Exclusive: AquaLogic dives deep into the process pool
Fuego acquisition arms BEA with a potent BPM arsenal
The first, BPM Studio, builds a self-contained development environment for creating business objects and developing flows, coding rules, simulation testing, and readying final deployment. The other, BPM Designer, supplies a scaled-back implementation better suited to analysts -- allowing them to design and simulate, while masking the underlying object complexity and framework implementation running behind the scenes. The resulting shared model makes sense to me, offering ready collaborative capability to larger development environments.
There are good features to enhance productivity such as re-skinnable process flows -- allowing them to be depicted in more familiar notation -- say, BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation), UML, and so on. And, PBL code syntax can be changed to read as either VB.Net or Java if it makes your developers more comfortable. ALBPM handles the translation.
The PBL -- formerly the Fuego Business Language -- used for the method code-behind was easy to use. Developers with basic VB or other scripting language experience will not find this a stumbling block, only an added step.
Although based on XPDL (XML Processing Description Language), models can also be imported from a variety of third-party tools, including Visio and Rational Rose, and I was able to design directly in BPEL. Although BPEL design worked well, importing BPEL required all components be pre-cataloged within studio before it would stop throwing errors and import the design -- a process that could be handled more intuitively. Also, I find it easier at times to make certain changes directly in code view -- something I didn’t find in BPM Studio.
The development environment had some minor usability nits but in total offers a decent platform with code hinting, real-time validation, and the ability to drop documentation and notes directly into designs that will benefit long-term management.
Not all exceptions can be automated, of course, so ALBPM has human integration covered, thanks to well-defined support for shared queues and rules-based assignment.
The built-in Web forms editor allowed me to tie user interfaces to controls -- supporting JSP, ASP, and PDF forms. And, the onboard organization tools provided easy setup and definition of roles and relationships to create organizational units. The process engine uses the data, along with calendar definitions, to manage active task routing accurately and to set process expiration due dates.
The Enterprise edition offers the added advantage of a lightweight Work Portal, out of the box. Workers gain browser-based access through which they can monitor and manage tasks and events, and trigger new processes. The effect was good: basic usability with little development muscle expended. I would like to see better user and knowledge management tools integrated.
There are basic widgets included that I was able to use to create runtime performance dashboards. Added directly to a process, these dashboards offer a means of distributing targeted metrics -- such as workloads and processing times -- to relevant management layers. Drilling down through aggregated data proved easy and effective.
For more complex BAM features, OLAP cubes are also supported but demand some additional elbow grease -- relying on an external data store and requiring to be drawn back into the process as external components.