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The BPEL4People Spec Extension


With the advent of WS-BPEL, or BPEL, 2.0, one of the biggest complaints about the specification is the lack of support for human tasks. BPEL4People attempts to address this issue.

In the summer of 2005, two of the biggest proponents of BPEL, IBM and SAP, released a white paper in which they proposed BPEL4People. Other companies, such as Oracle, have stated that they intend to contribute and deliver on the promises of BPEL4People.

BPEL4People is a proposed optional extension to BPEL 2.0 that would finally standardize human tasks in a BPEL process. Now that the WS-BPEL 2.0 standard is close to finalization, the white paper will most likely be submitted to OASIS for acceptance as an actual specification. If OASIS continues work on BPEL4People, It would be the first time the industry addressed human interaction in workflow as an open standard.

Within the arena of web services business processes, the upcoming WS-BPEL 2.0 standard focuses on orchestrating activities of multiple Web services. Missing from this specification is a distinction between services provided by applications and other interactions, such as those by humans.

Human interaction within a business process represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the definition and management of long-lived business processes. A likely proposed extension to BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) 2.0--BPEL4People--describes how to support "people activities" within the scope of the existing BPEL standards.

With BPEL4People, processes and tasks can coordinate their state, so that one can terminate the other, or at least request termination. Conventional or proprietary approaches, like Oracle's BPEL Process Manager, which uses a task manager service, do not allow for this.

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