Oracle and IBM move BPEL to the BPI forefront
Promising process servers ease Web-services integration complexities
See correction at end of review
Breaking down business processes into Web services components was the easy part. Weaving them together into manageable, useful services has proved more ambitious.
XML-based business process languages have emerged to manage these event-driven architectures. Now IBM and Oracle have elevated the standing of BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, or BPEL for short), granting the language a seat in the core of both companies’ new process servers: the Oracle BPEL-PM (BPEL Process Manager) 2.0 and the WBISF (WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation) 5.1.
These servers are designed for coordinating process interaction and event governance using BPEL. The products integrate into the companies’ respective traditional product lines.
For IBM, the integration is a bit clearer. The company has folded WAS (WebSphere Application Server) Enterprise into its WBISF. Although performance was slightly sluggish in my tests, WBISF offers solid capabilities and brings with it a rich variety of resource adaptors to back-end systems and transactional technologies that can’t be beat.
Oracle’s foray into BPEL comes by way of the recent acquisition and rebranding of Collaxa, a pioneer in process management for SOAs (service-oriented architectures). BPEL-PM runs on Oracle’s application server line, but is not tied to it; it supports any J2EE application server, including JBoss and WebSphere. Oracle’s performance was good, but adapter support is light and integration of the product into Oracle’s own stack remains limited.
Each vendor has an Eclipse-based toolset for visually modeling BPEL process flows. Oracle’s BPEL Designer is included with the offering. IBM requires that you purchase its WSAD-IE (WebSphere Studio Application Developer, Integration Edition) 5.1. This add-on sports a number of advanced capabilities and wizards that help compensate for the extra expense.
Both products still have room to grow with regard to improving usability and mitigating complexity. This is an evolving science, to be sure. Yet many of these shortcomings stem from the complexity of XML and the still-ripening state of BPEL more than the underdeveloped status of these products.
As such, I find both vendors here providing smart, solid means of advancing business process integration in a way that includes Web services most fundamentally.
Getting started with Oracle’s BPEL-PM was nearly effortless. With only minor configuration, the refined install routine managed installation of the complete system, including the process engine, visual designer, embedded Oracle Lite Database, and the administration and monitoring console.
IBM’s WBISF was slightly more difficult and time-consuming to piece together before I could get started, requiring a number of tweaks and secondary scripts to be run in order to set up all the components, such as the process choreographer, containers, and queue managers. This is the stuff of which IBM’s consultant-service-based revenue dreams are made.
When configured, WBISF was easy enough to work with. It sports fully functioning versions of the WAS, as well as DB2 Enterprise Edition and WebSphere MQ for use by the process engine.