I’m long overdue in reporting on BEA’s ALBPM 6.0 release; I heard the details during a technical deep dive session at BEAParticipate, but the information was embargoed at the time (in spite of being presented in front of a room full of customers). This post is a combination of my notes from that time, an interview with Jesper Joergensen at the time of the product release in August, and other bits of information gathered along the way such as Alex Toussaint’s post on ALBPM and ALSB.

Although they did add some end-user and business analyst features, most of the release has focused on improving the technical strength and enterprise scalability — not surprising when you consider that this is the first major release since BEA acquired Fuego in 2006, and some of that time was spent ensuring proper cross-pollination of the BEA and Fuego teams. The 2008 release will refocus on the usability side.

For the 6.0 release, there are some main themes:

Process intelligence:

  • They’re adding  through enhanced business rules capabilities built into ALBPM, allowing for reuse of rules across processes and some BRMS functionality such as versioning of rules independent of process versioning. For those who have outgrown the usual limited capabilities of a BPMS’ expression engine, this provides a good stepping stone before a full-on BRMS is required. I still, however, believe that it’s better to separate them so that business rules can be used by applications other than the BPMS.
  • They’re also adding some smarts to capture analytics on the manual decisions that are made by users in a process in order to provide feedback on the probability of any particular decision, and even trigger exception handling or further review if someone makes a decision that is different than the usual decision at that point. This also helps to identify decisions that can be automated.
  • Improved Flash graphics in the BAM functionality using FusionCharts. BAM will see some major enhancements in the Condor release as well.

Standards support:

  • XPDL 2.0 and BPEL 2.0 are natively supported in the process engine, although no mention of BPDM
  • Enhanced BPMN 1.0 support; the previous version does not do a full BPMN implementation
  • WS-Security for seamless identity propagation.
  • UDDI 3.0 Publishing for processes that are being exposed as web services

BEA integration:

  • WorkSpace extensions for JSF and ALUI. Since I’m not familiar with these products, I’m not sure of all the implications here, but it does provide things such as plug-and-play authentication, and easy deployment of processes within the portal environment.
  • They’re adding RSS feeds to ALBPM to be able to get a feed of a work list or a pre-defined query on process instances — this has huge implications not just for integration with BEA portals, but with any feed reader or other application that can consume feeds, on any platform. I’ve been pushing for this on this blog for over a year now, and finally starting to see it emerging from a couple of the BPM vendors.
  • Integration of ALBPM and ALSB (Service Bus) for enhanced services capabilities such as seamless publication and subscription, and WS-Security support for authentication. Although customers are already using BPM with the service bus, this integration is intended to make it easier; effectively, they plug together so that ALSB acts as a UDDI for ALBPM. And for services consumed by ALBPM from ALSB, they’re using RMI to boost the performance over the usual web services calls.

Usabilty and infrastructure enhancements:

  • Forms creation is improved with a simplified flow, and also have a CSS-based look and feel.
  • They’re moving to an Eclipse platform for the IDE by providing ALBPM plug-ins for Eclipse 3.2: the Designer/Studio will run in Eclipse, and there will be Studio Eclipse plug-ins for BEA Workshop, which provides more seamless integration with other BEA development environments. Like other products that I’ve seen go this route, they’ll have three different personas (including a new  business modelling persona), so that business analysts aren’t stranded in a developer-type environment, but developers have full access to the Eclipse functionality. Their goal was to provide full functionality in the Eclipse-based version so that there’s nothing that needs to be done in the old version; this will definitely help to encourage early migration from the old to new toolsets. By being in an Eclipse environment, that also means that development can be more easily shared with developers who are working in Eclipse but not familiar with ALBPM.
  • Improved web services support, with support for web service Doc Literal, and extended PAPI-WS.
  • Enhanced deployment methods, including simplified J2EE deployment and full JVM 1.5 support.
  • Simulation using historical production data.
  • Mobile device support.

The 2008 release, Condor, will be focused on the following themes:

  • Business and developer tool enhancements, including a web-based modeller (initially limited functionality), and enhancements to BAM.
  • Enhancements to the engine to allow it to be embedded as an OEM process engine.
  • Better integration with BPA tools (IDS Scheer and Proforma were mentioned) to support round-tripping.
  • Additional collaboration and social computing functionality via integration with other BEA tools.

Since this is forward-looking information, none of the Condor functionality listed above is guaranteed to be in the next release.

Overall, BEA is concentrating on three main areas: SOA, BPM and social computing. They’re seeing about 20% crossover between their SOA and BPM clients, and I’m sure that they’ll be pushing to increase those numbers.

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