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Workflow process architecture

Applies To: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

The process management system in Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes the Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK, plug-ins, forms, and other components.

Process architecture diagram

The following diagram illustrates the high-level system architecture for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and highlights parts of the system that are specific to processes.

Process Architecture

This diagram shows the process architecture of Microsoft Dynamics CRM including the internal components, the external components, the infrastructure, and the data.

Internal Components. The internal components that support the Microsoft Dynamics CRM process programming model include Web services, shared platform, and business logic. The shared platform consists of common Microsoft Dynamics CRM components that provide registration, metadata cache, and data access services. Business logic contains the implementation of business logic for Microsoft Dynamics CRM business entities.

External Components. The external components are as follows:

  • Windows Workflow Foundation object model, which contains a set of classes used to create and parse workflow process definitions in XAML format.

  • Windows Workflow Foundation execution, which contains a set of classes used to execute workflow processes.

Process Infrastructure. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM process infrastructure consists of the following components:

  • Process entity model, which contains a set of classes that use the Windows Workflow Foundation object model and expose Microsoft Dynamics CRM workflow activities.

  • Process business logic, which implements business logic for process-specific entities.

  • Process execution, which provides workflow execution services, such as workflow hosting and persistence.

Process Data. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM process programming model is supported by the following data:

  • Business data, which contains information associated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM entities.

  • Process configuration data, which includes workflow process definitions, compiled workflow processes, and workflow process settings.

  • Process runtime data, which is required to execute workflow processes and implement workflow process features, such as persistence and notifications.

Process and the unified event model

Microsoft Dynamics CRM uses a unified event model that is used in both plug-ins (callouts) and in processes. This event processing subsystem adds more flexibility to the execution of processes and plug-ins by introducing the pipeline execution model.

Using this model, processes and plug-ins are executed based on their registration, message type, and a predefined set of configurable parameters. The core platform operations take part in the execution sequence to form a much more reliable and extensible execution model.

Process life cycle

The life cycle of a process describes the state transitions from creation through execution. A process can be in one of the following states: Ready, Suspended, Locked, and Completed. The events that occur throughout the lifetime of the process cause a transition from one state to another.

The workflow life cycle is as follows:

  1. When you create a workflow, it is in the Draft state. You must activate the workflow before it can run. When you activate a workflow, it subscribes to specific Microsoft Dynamics CRM events. When these events are triggered in the platform, a snapshot of the workflow dependencies and input parameters are created and a new asynchronous operation is added to the asynchronous service queue manager. The asynchronous operation represents a workflow execution job and awaits execution in the queue in the Ready state.

  2. When the asynchronous operation is processed, a workflow instance, associated with this operation, is created by the Windows Workflow Foundation run-time engine and the state of it is changed from Ready to Locked.

  3. The asynchronous operation is updated with the workflow instance state status on each transition. When the asynchronous operation is blocked, the Windows Workflow Foundation run-time engine puts the workflow instance into the Suspended state and removes it from memory. When the Suspended state conditions are satisfied, the workflow instance is loaded back into memory.

  4. The workflow execution resumes by putting the workflow instance into a Ready state and then into a Locked state. In the simple scenario, the workflow instance moves to a Completed state when all workflow activities have completed successfully.

    The state of asynchronous operations can also be changed by the user. For example, an asynchronous operation that is in a Suspended state can explicitly be restarted by the user.

A dialog life cycle is as follows:

  1. When you create a dialog, it is in the Draft state. You must activate the dialog before it can be run. A dialog can be run from its primary entity form and grid, or directly by using the URL of the dialog. For more information, see Start Dialog by using an URL.

  2. Every time that you run a dialog, a process session instance is created for the dialog. As you progress with running the dialog, the process session entity is updated with the actions performed during the running of the dialog.

  3. If you completed running the dialog successfully, the corresponding process session record is created with a Complete status. If you canceled the dialog without completing it, the corresponding process session record is created with an Incomplete status.

Process and the asynchronous service: For workflows only

The asynchronous service enables you to execute, monitor, and manage various long-running operations, such as bulk import, bulk mail, and workflow processes. To improve performance, scalability, and reliability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, these operations are run asynchronously. This means that a requested operation is not processed instantly, but added to a queue and processed by Microsoft Dynamics CRM at an appropriate time.

When an event is raised in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform pipeline, all workflows that are associated with the event are executed by the asynchronous service. The workflow event handlers are added to the asynchronous queue and processed according to the event execution order.

Process persistence and shutdown: For workflows only

A workflow can be a long-running business operation that might take hours, weeks, or months to be completed. It can be effectively idle for long periods of time waiting for input from users or other systems.

To improve performance, scalability, and reliability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, long-running operations such as workflows use the asynchronous service.

The asynchronous service, as the host of the Windows Workflow Foundation runtime engine, cannot always cache and keep active all objects that accumulate during continued workflow activity. When certain conditions, such as restart or shutdown occur when a workflow is running, the workflow runtime engine uses a persistence service to save the state of the workflow instance onto the disk. The persistence service is also invoked when other conditions occur, such as when a workflow becomes idle and is waiting for some external event to occur. Persisting these idle workflow instances saves memory and greatly increases scalability. If a server that is running the asynchronous service is shut down or if the workflow crashes during execution, the workflow can be restarted from its last persisted point after the server restarts. When the workflow is no longer idle, the state of the workflow instance is restored in memory to the state at the last persisted point.

For more information about workflow persistence, see “Workflow Persistence” at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=195367.

See Also

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
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