Tag Archives: tucon

TIBCO BPM Now and Future: iProcess, Meet ActiveMatrix BPM

The session that I’ve been waiting all day for is with Roger King, who runs BPM product management and strategy for TIBCO, where he discussed the new ActiveMatrix BPM and TIBCOSilver BPM offerings for on-premise and cloud deployments. They’ve been working on this for a couple of years, and obviously keen to get it out of the gate. As I tweeted earlier after taking a look at ActiveMatrix BPM in the solutions showcase, this isn’t a complementary product to iProcess: it’s the successor to iProcess, in spite of what was said about this yesterday. Have no doubt: AMX BPM is not an upgrade to iProcess, it’s a new product, based on a new technical architecture, and already (at version 1) provides more functionality than iProcess.

With both AMX BPM and Silver BPM, Business Studio is used for modeling the process; ActiveMatrix versus Silver is just a deployment choice at the time of deployment, which means that you can deploy the exact process to an on-premise ActiveMatrix application server or to the cloud. In fact, if you’re modeling your iProcess processes now in Business Studio, rather than in the iProcess Modeler, you can deploy those directly to AMX or Silver, too. What’s changed from iProcess is that they’ve bundled much more into the BPM bundle: it’s a full composite application development and deployment plaform, including forms-based user interface, rules and SOA capabilities, so that all of the process-related artifacts can be modeled in a single environment. Their previous focus on support for process patterns is now extended to include resource, business and data patterns, too, and there’s more work management and workforce optimization functionality. Their tag line: “Business Friendly, Enterprise Strength”.

This model-driven development is based on five types of models: process (which we’re used to in BPM), form, data, organizational and client application. In order to do this, they reused some pieces that will be familiar for iProcess customers, but some new stuff too:

  • BusinessStudio for modeling, extended for new functionality
  • New OSGi-based deployment model, where an application package (process, rules, services, etc.) is deployed rather than just a process
  • New container-based grid platform
  • New runtime, which is an ActiveMatrix application
  • Workspace, similar to that used by iProcess, but extended
  • New Openspace gadget-based client, including interfaces for mobile devices

The architecture starts with the OSGi runtime with the ActiveMatrix service platform as the basic platform, with the ActiveMatrix BPM SCA composite application as the BPM platform running on that platform, including Process Manager, Openspace, Event Collector, Work Manager and Workspace components. Everything used by the AMX BPM components are visible to other applications, meaning that it can be easily embedded or integrated with other AMX BPM applications.

Both business analysts and process developers create executable process models with the other supporting models and forms user interfaces, while the SOA developer creates process-based services, all within the AMX BPM environment. Work is managed and executed by various level of workers, using organizational models that can be extracted from LDAP. Users may access work using Workspace (the same interface as is used for iProcess), Openspace (a mashup-type interface) or Mobilespace (the mobile version of Openspace, currently available for iPhone), or through a custom interface. Performance data is visible for different levels of monitors, again through standard dashboards or custom interfaces.

One of the interesting things that can be done is modeling of page flows: since AMX BPM allows for both user interface and process to be modeled, there are some parts of the flow that aren’t run in the process engine, but are executed in the web tier as a series of pages/views linked by rules and services, presented to the same user during a single session with the state information maintained during the flow; this provides smart capabilities to an otherwise simple forms user interface, without having to round-trip to the process engine for some basic decisioning and screen flows. It also allows for a more seamless interface in the modeler: a page flow model is shown almost as if it were an expanded subprocess from a task in the main process model, so that you can view the whole process – that which runs on the process engine as well as in the web tier – in a common environment. This reminds me somewhat of the screen flow capabilities that are starting to emerge as part of web application platforms such as Salesforce and NetSuite, although in the context of a larger process rather than in the context of a packaged application.

I also like data modeling capabilities in their business object models: you can interrogate an existing database directly in order to derive the data model for your process instance data, which saves a lot of redefinition (and the errors that can be introduced) of the data model as part of the process model. You can also import the data model from UML and other formats. Eventually, this needs to be able to integrate with enterprise MDM initiatives, but this is a good start.

The forms-based UI designer has some nice features as well, being able to automatically generate master-detail forms with grids for detail records based on joins in the data model. Although it’s not a really complex forms designer, it does allow styling with a style sheet, and I expect to see some improvements here as they figure out what their customers really want. They can separate presentation from page flow, and some companies may decide to use the AMX BPM page flow but do their own presentation screens.

They’ve moved away from the concept of queues that supported iProcess to dynamic work lists that are generated on the fly; this makes sense given the advances in dynamic data access. In general, creating a new BPM product from the ground up today not only makes their 20-year-old iProcess architecture look dated, but also the 10-year-old generation of products from other vendors that started the current BPM revolution in the early 2000’s.

Tons of interesting stuff here, more than I can absorb on the fly for a live blogging post, but I’ll nail down a full briefing in the next couple of weeks.

AMX BPM shares common components with the AMX SOA product line, but does not include AMX Service Grid (which includes more containers) or AMX Service Bus – if you’re a TIBCO customer (or planning to become one), these are details that you’ll want to work out in terms of licensing to make sure that you have all the right pieces, and aren’t paying for things that you’re not using. If you’re an iProcess customer, then don’t look for AMX BPM as part of your upgrade maintenance: it’s not an upgrade, it’s a new product. iProcess is not being end-of-lifed; it will be maintained and have minor enhancements for some time to come, but I don’t get the idea that you’re going to see a lot happening here since King stated that the major BPM investment for them will be in AMX BPM. If you have one of the other BPM products, such as InConcert, you may want to start saying your prayers now (although there has been no EOL notice as yet). In any case, at some point you’re going to want to consider a migration path off these older platforms for processes that you want to continuously improve, since they are not going to see any significant upgrades in the future, even though the official line is that iProcess “is not going away for a long, long time”.

The current plan is to provide for coexistence of iProcess and AMX BPM in Workspace so that users can pull work from either system without having to worry about which one it is on. And, although you could take an iProcess model in Business Studio and deploy it in AMX BPM, you’d probably want to take advantage of much more of the new functionality, such as the forms-based user interface designer, which means essentially rewriting everything except the process model. Although there is some service composition capability in AMX BPM, you’re probably going to leave most of the service composition heavy lifting in BusinessWorks, since AMX BPM really is geared towards turning processes into services, not general composition.

Interestingly, when I saw a quick demo at the booth earlier today, I detected essence of BPEL in the process model (such as catch and throw events); King confirmed that at the composition level, this is heavily extended BPEL.

Essentially, AMX BPM provides BPM on an SOA platform, but without the BPM designers having to worry about the SOA parts. From that standpoint, the BPM functionality competes well with the pure play BPM suites, but it provides a great deal more flexibility in dealing with services than you’ll see from the pure plays. They see their competition as the other stack vendors, IBM and Oracle, but with the lack of innovation and cohesion in both of those vendors’ BPM offerings, TIBCO seems to come out ahead in BPM functionality. Seems like the best of both worlds.

TIBCO Product Stack and New Releases

We’re overtime on the general session, 2.75 hours without a break, and Matt Quinn is up to talk about the TIBCO product stack and some of the recent releases as well as upcoming releases:

  • Spotfire 3.1
  • BusinessEvents 4.0, with an improved Eclipse-based development environment including a rule debugger, and a multi-threaded engine
  • BEViews (BusinessEvents Views) for creating real-time customizable dashboards for monitoring the high-speed events (as opposed to Spotfire, which can include data from a much broader context)
  • ActiveSpaces Suite for in-memory processing, grid computing and events, with the new AS Transactions and AS Patterns components
  • Silver Suite for cloud deployment, including Fabric, Grid and CAP (Composite Application Platform)
  • PeopleForms, which I saw a brief view of yesterday: a lightweight, forms-based application development environment
  • tibbr, their social microblogging platform; I think that they’re pushing too much of the social aspect here, when I think that their sweet spot is in being able to “follow” and receive messages/events from devices rather than people
  • Silver Analytics
  • ActiveMatrix 3.0, which is an expansion of the lightweight application development platform to make this more of an enterprise-ready
  • ActiveMatrix BPM, which he called “the next generation of BPM within TIBCO” – I’ll have more on this after an in-depth briefing
  • Silver BPM, the cloud-deployable version of BPM
  • Design Collaborator, which is a web-based design discovery tool that will be available in 2011: this appears to be their version of an online process discovery tool, although with more of a services focus than just processes; seems late to be introducing this functionality to the market

I heard much of this yesterday from Tom Laffey during the analyst session, but this was a good refresher since it’s a pretty big set of updates.

TIBCO: Now FTL!

We had a brief comment from Tom Laffey in the general session about TIBCO’s new ultra low latency messaging platform to be released by year end, which breaks the microsecond barrier. They’re calling it FTL, which makes my inner (or not so inner) geek giggle with happiness: for sci-fi fans, that’s the acronym for “Faster Than Light” spaceship drives. I love it when technology companies tip a nod to the geeks who use and write about their products, while remaining on topic.

It’s also new (for TIBCO) since it provides content-based routing and structured data support, which are, apparently, just as important as a cool name.

Deutsche Bank’s Wolfgang Gaertner at TUCON

The third keynote speaker this morning was Wolfgang Gaertner, CIO of Deutsche Bank: we’ve moved from international crime-fighting to the somewhat more mundane – but every bit as international and essential – world of banking. Their biggest challenge over the past few years has been to reduce the paper flow that was slowing the communication between their processing centers, reduce processing time, and improve customer service levels: all of which they have achieved. They’ve used TIBCO to integrate their multiple legacy systems, especially those from mergers and acquisitions such as they had with Berliner Bank, where they wanted to maintain the customer brand but integrate the back-end systems to allow for greater efficiency and governance.

They’re using BPM to manage some of the processes, such as special account opening and exception handling, and are finding that the new technology drives new opportunities: as other areas in the bank see what can be done with integration and BPM, they want to have that for their applications as well. They’re also planning to rip out their core legacy systems and replace them with SAP, and use TIBCO for integration and workflow: TIBCO is a big enabler here, since Deutsche Bank now has sufficient experience with TIBCO products to understand how it can be used to help with this technology transformation.

INTERPOL at TUCON

The special guest speaker at this morning’s keynote was Ronald Noble, Secretary General of INTERPOL, speaking about why speed matters in law enforcement, and using technology to stay a step ahead of the criminals.

He engaged the crowd with very funny and completely deadpan humor, but addressed the very serious topic of how the expedient exchange of information between different countries is a crucial part of law enforcement on an international scale: the two second advantage can mean that an immigration agent has the full background of the person that they’re screening in near real-time, from both local and international databases. I’m not a huge fan of much of the “security theater” that happens in the name of airport security, but having this type of information can make a real difference in terms of identifying people traveling on lost and stolen passports, or tracking the international movements of suspected criminals. How that information is used, however, is where human rights violations can occur (a subject that Noble doesn’t address), since suspicion is not the same as conviction, and not all countries treat those suspected of a crime in a humane manner.

This is one of those areas where technology has moral implications, and the impact of using every bit of data about someone in order to make decisions can be a slippery slope in some cases.

Vivek Ranadivé Opening Keynote at TUCON

We’re done with the analyst day (although I swear that my handler had me RFID-chipped, since she found me with no problem in the large auditorium at the keynote this morning 😉 ), and on to the general conference.

TIBCO skipped their user conference last year, as did many other technology companies, and there are some significant product announcements that they’ve been saving up for us. We started out with Vivek Ranadivé giving us a longer version of the address that he gave to the analysts yesterday, with TIBCO’s vision of what they can do for customers in an event-driven world. Although many of us are making fun of them for referring to this as “Enterprise 3.0”, and stating that “Enterprise 2.0” is the client-server era from the 80’s to today (which is not the generally accepted definition of Enterprise 2.0), the message is about the “Two Second Advantage”: being able to make decisions faster in order to serve customers better.

By having everything as an event on the bus, and analyzing it with in-memory analytics, companies can take advantage of opportunities that they would otherwise miss if they didn’t have a view into not just the event, but what those events mean in the context of their business.

TIBCO Products Update

Tom Laffey, EVP of Products and Technology, gave us an update at the analyst session yesterday on their new product releases (embargoed until today), but started with an interesting timeline of the their acquisitions. Unlike some companies, who make acquisitions just to remove a competitor from the market, TIBCO appears to have made some thoughtful buys over the years in order to build out a portfolio of infrastructure products. More than just being a Wall Street messaging company with Rendezvous, they have a full stack of mission-critical event processing, messaging, process management, analytics and more that puts them squarely in competition with the big players. Their competition differs for the different product segments: IBM is their biggest competitor, but others including Oracle, some small players and even open source in some cases. They offer fully-responsive 7×24 support through a series of worldwide support centers, handling more than 40,000 support requests per year.

Unfortunately, this leaves them with more than 200 products: a massive portfolio that makes it difficult for them to explain, and even more difficult for customers to understand. A core part of the portfolio is the “connect” part that we heard about earlier: moving point-to-point integrations onto a service bus, using products such as Rendezvous, EMS, BusinessWorks, all manner of adapters, ActiveMatrix, BusinessConenct, CIM, ActiveSpaces and tibbr. On the “automate” part of the platform is all of their BPM offerings: iProcess, the newly-announced ActiveMatrix BPM, Business Studio and PeopleForms. Laffey claimed up front that iProcess is not being replaced by ActiveMatrix BPM (methinks he doth protest too much), which means that there is likely some functionality overlap. The third part, “optimize”, includes Spotfire Suite, S+, BusinessEvents and Netrics.

He discussed their cloud strategy, which includes “internal clouds” (which, to many of us, are not really clouds) as well as external clouds such as AWS; the new Silver line of products – CAP, Grid, Integrator, Fabric, Federator and BPM – are deployable in the cloud.

The major product suites are, then:

  • ActiveMatrix (develoment, governance and integration)
  • ActiveMatrix BPM (BPM)
  • Spotfire (user-driven analytics and visualization)
  • BusinessEvents (CEP)
  • ActiveSpaces (in-memory technologies, datagrid, matching, transactions)
  • Silver (cloud and grid computing)

He dug back into the comparison between iProcess and ActiveMatrix BPM by considering the small number of highly-complex core business processes (such as claims processing) that are the focus for iProcess, versus the large number of tactical or situational small applications with simple workflows that are served by PeopleForms and ActiveMatrix BPM. He gave a quick demo that shows this sort of simple application development being completely forms-driven: create forms using a browser-based graphical form designer, then email it to a group of people to gather responses to the questions on the form. Although he referred to this as “simple BPM” and “BPM for the masses”, it’s not clear that there was any process management at all: just an email notification and gathering responses via a web form. Obviously, I need to see a lot more about this.

TIBCO’s Recent Acquisitions: DataSynapse, Foresight, Netrics and Spotfire

No rest for the wicked: at the analyst lunch, we had sessions on four of TIBCO’s recent acquisitions while we were eating:

DataSynapse

This is a significant part of TIBCO’s cloud and grid strategy, with a stack of four key products:

  • Grid Server, which allows multiple servers to be pooled and used as a single resource
  • Fabric Server, which is the platform-as-a-service platform on top of Grid Server
  • Federator, a self-service provisioning portal
  • DataSynapse Analytics, providing metering of the grid

The real meat is in the Grid Server, which has been used to create private clouds of over 40,000 connected cores; these can be either internal or externally-facing, so are being used for customer-facing applications as well as internal ones. They position Grid Server for situations where the application and configuration complexity are just beyond the capabilities of a platform like VMWare, and see three main use cases:

  • Dynamic application scalability
  • Server virtualization to improve utilization and reduce deployment times
  • Rolling out new applications quickly

Foresight

A recent acquisition, Foresight is used for transaction modernization and cross-industry EDI, although they have some very strong healthcare solutions. They have several products:

  • Gateway/portal for managing healthcare insurance transactions between parties
  • EDISIM, for EDI authoring, testing and compliance
  • HIPAA Validator, for compliance and validation of HIPAA transactions
  • Instream, for routing, acknowledgement, management and translation of messages and events
  • Community Manager, for mass testing and migration

From cloud to EDI was a bit of a retro comparison, although there’s a lot of need for both.

Netrics

Netrics does data matching of (semi-)structured data, such as name matching in databases, in order to clean up data, reduce errors and repeats, and improve decision-making. They have two products:

  • Matching Engine models human similarity measures for comparing data
  • Machine Learning Engine models human decisions on data

Interesting discussion about some of the algorithms that they’re using, that go far beyond the simple soundex-type calculations that are more commonly available.

Spotfire

Spotfire is the oldest acquisition of the four presented here (three years ago), and was shown as much to show TIBCO’s model for acquisition and assimilation, as it was to talk about Spotfire’s capabilities.

Spotfire, as I’ve written about previously, provides easy-to-use visual analytics, using in-memory data for near-instantaneous results. Since becoming part of TIBCO, they’ve integrated with other TIBCO products to become visualization for a wide range of process and event-driven applications. their integration with iProcess BPM was shown back in 2008, and they’ve developed links with the SOA and CEP products as well.

This acquisition shows how TIBCO’s acquisition process works with these smaller companies – different from either the Borg or death by 1000 cuts methods of their competitors – first of all since they tend to target companies specifically that allow them to leapfrog their competition technologically by buying cool and innovative technology. Once acquired, Spotfire had access to TIBCO’s large base of customers, partners and markets, providing an immediate boost to their sales efforts. As they reorganized, the product group focused on preserving what worked at Spotfire, while optimizing for execution within the larger TIBCO context. Alongside this, the Spotfire product group worked with other TIBCO areas to integrate to other technologies, weaving Spotfire into the TIBCO portfolio.

TIBCO Go-To-Market Strategy and Regional Sales Update

Following the product update (which is embargoed until tomorrow), Ram Menon was up to talk about their go-to-market strategy. TIBCO has really been known as a powerhouse in the financial services in the past, but given the meltdown in the financial markets over the past two years, they’ve probably realized that this former cash cow doesn’t always stay on its feet. However, their event-based products can go way beyond that into retail pipeline management (think RFID tags on items for sale), government and many other areas; they just need to figure out how to sell into those markets. They have a number of vertical marketing messages prepped to go, but as a couple of analyst tweets pointed out, it’s a bit of a confusing message when they don’t have the applications to back it up, and the case studies are almost identical to those of IBM’s Smarter Planet, which doesn’t give them a lot of differentiation.

They have a 40-company road show planned, as well as vertical market pushes through their SI partners. In the panel of the regional sales VPs discussing what’s actually happening out there, we saw a chart of the industry verticals where financial services is the biggest single sector, but only around 25% of the total (I think – the slide went by quickly). Discussions on the panel indicated that SOA is their biggest business in the US (basic integration middleware, really, for non-intrusive implementations rather than rip-and-replace), but is still in the early stages in Asia, where messaging is the hot topic. BPM sales in the Americas typically also include SOA infrastructure, indicating that they’re leaning heavily on the value of the stack for BPM sales rather than its standalone capabilities: not sure if that’s intentional positioning, or an artifact of the product, sales force, or both. There is a lot of interest in newer ideas such as in-memory analytics: as one of the panelists put it, the customers “just get it” when you show the value proposition of reducing response time by having information available faster. It will be interesting to see how their vertical marketing efforts line up with the existing market penetration both by industry and product.

All in all, TIBCO’s branding feels a bit behind the times: Enterprise 3.0 is becoming a joke amongst the analysts attending here today (we’re tweeting about staging an intervention), and the “ending r with no preceding vowel” of tibbr is so 2006. The new TIBCOSilver brand covers all of their grid and cloud offerings, but doesn’t really make you think “cloud” when you hear the name. Like Brenda Michelson, however, I like the “Two Second Advantage” message: it’s short, memorable, and actually means something.

TIBCO’s Enterprise 3.0 Vision

Murray Rode, TIBCO’s COO, started the TIBCO analyst day with their vision and strategy. The vision: Enterprise 3.0. Srsly. They seem to have co-opted the Enterprise 1.0/2.0 terms to mean what they want it to mean rather than the more accepted views: they define Enterprise 2.0, for example, as everything from the 80’s to 2009, including client-server. I don’t mean to sound negative, but that’s not what we mean by Enterprise 2.0 these days, and whoever came up with that idea for their branding has just made them sound completely out of touch. Their spectrum goes from Enterprise 1.0 data processing from the 60’s to the 80’s, Enterprise 2.0 client-server, and Enterprise 3.0 predictive analytics and processing: using in-memory data grids rather than databases, and based more on events than transactions.

Putting aside the silliness of the term Enterprise 3.0, I like their “Two Second Advantage” tagline: when fast processing and analysis of events can make a competitive difference. Their infrastructure platform has three pieces:

  • Connect (SOA), fed by messaging and data grids
  • Analyze and optimize
  • Automate (BPM)

They can used the cloud as a deployment mechanism for scalability, although that’s just an option. In addition to the usual infrastructure platform, however, they’re also following the lead of many other vendors by pushing out vertical solutions.

We’re about to head into the product announcements, which are embargoed until tomorrow, so things might get quiet for a while, although I’m sure that there will be lots of conversation around the whole Enterprise 3.0 term.