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12/11/2006
08:55 PM
Bruce Silver
Bruce Silver
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Intalio Boosts Open Source Modeling, BPM

Business process management system vendor Intalio late last month announced the donation of a BPMN modeling tool and a "BPEL4People-based" workflow framework to the open source community. The BPMN modeler is now available under the Eclipse Public License, while the Tempo framework is available under the Apache Software License. Both of these donations are important, but in different ways. Here's why.

Intalio, which calls itself the Open Source BPMS Company, late last month announced the donation of a Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) tool and a Tempo "BPEL4People-based" workflow framework to the open source community. The BPMN modeler, donated to the Eclipse Foundation, is now available under the Eclipse Public License (EPL) and is part of the SOA Tools Platform (STP) project. This follows Intalio's donation of its EMF model comparator to the Eclipse Foundation earlier this year, and complements the PXE BPEL Engine it previously donated to the Apache Software Foundation. The Tempo workflow framework is available under the open source Apache Software License. The project is hosted by SourceForge.Intalio describes Tempo as an implementation of the BPEL4People proposal from IBM and SAP last year, although 15 months later, that proposal, discussed previously at BPMS Watch, is still just a vague "white paper," not a spec.

Both of these donations are important, but in different ways, in my opinion. The modeler is important because it adds to the momentum behind BPMN as a modeling standard that can be shared by business analysts and developers. There are a number of free BPMN diagramming tools, but this one is not only free but open source. That means it works as is, but you are free to modify the source code. So we can expect others to improve it, and other vendors to incorporate it in their own BPM tools.

The developer connection here is key. Let's face it, most business analysts have probably never heard of Eclipse, much less the Eclipse Foundation. But conversely, most developers have not yet made the connection that with BPMN, the model can actually generate the BPEL code. That code generation is not in the open source tool -- it's just a diagramming tool at this point -- but the idea of business-driven process implementation will definitely be advanced. This was the original "Third Wave" idea, and Intalio is vigorously pursuing the open source approach to achieving that goal.

The Tempo donation is potentially more significant because the omission of human workflow from the BPEL 2.0 spec remains a major reason why BPEL models for real business processes are not portable, and one of the reasons why most BPM suite vendors disdain BPEL.

Taking a look, it appears that Tempo implements one of the five configurations (Intalio correctly calls them "constellations") referenced in the IBM-SAP white paper, the one that uses standard BPEL Invoke instead of the proposed new People activity type. That makes sense, since the other four "break" standard BPEL 2.0 engines. Sensible, but IBM and SAP would not call that "compliant." I'm hoping Intalio will get their PR guys to put the Tempo news out in the trade press, given IBM and SAP's lack of urgency on promoting BPEL4People as a standard.

If Tempo implements even part of BPEL4People, it is probably the first offering to do so, open source or not. And if that offering can build any kind of critical mass, it might at least wake up those slackers at OASIS and get them to put a real spec behind it.

The STP BPMN Modeler is available here. Intalio will present training on it at EclipseCon 2007 in Santa Clara in March.

Dr. Bruce Silver is an independent analyst, consultant and author of the BPMSWatch blog. Write him at bruce@brsilver.com.Business process management system vendor Intalio late last month announced the donation of a BPMN modeling tool and a "BPEL4People-based" workflow framework to the open source community. The BPMN modeler is now available under the Eclipse Public License, while the Tempo framework is available under the Apache Software License. Both of these donations are important, but in different ways. Here's why.

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