WebSphere BPM Analyst Briefing

The second of the analyst roundtables that I attended was with Angel Diaz, VP of BPM, and Rod Favaron, who used to head up Lombardi and is now part of the WebSphere team. My biggest question for them was what’s happening (if anything) with some consolidation of the BPM portfolio; after much gnashing of teeth and avoiding of the subject, my interpretation of their answer is that there will be no consolidation, but that customers will just buy it all.

IBM has a list of 10 questions that they use with their customers to determine which BPM product(s) that they need; my guess is that most customers will somehow end up requiring several products, even if the case could have been made in the past that a single one would do. Angel and Rod talked about the overlap between the products, highlighting that WPS and Lombardi have been targeted at very different applications; although that has been true in the past, the new functionality that we’re seeing in WPS for human-centric processes is creating a much greater overlap, although I would guess that Lombardi is far superior (and will remain so for some time) for that functionality, just as WPS provides greater scalability for pure orchestration processes. There’s also overlap in the modeling side between the free BlueWorks site and the on-demand Blueprint: both offer some discovery and mapping of processes, and as more functionality is added to BlueWorks, it may be difficult to justify the move to a paid service if the customer needs are minimal.

They were more comfortable talking about what was being done in order to move Lombardi fully into the WebSphere family: a single install for Lombardi and WAS; leveraging WebSphere infrastructure such as ESB; and the integration of other IBM rules, content and analytic products to provide an alternative to the previously existing third-party product interfaces used in Lombardi TeamWorks. They also discussed how the small Lombardi sales team has been integrated into the 800-strong WebSphere sales team, and used to train that team on how to position and sell the Lombardi products.

We had a very enjoyable session: I like both Rod and Angel, and they were pretty relaxed (except for the points when I asked if they considered FileNet to be their competitor, and mentioned that Blueprint should be Lotus rather than WebSphere), even having a competition where whichever of them said “TeamWorks” (instead of IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition) had to throw a dollar into the pot, presumably for the beer fund. At the end of it, however, I was left with the thought – and hope – that this story will continue to evolve, and that we’ll see something a bit more consolidated, and a bit more cohesive, out of the WebSphere BPM team.

WebSphere Business Performance and Service Optimization

I sat in on a roundtable with Doug Hunt, VP of Business Performance and Service Optimization (which appears to be a fancy name for industry accelerators) and Alan Godfrey of Lombardi. Basically, BP&SO is a team within the software group (as opposed to services) that works with GBS (the services part of IBM) to build out industry vertical accelerators based on actual customer experience. In other words, these are licensed software packs that would typically be bundled with services. A BP&SO center of excellence within GBS has been launched in order to link the efforts between the two areas.

I heard a bit about the accelerators in the BPM portfolio update this morning; they’re focused on making implementation faster by providing a set of templates, adapters, event interfaces and content for a specific industry process, which can then be built out into a complete solutions by GBS or a partner. In particular, the accelerators look at how collaboration, monitoring, analytics, rules and content can be used specifically in the context of the vertical use case. They’re not really focused on the execution layer, since that tends to be where the ISVs play, but rather more prescriptive, such as the control layer for real-time monitoring across multiple business silos.

Interestingly, Hunt describe the recently-revealed advanced case management (ACM) as a use case around which an accelerator could be developed; I’m not sure that everyone would agree with this characterization, although it may be technically closer to the truth than trying to pass off the ACM “strategy” as a product.

This trend for vertical accelerators has been around in the BPM market for a while with many other vendors, and the large analysts typically look at this as a measure of the BPMS vendor’s maturity in BPM. The WebSphere accelerators are less than a packaged application, but more than a sales tool; maybe not much more, since they were described as being suitable for an “advanced conference room pilot”. In any case, they’re being driven in part by the customers’ need to be more agile than is permitted with a structured packaged application. There’s no doubt that some highly regulated processes, such as in healthcare, may still be more suited for a packaged application, but the more flexible accelerators widen the market beyond that of the packaged applications.

WebSphere BPM Analyst Update

There was a lunchtime update for the analysts on all the new WebSphere offerings; this was, in part, a higher-level (and more business oriented) view of what I saw in the technical update session earlier.

We also saw a demo of using Cast Iron (which was just acquired by IBM this morning) to integrate an on-premise SAP system with Salesforce.com; this sort of integration across the firewall is essential if cloud platforms are going to be used effectively, since most large enterprises will have a blend of cloud and on-premise.

There’s a ton of great traffic going on at #ibmimpact on Twitter and the IBM Impact social site, and you can catch the keynotes and press conference on streaming video. Maybe a bit too much traffic, since the wifi is a bit of a disaster.

WebSphere BPM Product Portfolio Technical Update

The keynotes sessions this morning were typical “big conference”: too much loud music, comedians and irrelevant speakers for my taste, although the brief addresses by Steve Mills and Craig Hayman as well as this morning’s press release showed that process is definitely high on IBM’s mind. The breakout session that I attended following that, however, contained more of the specifics about what’s happening with IBM WebSphere BPM. This is a portfolio of products – in some cases, not yet really integrated – including Process Server and Lombardi.

Some of the new features:

  • A whole bunch of infrastructure stuff such as clustering for simple/POC environments
  • WS CloudBurst Appliance supports Process Server Hypervisor Edition for fast, repeatable deployments
  • Database configuration tools to help simplify creation and configuration of databases, rather than requiring back and forth with a DBA as was required with previous version
  • Business Space has some enhancements, and is being positioned as the “Web 2.0 interface into BPM” (a message that they should probably pass on to GBS)
  • A number of new and updated widgets for Business Space and Lotus Mashups
  • UI integration between Business Space and WS Portal
  • Webform Server removes the need for a client form viewer on each desktop in order to interact with Lotus Forms – this is huge in cases where forms are used as a UI for BPM participant tasks
  • Version migration tools
  • BPMN 2.0 support, using different levels/subclasses of the language in different tools
  • Enhancements to WS Business Modeler (including the BPMN 2.0 support), including team support, and new constructs including case and compensation
  • Parallel routing tasks in WPS (amazing that they existed this long without that, but an artifact of the BPEL base)
  • Improved monitoring support in WS Business Monitor for ad hoc human tasks.
  • Work baskets for human workflow in WPS, allowing for runtime reallocation of tasks – I’m definitely interested in more details on this
  • The ability to add business categories to tasks in WPS to allow for easier searching and sorting of human tasks; these can be assigned at design time or runtime
  • Instance migration to move long-running process instances to a new process schema
  • A lot of technical implementation enhancements, such as new WESB primitives and improvements to the developer environment, that likely meant a lot to the WebSphere experts in the room (which I’m not)
  • Allowing Business Monitor to better monitor BPEL processes
  • Industry accelerators (previously known as industry content packs) that include capability models, process flows, service interfaces, business vocabulary, data models, dashboards and solution templates – note that these are across seven different products, not some sort of all-in-one solution
  • WAS and BPM performance enhancements enabling scalability
  • WS Lombardi Edition: not sure what’s really new here except for the bluewashing

I’m still fighting with the attendee site to get a copy of the presentation, so I’m sure that I’ve missed things here, but I have some roundtable and one-on-one sessions later today and tomorrow that should clarify things further. Looking at the breakout sessions for the rest of the day, I’m definitely going to have to clone myself in order to attend everything that looks interesting.

In terms of the WPS enhancements, many of the things that we saw in this session seem to be starting to bring WebSphere BPM level with other full BPM suites: it’s definitely expanding beyond being just a BPEL-based orchestration tool to include full support for human tasks and long-running processes. The question lurking in my mind, of course, is what happens to FileNet P8 BPM and WS Lombardi (formerly TeamWorks) as mainstream BPM engines if WPS can do it all in the future? Given that my recommendation at the time of the FileNet acquisition was to rip out BPM and move it over to the WebSphere portfolio, and the spirited response that I had recently to a post about customers not wanting 3 BPMSs, I definitely believe that more BPM product consolidation is required in this portfolio.