***Update: As of the 2.0.1 release we now include over 200 activities with the product, including libraries for XenApp, XenDesktop, XenServer, and Netscaler. We keep adding more, and if you have specific requests, please email me…
Alex posted in our forums that he was extremely disappointed in the 1.0 release of Workflow Studio because of a lack of libraries/templates for use with Citrix products. We are working on releasing libraries for Citrix products, as well as libraries that integrate with Active Directory, Group Policy, Power Management, and Windows. I appreciate the criticism, as it made me realize that we haven’t done a good job of describing the target audience of this 1.0 release. I would like to take the opportunity to explain the different audiences that Workflow Studio appeals to, and why we released 1.0 as it is. Hopefully this post will help to explain how the different features of Workflow Studio appeal to these audiences and also clarify how it can be used today and where we are going in the future.
To make sure we are all on the same page, I want to start by defining the audiences that I will refer back to later. The titles I chose are not important, but hopefully the descriptions will help you to place where this fits in your organization. In the IT industry people often wear many hats and don’t fit neatly into a classification.
- IT Operations - This role is responsible for ensuring that IT systems are working and available on a wide scale, but would not typically do development or scripting tasks.
- Server Administrator - This role is responsible for specific server workloads and is intimately familiar with the software running on a system. They are comfortable with batch files, scripting, PowerShell, etc. but would not be comfortable doing traditional software development.
- Software Developer - This role is defined by people who write software that is either sold (Software Companies, System Integrators, Consultants, etc.) or used internally by other groups (often including the above two audiences.)
Workflow Studio is built on top of two technologies from Microsoft – Windows PowerShell and Windows Workflow Foundation. Linking these technologies to the audiences from above for PowerShell would be the Server Administrator, and for Workflow Foundation would be the Software Developer. Our intent with Workflow Studio is to merge these two technologies together and offer solutions that appeal to the IT Operations staff (and Server Administrators who are looking for tools, but are too busy to script solutions to all their needs themselves.) As a result of being built on top of PowerShell and Workflow Foundation, we offer features that the other two audiences will also find useful.
As Alex pointed out, the 1.0 release is not very interesting to the IT Operations audience yet because there isn’t a large base of activity libraries and workflows available today. The Software Developer audience on the other hand can use 1.0 today with the publicly available APIs for our Citrix products (and if they choose, share or sell their work to the community at large.)
Now I want to take a look at specific features and functionality of Workflow Studio and how they map to these audiences:
The intended process of using Workflow Studio for this audience would be to download workflows (and activity libraries) that solve specific problems that this audience faces. All that needs to be done after downloading the workflows is to schedule or execute them as applications that solve those specific needs.
Workflow Studio has a community tab that links the product back to the Citrix Developer Network (CDN). Citrix, our partners, and the community at large can post activity libraries and workflows that can be downloaded and used without any need to write scripts or code. We built in a tutorial workflow called ExportServices that you can access through the Help menu to see how this process is intended to work. We plan to leverage this mechanism to release activity libraries and workflows to address specific problems faced in deploying the Citrix Delivery Center and the Citrix Cloud Center. We are also looking to our partners and community to build additional libraries and workflows that this audience will find valuable.
Obviously, this audience will not be well served until pre-built workflows are available that solve problems you face in your environment. Let me know in the comments or through email what types of things you would like to see. As we release activity libraries we will also release workflows that relate to them and as more are available we will be able to release more integrated workflows as well.
The intended use case for this audience is to build and modify workflows using the Workflow Studio Designer for use either internally or to share with the community.
We are working on some activity libraries that will be available in coming weeks that will facilitate building workflows that leverage your existing VBScript and PowerShell scripts. This functionality will enable this audience to leverage their existing scripting knowledge in a more visual, database-driven, automatically versioned, and easily share-able way. Workflows can be extended through C# with the code-beside feature, so if you know a little bit of programming you can automate almost anything that .NET and C# will allow with just the Designer and not need to go into Visual Studio to build native activity libraries. We have built in some pretty powerful extensions to Workflow Foundation in our Designer that will help you be more productive and make it easy to share within your group, organization, or the community. For instance, the snippets functionality allows you to save templates of individual activity configurations or groups of activities and then export and reuse/share them. Workflows themselves can also be exported and reused/shared as well. The Workflow Studio Designer is accessed by either creating a New Workflow or editing an existing workflow. You can also download other workflows and edit them to see how they were built.
This audience needs activity libraries available, and we are working on several that will be released in coming months. Active Directory, Group Policy, Windows, Power Management, and Citrix product support are all coming soon, so stay tuned.
The intended use case for this audience is to build and share/sell activity libraries that the above two audiences will find useful. These can target Workflow Studio directly or target Workflow Foundation more generically as the vendors in my post on Workflow Studio Extensibility have done.
Activity Libraries are the mechanism for extending Workflow Studio. An activity library is a component defined by Microsoft as part of Workflow Foundation. These can be built without any knowledge of Workflow Studio (standard Workflow Foundation activity libraries), but there are some features of Workflow Studio that we think offer additional value. We make it easy to target Workflow Studio directly with a set of templates for Visual Studio. Specifically, we have a converter that will take existing PowerShell snap-ins and convert them to activity libraries automatically. You will soon be able to download these templates and documentation on automating Workflow Studio on our Download SDKs page.
Workflow Foundation and PowerShell have been around now for more than 2 years. These technologies are robust and stable and can easily be leveraged with the 1.0 release of Workflow Studio. If you are a Citrix partner (or want to be one) and have some ideas in this space, feel free to contact me to discuss.
Hopefully this will help clarify where we are with Workflow Studio and where we are going. Feel free to email me with comments or thoughts on how we can do a better job of addressing your needs with Workflow Studio – whichever audience you may fall into.