide the predominant business logic that will generate universal data relationships.

Then, wrapped around this logic we integrate conditional logic, branching, fault handling, iterative processing, parallel logic and sequential flow to complete the process model. Through the use of graphical tools, a designer can rapidly create a new model, search for services, integrate internal or external web services, visually represent the flow of activities, add and upgrade new tasks and deploy to an integration server.


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