Modeling and Analysis of Workflows Using Petri Nets

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A workflow system, in its general form, is basically a heterogeneous and distributed information system where the tasks are performed using autonomous systems. Resources, such as databases, labor, etc. are typically required to process these tasks. Prerequisite to the execution of a task is a set of constraints that reflect the applicable business rules and user requirements.

In this paper we present a Petri Net (PN) based framework that (1) facilitates specification of workflow applications, (2) serves as a powerful tool for modeling the system under study at a conceptual level, (3) allows for a smooth transition from the conceptual level to a testbed implementation and (4) enables the analysis, simulation and validation of the system under study before proceeding to implementation. Specifically, we consider three categories of task dependencies: control flow, value and external (temporal).

We identify several structural properties of PN and demonstrate their use for conducting the following type of analyses: (1) identify inconsistent dependency specifications among tasks; (2) test for workflow safety, i.e. test whether the workflow terminates in an acceptable state; (3) for a given starting time, test whether it is feasible to execute a workflow with the specified temporal constraints. We also provide an implementation for conducting the above analyses.

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