TUCON: BPM Product Update

Roger King and Justin Brunt of TIBCO gave us an update of what’s happened lately with their BPM product, and what’s coming up.

In the past year, Business Studio has added a lot of new features:

  • Support for BPMN 1.0 and XPDL 2.0
  • In-line service binding and mapping, through direct connections to Business Works, web services, Java, databases, email and scripts
  • Direct deployment to the iProcess engine
  • Management of models using any source control system that supports Eclipse, or using their packaged Subversion option
  • Visual Forms Editor for creating forms directly in Business Studio using platform-independent models at design time and platform-specific models for run time: General Interface now, and other platforms to follow. Forms can be created from a step definition with a default layout based on the exposed parameters, then the forms editor can be used to add other UI widgets.
  • In-line subprocesses and a number of other modeling niceties.

The iProcess Workspace (end-user browser client) has been simplified and updated using an Outlook visual paradigm, based on General Interface. This is supported on IE 6 and 7 (no mention of Firefox). It’s also possible to use GI Builder to create your own BPM client, since the components are provided for easy inclusion, allowing iProcess functionality to be embedded into web pages or as portlets, with no knowledge of the iProcess APIs.

The iProcess Suite has a number of other improvements, including generic data plugins and direct deployment from Business Studio, plus support for 64-bit Windows and SUSE Linux. There’s also been repackaging and installation improvements. As we heard this morning, there’s also event-driven real-time worklist management, where a user can be alerted when something in a queue changes rather than having to poll it manually. There’s also updated LDAP authentication.

iProcess also has a new version of its web services plugin providing improved inbound and outbound web services security (at the transport layer with SSL and digital signatures and at the message layer through signatures, encryption and tokens), plus enhanced authentication.

The big thing in my mind is that Business Studio 3.0 now contains all key iProcess Modeler features so that it’s no longer necessary to use iProcess Modeler as an intermediate step in moving processes from Business Studio to the iProcess execution engine: Business Studio is the new BPM IDE. At TUCON last year, I said that this definitely needed to happen, and I’m very happy to see that it has since it represents a significant advance into full model-driven development for TIBCO’s BPM.

Their vision for BPM going forward is that the complexity of process models can be pushed down into the infrastructure, and free the business process modeling/design tools from the technical details that have made process modeling into a technical rather than business role over the past years. This will allow business people to do what the BPM vendors have always told us that they could do: design executable process models without having to be a technical expert. King feels that the key to this is service and data virtualization, since data is BPM’s "dirty secret": synchronization of data within a business process with other systems is one of the key drivers for having a technical person do the process models instead of a business person. Virtualizing the location, ownership, form and transport of the data means that you don’t need to worry about a business analyst doing something inappropriate with data in the course of process modeling.

The idea is that BPM suites will become model-driven composite application development and deployment platforms (wait! isn’t that what they’re supposed to be already?), with more latitude for business sandboxes and mashups for prototyping and building situational applications.

They’re working on breaking off the front end of the process engine to allow the creation of a single enterprise "work cloud" that can be used for any source of information or work coming at someone: sort of like event processing, but at a higher semantic level.

In addition to all the event-driven goodies, they’re also focused on covering the entire domain of process patterns (as in the full academic set of process patterns), so that any process could be modeled and executed using TIBCO’s BPM. We’ll also see some enhanced resource and organizational modeling, plus scheduling, capability requirements, SLAs and more models corresponding to real-world work.