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IBM's BPM Zero Project: RESTful Worflow Management

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Christina Lau, distinguished engineer at IBM, gave recently a presentation at the Devoxx Conference “BPM 2.0 – a REST based architecture for next generation workflow management”. The goal of her presentation is to help us better understand BPM-as-a-Service (BaaS) to better prepare for it.

 She defines BaaS with 5 key concepts based on Rashid Khan’s post on the topic:

  • Model and execute processes in a hosted environment
  • Integrate with both inside the firewall data and internet services
  • Business users collaborate to create the business processes with a browser using RIA technologies
  • Monitor, administer, rate, discuss processes over the internet
  • Web-based reporting and monitoring (BAM) capabilities

She has initiated the BPM Zero project (which is part of IBM’s Project Zero and ultimately WebSphere sMash) following these principles. BPM Zero will offer a Web-based BPMN editor. Her presentation also features specialized BPMN activities dubbed “HTTP activities”: Receive, Reply, Invoke.

BPM Zero integrates with ILOG JRules to offer a business-centric configuration of decision services.

Christina and her team sees a tight integration between BPM Zero and what she calls “RESTful SOA”: Feeds, Twitter, Chat, email, SaaS (Google Apps), IaaS (Storage)… She explains that a light weight workflow can act as a scripting engine to tie together RESTful services.

The key characteristics of this scripting language are:

  • Compatible subset of BPEL execution semantics
  • Up and running in seconds
  • Built-in extension mechanism
  • Built-in security support

Security is a key part of this project as Christina explains:

Workflows can invoke a lot of services that have different security mechanisms – e.g. http basic access authentication, OAuth, OpenID, etc

She concludes by some recommendations to get ready for taking advantage of BPM-as-a-Service:

  • Use BPMN to describe your processes
  • REST-enabled your Assets
    • Make content simple and human readable (XML, Atom, JSON)
    • Make them available via URL with HTTP actions (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE)
  • Leverage low cost deployment and third party applications hosted on the cloud

This presentation continues to send strong signals that Cloud Computing is going to significantly impact BPM. It also echoes some of the products already on the market (such as, or soon to come.

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