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Consider carpentry as a field of human activity. “Hammering,” “sawing,” “screwing,” and “measuring,” using “hammers,” “saws,” “nails,” “screws,” “screwdrivers,” “glue guns,” “levels,” “measuring tapes,” and “carpenter’s pencils”: these words form a vocabulary describing the operations that can be performed in this field, and the means for carrying them out.

Now consider business processes as a field of human activity. Processes, process data, activities, messages, rules, computation, process branching, compensating activities, exceptions, sequences, joins, splits, operations, assignments, transformations, schedules, rules and time constraints: These similarly form part of a vocabulary describing the operations that can be performed in the field of BPM.

FThe tools for realizing these operations are process-modeling languages, the most notable of which include BPML and BPEL4WS. These languages provide semantics for business processes and unify the different vocabularies of process development, system integration, workflow, human interaction and transaction management, much as blueprints help the architect and the carpenter find a common language that enables them to work together.

Today’s global telephone system simply couldn’t exist without standards. The Internet, the network of networks, couldn’t exist without standard protocols. It’s easy to imagine that if each computer company offered its exclusive version of network protocols or Hypertext Markup Language, the Internet would utterly lack its “inter,” its role as a network that connects disparate networks all over the computing and geographical world. In the past, plenty of proprietary network protocols and private networks were to be found on the market, but the availability of an open, universal standard changed everything. The Internet is ubiquitous, radically inexpensive and open to all to access and use, but still allows companies to build all manner of distinctive commercial offerings on top of it.

It was unfortunate therefore that Microsoft chose to “withdraw” last month from the W3C’s Web Services Choreography Working Group after only two days of work. A BusinessWeek article reported the chair of the W3C working group, Steve Ross-Talbot, as saying he was “mystified and stunned" at the move. InfoWorld published a similar story, quoting from a Ross-Talbot email, “I am totally mystified as to why Microsoft has decided to withdraw from the group. When [Microsoft] attended, during the face-to-face last week, they made outstanding contributions to the group in a very short space of time. They presented a position relative to BPEL4WS, of which Microsoft is a co-author along with IBM and BEA, that was totally in keeping with the stated focus of this group as per the charter … I am at a loss to understand why Microsoft should withdraw after such a positive and valuable contribution." Indeed, the charter of the W3C group set up to look at this, and which had already gathered many of the key players, was completely in line with the direction of BPEL4WS.


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