IBM FileNet BPM Product Update

All this news this week about Case Manager, my old friend BPM seems like it’s been left on the sidelines, although partially hidden within the new Case Manager offering. However, we have one session by Mike Fannon, BPM product manager, giving us the update on what’s happening with BPM.

The first thing is new OS platform support for Linux and zLinux; although this is important for many customers who have standardized on Linux – or want to integrate BPM with CM8 on their mainframes – you can imagine this is not the most exciting announcement to me. Yes, I have customers who will love this. Now move on. 🙂

Next is the port of the Process Engine to a standalone Java app (not J2EE), from its original C++ beginnings. Although this seems on the surface to be not a lot more exciting than the Linux support, this is pretty significant, and not just for the performance boost that they’re seeing. This means improvements to the complexity of the APIs and database interfaces, better standardization, and also brings PE in line architecturally with the Content Engine and even allows PE and CE to share the same database. In the future, they’re considering moving it to a J2EE container, which provides a lot more flexibility for things like server farming.

They’re also supporting multi-tenancy, allowing multiple PEs to run on the same virtual server with separate application environment, user space, backup and restore for each tenant. These PE Stores (analogous to CE Object Stores) seem to be replacing the old isolated regions paradigm, and there are procedures for moving isolated regions to separate PE Stores. If you’re an old BPM hack, then all your old VW-prefixed admin commands will be replaced as the vestiges of Visual WorkFlo are finally purged. As the owner of a small systems integration firm, I designed and wrote one of the first VW apps back in 1994, so this does bring a small tear to my eye, although this has obviously being too long coming.

From an upgrade standpoint, there are supported upgrade paths (some staged, some direct) from eProcess 5.2 (can’t believe that’s still out there) as well as BPM 3.53 and later, including migration tools for in-flight process instances. There are changes to the data model of the underlying database tables, so if you’ve built any applications such as advanced analytics that directly hit the operational database, you’re going to have some refactoring to do.

Process Analyzer has been extended to add capabilities for Case Manager, such as aggregation based on case properties. In addition to using Excel pivot tables, which has always been done in the past for PA, you can use Cognos BI instead. Of course, since PA is based on a set of cubes in a MS SQL Server/MS Analysis Services engine that is trickle-fed from the PE database, this has always been possible, but I assume that it’s just better integrated now. Unsurprisingly, they to have a direction to eliminate Microsoft technology dependencies, so at some point in the future, I expect that you’ll see PA data store ported off the SQL Server/Analysis Services platform. The Process Monitor dashboard has also been updated to handle Case Manager data, and better integrated with Cognos.

There were a number of enhancements to the ECM Widgets in March and June, such as support for Business Space instead of the Mashup Center, and some new widgets for process history and get next work item (finally). It looks like they’re building out the widget functionality to the point where it’s actually usable for real applications; without the get next work item, you couldn’t use it to build any sort of heads-down processing functionality.

There are really few functionality improvements to BPM; most of this is refactoring and platform porting. I think that a lot of the BPM creative juices are going towards Case Manager, and if you look at the direction of the 100% Java PE port and ability to share databases with CE, it’s possible that we’ll see some sort of merging of ECM, BPM and Case Manager into a single engine in the future. IBM, of course, did not say that.

3 thoughts on “IBM FileNet BPM Product Update”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Since IBM never talks about anything until it is either released or very nearly so, I had the impression that this is a 2010 release. I’ll ping the product manager and ask him to comment.

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