Astro is a research project in the field of web services and service-oriented applications, with a focus on the integration of business processes that are distributed among the most disparate entities, both within an organization (e.g., different departments) and across organizational borders (e.g. consumers interacting with different businesses or government departments providing complementary services).

Astro addresses one of the major challenges for industry-wide adoption of Web services: the automated composition of distributed business processes, i.e. the development of technology, methods and tools that support an effective, flexible, reliable, easy-to-use, low-cost, and time-efficient composition of electronic distributed business processes.

The goal of astro is to develop tools supporting the evolution and adaptation of distributed business processes during their lifecycle, from design to run-time, i.e., automated tools that support the specification and design of services and enable the composition of distributed business processes.

The idea is that such tools should provide an automated, transparent, and user centered support to the entire business process lifecycle, from analysis to execution. They should automatically perform the time consuming and error prone task of analyzing business processes in detail, discovering and selecting suitable external services, detecting problems in the interactions, searching for possible alternative solutions, monitoring execution step by step, and so on. They should operate in a transparent and user centered way by suggesting solutions that can be adopted, refused, or refined by business analysts, designers, and programmers.

Astro aims at supporting both the design time, i.e., on the off-line phase of the definition and specification of business processes, and the run time, i.e., the execution of a business process, e.g., by monitoring processes against business requirements, which become a key element of the run-time environment. As a consequence, an operational business system can be seen as the (executable) union of a business process with its business requirements, rather than the output of a coding phase following analysis and design. We envision an environment for business process modeling and execution where the distinction between ''design time'' and ''run-time'' is blurred. In this environment, the designer can defer to the run-time decisions on how to carry out a given process or on how to achieve a goal; conversely, the run-time environment can detect failures in achieving goals, for instance due to unforeseen changes in the business domain, and can trigger a redesign phase. The astro development framework is therefore based on design environment, where the human driven re-design and the supporting automated techniques concur to the achievement of the strategic goals in a service oriented world.