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Sagas and Workflows Same thing with different names or not?

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Sagas and Workflows Same thing with different names or not?

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In a post called " Rhino Service Bus: Saga and State" Ayende said
"In a messaging system, a saga orchestrate a set of messages. The main benefit of using a saga is that it allows us to manage the interaction in a stateful manner (easy to think and reason about) while actually working in a distributed and asynchronous environment."

I really don't agree with this definition of a saga. The Saga provides a context for set of messages to allow manging an effort for distributed concensus. It does not "orchestrate" messages (that's what workflows are for) - you can read more on Saga's in an excerpt from my SOA patterns book:  Saga pattern.

Here's the comment I left on Ayende's site:
"What you describe is nice except it isn't a Saga it is more of a workflow. The notion of Saga which is originated from databases relates to the overall coordination of state between the different services - or the context for the whole business process.
In the coffee shop example you use that would be the whole "transaction" from the point the customer orders her coffee until she either gets it or the transaction is canceled (e.g. it took too long and the customer leaves or the coffee shop is out of milk etc.)
Unlike database (or distributed) transaction when/if a saga is aborted the different component of the system might not return to their previous state e.g. if the customer complains that the coffee is not good and gets her money back. the milk is not separated back from the coffee beans and returned to the bottle - rather the coffee cup goes to the trash.

Workflow is one strategy a service can take to handle the long running interaction within a saga. In your case the BristaSaga class (which I think should be BristaWF) orchestrate the internal state transitions depending on the different messages that arrive within the saga. In your case you have a hardcoded workflow - but it is also possible to use a workflow engine for the job.

By the way, in the above example you could also use a statemachine instead of a WF to manage the process "
In another comment Kristofer asked me:

Arnon: I'm not 100% sure of how you distinguish a Saga from a Workflow, could you elaborate some more on this?

A Saga involves a number of underlying workflows?
A Saga might as well contain a number of underlying Sagas?

Isn't it just a question of at what level it is initiated?

If a Saga should represent the whole transaction / business process, then who should handle it? Couldn't it be implemented as a Saga, exactly as Ayende describes it, by the initiating service (in this case the ordering)?, which then also is given the responsibility to handle restoring the total state etc of underlying/involved services if the transaction is aborted? The possibility to restore state does of course depend on what the specific Saga is handling, some processes might not be able to "rollback" completely, it's rather a question of rolling back all involved parties to a known/acceptable state."

The answer is that ,again, Saga is similar to a transaction in the sense that it provides a shared context for an attempt to get a distributed consensus  Unlike a transaction which insures ACID properties. Sagas are not.
The concept of dissipating that shared context, having each party (service) affect whether the saga should be aborted or successful etc. is what I call a saga.
When a saga is aborted the only thing the coordinator can do is pass the status to the participants. Each of the services is responsible to do its best effort to handle the abort (either by rolling back, compensation or whatever)

Workflow is another thing altogether. which keeps a context between calls and means externalizing the decisions on the logic flow from the business logic (usually with a workflow engine). You can use workflows within a service (a pattern I call workflodize) or you can use them externally (a pattern I call orchestrated choreography e.g. BPM)
You can use either form of workflow to support the implementation of a saga but you can also implement sagas without workflows.
In our system we use an "event broker" (see www.rgoarchitects.com/.../EventingInWCF.aspx) the event broker infrastructure dissipates the saga context when you raise a saga event. A service that initialized a saga (by sending the first event) can choose to close the saga (commit) or abort it. etc. We don't currently have any workflow driven services (but some of them use a state machine as an alternative)

(I think the term Saga does not describe Ayende's class since the "barista" is just on of the participants in the saga there are other participants.)

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Published at DZone with permission of Arnon Rotem-gal-oz, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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