Workflows and the SharePoint services required to run them

Document created by Champion on May 7, 2014Last modified by pamela.denchfield on Jan 23, 2015
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This article applies to the following versions of Nintex Workflow:

  • Nintex Workflow 2013 and earlier
  • Nintex Workflow 2010 and earlier


The following SharePoint services are required to run a workflow on a Web Front End (WFE) server in a SharePoint farm:

  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application
  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Workflow Timer Service


Problems can arise if only one service is running. For example, let's say that the SharePoint farm includes two Web Front End (WFE) servers and one application server. The WFE servers are running both services, but the application server is running only the Workflow Timer service. (Application servers typically don't run the Web Application role as doing so would classify the server as a WFE server.)


As declarative workflows run by the SharePoint workflow engine (and hence the Windows Workflow Foundation), Nintex workflows are governed by the functionality of the SharePoint workflow engine. Under normal operations, a workflow is first executed in the World Wide Web Publishing Service (w3wp.exe). After a delay or pause, in which the workflow "sleeps," it wakes up and is then run by the SharePoint Timer Service (the owstimer.exe process).


When w3wp.exe is under excessive load, it postpones the workflow. The Timer Service is then used to the continue the process. SharePoint dictates which Workflow Timer service will run the workflow; the operation can occur on any server running the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Workflow Timer Service" service. However, when Nintex Workflow is installed, it only deploys the DLLs required to run workflows to WFE servers--specifically, those servers running the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application" service.


Errors occur if the Workflow Timer Service attempts to run a workflow on a server that is not running the “Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application” service. For example, SharePoint may select the Workflow Timer service on the application server.


To fix this issue, either start the “Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application” service on the application server or stop the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Workflow Timer Service" service. We recommend stopping the Workflow Timer service for that server so that you don’t force the application server to become a WFE server.


To start or stop services on a server
  1. On the Central Administration Home page, in the System Settings section, click Manage services on server.
  2. If needed, select the server.
  3. On the Services on Server page, click Start or Stop for the desired services.


PLEASE NOTE: If Nintex LazyApproval is permitted for your SharePoint farm, the nintexworkflow2010.wsp solution package must also be deployed to machines in the farm that run the Central Administration Service. This solution deployment ensures that the server has the required Nintex DLLs.