Workflow and SQL Error: Update

I posted last week about a couple of issues we were experiencing with SharePoint. I made some traction on the Workflow History issue at the end of last week and the revelation was pretty far-reaching, so I’m posting again.

It turns out that the stuff I said about systemupdate was wrong… up to a point.

There is a bug with systemupdate and triggering events, but it’s not the one we thought it was! It turns out that the behaviour we are seeing is correct – systemupdate is supposed to trigger events, just not update things like the modified by and last updated columns. It’s actually the behaviour within a workflow which is at fault, in that events aren’t being triggered when they should be.

I had a chat with our developers about this and they told me that there are plenty of articles on the web suggesting that systemupdate is the way to update an item in a list without triggering events. Don’t do it! I was told by Microsoft that whilst the fault is not high on the list because there is a workaround (which I will list in a moment), it will be fixed. At that point, anybody who is using systemupdate expecting events not to fire will get a shock.

The MSDN documentation for system update is pretty clear:

When you implement the SystemUpdate method, events are triggered and the modifications are reported in the Change and Audit logs, but alerts are not sent and properties are not demoted into documents.

The explanation as to why events don’t fire is:

When you used in other places such as windows/console app, another workflow or webparts, you are not seeing the event trigger the workflow, this is due to the Workflow runs on separate threads from the main thread, so we cannot fire up the workflow and simply quit. Quitting an app before the async worker threads are finished causes those threads to simply abort, and in the case of workflow, nothing will appear to have happened.

And the fix:

Currently, all standalone applications must call spsite.workflowmanager.Dispose(). This call waits for the threads to complete and causes workflow to go into an orderly shutdown.

And the solution to the problem of wanting to not trigger events? Well, it looks like the method I described in my earlier post is the way to go.

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