Chris Adams is back for a somewhat longer session — I think that he zipped through the previous overview session in about 5 minutes to make up time on the schedule — to give us a lot more detail on the V8 product features. Some of this will only be of interest to Ultimus customers, but I find that it gives some good insight into how the product works and the directions that they’re taking.
First, he discussed what’s already in the released 8.x product:
- Flobot connectors are now reusable. “Flobots” are the Ultimus connectors to other systems, with about 10 types available out of the box including web services calls (and I now have a very cool Flobot USB key); previously, you had to reconfigure each connector for every use. For example, for the email connector, you had to set up all parameters for the email connector (ports, authentication, etc.) each place it was used in the process, and change it whenever there was a change to, for example, the recipient. Now, they’ve allows for a reusable connector that has some or all of the parameters predefined to allow that to be more easily used in the process.
- XML data storage replaces the V7 spreadsheet data structure that was previously used (which previously limited each data element to 255 characters, a limit that I sense from the audience was a sore point). My first reaction was “you used to keep your process instance data in a spreadsheet?”; sometimes you only find out about weirdnesses in a product when you hear about their upgrade out of that state.
- A new Ultimus rules engine replaces event conditions, with a graphical representation of the rules. Rules actions can be related to steps in the process, or call .Net code or web services. Previously, the event conditions were kept in the spreadsheet data structure, and you had to reference the spreadsheet cell address rather than a schema variable name within rules. Now, you can add rules to processes directly in-line using the process parameters in the rule definitions.
- Native ActiveDirectory support, so that you can (for example) assign a step to a group that exists in AD. You can still use their org chart functionality to create groups directly in Ultimus.
- Attachments to process instances have been moved off the BPM server, and into SharePoint. You can use another content repository, but they do SharePoint out of the box and feel that it’s the best integrated solution.
Coming up in 8.2 in December:
- BPMN support, although you can still convert back and forth to the Ultimus shapes if you’re more familiar with them. He showed a screenshot that looked pretty rudimentary, but it’s not released yet so I’ll reserve judgement until I see the final version.
- Increased visibility into process incident history, to be able to step through exactly what happened in any particular process instance, including which rules that fired. You can actually playback
- Enhanced development environment by adding Ultimus awareness to Microsoft Visual Studio for a single environment.
- Fully exposed APIs, that is, access to the same APIs that the out of the box system is built on to allow you to build the same functionality into your own custom applications, with any function that you see in a pop-up menu also available through an API.
He showed us some architecture diagrams showing their new open architecture, including the client services for building custom client applications, BI services for custom reporting applications, and Flobots for external connectors.