Oracle this week announced Business Process Management Suite 11g, a unified offering said to consolidate, integrate and extend a collection of BPM technologies gained through multiple acquisitions. A component of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, the suite is an important enabler of business control over end-to-end processes, be they focused on system-to-system integration, content workflows or human-aided work steps and exception handling.
BPM suites are designed to give business managers, business analysts and non-technical users an environment for designing, monitoring, simulating and controlling processes without help from IT. These controls also give the business side flexibility to quickly change processes as conditions change -- again, without requiring months-long IT projects. The category was pioneered largely by pure-play vendors. But in recent years, mega vendors including Oracle, IBM and SAP have acquired or developed most if not all of the components of modern BPM suites.
Oracle BPM Suite 11g is said to consolidate and extend technologies obtained through the acquisitions of Collaxa, BEA Systems and BEA's acquisition of pure-play vendor Fuego. The result is described as a comprehensive and unified suite that can handle any style of process.
"All types of processes are supported within a single product, single process engine and single run-time environment," said David Shaffer, vice president of product management for Oracle Fusion Middleware Solutions. "Until now, people would choose completely different product if they're doing processes around documents versus processes around people versus processes around systems."
Core components include Process Composer, a Web-based tool in which users model and deploy process components and services. Enterprise Monitor scrutinizes and provides data on process performance. Process Spaces are collaborative environments wherein users gain role-based access to their processes, worklists, activities and related performance metrics.
Oracle executives are eager to compare their new suite with the less-integrated portfolio now offered by IBM, which includes systems-integration-centric WebSphere technologies, content-centric BPM acquired from FileNet, and the recently acquired Lombardi suite, which is aimed, roughly, at human-centric processes. Some analysts have praised Oracle's consolidation efforts while criticizing overlaps in IBM's portfiolio. Other vendors combining SOA infrastructure, integration middleware and BPM include TIBCO, which acquired Staffware way back in 2004. Software AG acquired WebMethods in 2007 and process modeling pioneer IDS Scheer in 2009. Progress Software acquired Savvion in 2009.
Competition will be a factor, but adoption of Oracle BPM Suite 11g will likely have more to do with the success of Oracle Fusion Middleware and yet-to-be-released Fusion Applications. The same dependency exists between SAP NetWeaver BPM, introduced in 2009, and SAP applications. As has been said of that product, it doesn't have to be the best BPM suite; it just has to be the best option for extending processes around SAP applications. Similarly, if Oracle BPM Suite 11g is the best process-management option for the thousands of companies likely to upgrade legacy Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards applications, then the product is sure to be a success.