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BMC Bioinformatics. 2014;15 Suppl 1:S12. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-15-S1-S12. Epub 2014 Jan 10.

Distilling structure in Taverna scientific workflows: a refactoring approach.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Scientific workflows management systems are increasingly used to specify and manage bioinformatics experiments. Their programming model appeals to bioinformaticians, who can use them to easily specify complex data processing pipelines. Such a model is underpinned by a graph structure, where nodes represent bioinformatics tasks and links represent the dataflow. The complexity of such graph structures is increasing over time, with possible impacts on scientific workflows reuse. In this work, we propose effective methods for workflow design, with a focus on the Taverna model. We argue that one of the contributing factors for the difficulties in reuse is the presence of "anti-patterns", a term broadly used in program design, to indicate the use of idiomatic forms that lead to over-complicated design. The main contribution of this work is a method for automatically detecting such anti-patterns, and replacing them with different patterns which result in a reduction in the workflow's overall structural complexity. Rewriting workflows in this way will be beneficial both in terms of user experience (easier design and maintenance), and in terms of operational efficiency (easier to manage, and sometimes to exploit the latent parallelism amongst the tasks).

RESULTS:

We have conducted a thorough study of the workflows structures available in Taverna, with the aim of finding out workflow fragments whose structure could be made simpler without altering the workflow semantics. We provide four contributions. Firstly, we identify a set of anti-patterns that contribute to the structural workflow complexity. Secondly, we design a series of refactoring transformations to replace each anti-pattern by a new semantically-equivalent pattern with less redundancy and simplified structure. Thirdly, we introduce a distilling algorithm that takes in a workflow and produces a distilled semantically-equivalent workflow. Lastly, we provide an implementation of our refactoring approach that we evaluate on both the public Taverna workflows and on a private collection of workflows from the BioVel project.

CONCLUSION:

We have designed and implemented an approach to improving workflow structure by way of rewriting preserving workflow semantics. Future work includes considering our refactoring approach during the phase of workflow design and proposing guidelines for designing distilled workflows.

PMID:
24564760
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC4016501
Free PMC Article
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