Modeling and analyzing the impact of authorization on workflow executions

Ligang He*, Chenlin Huang, Kewei Duan, Kenli Li, Hao Chen, Jianhua Sun, Stephen A. Jarvis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


It has been a subject of a significant amount of research to automate the execution of workflows (or business processes) on computer resources. However, many workflow scenarios still require human involvement, which introduces additional security and authorization concerns. This paper presents a novel mechanism for modeling the execution of workflows with human involvement under Role-based Authorization Control. Our modeling approach applies Colored Timed Petri-Nets to allow various authorization constraints to be modeled, including role, temporal, cardinality, BoD (Binding of Duty), SoD (Separation of Duty), role hierarchy constraints etc. We also model the execution of tasks with different levels of human involvement and as such allow the interactions between workflow authorization and workflow execution to be captured. The modeling mechanism is developed in such a way that the construction of the authorization model for a workflow can be automated. This feature is very helpful for modeling large collections of authorization policies and/or complex workflows. A Petri-net toolkit, the CPN Tools, is utilized in the development of the modeling mechanism and to simulate the constructed models. This paper also presents the methods to analyze and calculate the authorization overhead as well as the performance data in terms of various metrics through the model simulations. Based on the simulation results, this paper further proposes the approaches to improving performance given the deployed authorization policies. This work can be used for investigating the impact of authorization, for capacity planning, for the design of workload management strategies, and also to estimate execution performance, when human resources and authorization policies are employed in tandem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1193
Number of pages17
JournalFuture Generation Computer Systems
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the Leverhulme Trust (grant number RPG-101 ), the National High-tech R&D Program of China (863 Program, Grant No. 2011AA01A203 ), the Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 61133005 ), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers: 61173166 and 60803130 ).


  • Authorization
  • Modeling
  • RBAC
  • Workflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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