Will Activiti Meet the BPM Challenge?

| by Boris Lublinsky Follow 1 Followers on May 26, 2010. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |


According to Scott Francis despite successes of open source BPM projects such as JBoss jBPM, ProcessMaker, Apache ODE, Intalio and BonitaSoft, up until recently commercial vendors have been dominating BPM software landscape. In his opinion, this is due to the fact that

BPM is a different animal than many other software categories-user experience is critical; the problem-space is wide, rather than narrow; and it requires seamless coordination of many different activities, rather than just a few activities. Add to that, the standards and specifications hadn’t firmed up yet, as they had for databases.

But, as Francis notes, the environment is evolving:

  • BPMN 2.0 provides what might be the first standard that is complete enough for open source software to use as a basis for competing with the commercial vendors
  • User Interface software development tools have improved. It is easier to produce visually appealing applications that run inside a browser than it ever was before (thanks to HTML 5, AJAX, and several libraries built to leverage both).
  • The cloud makes potential deployment of complicated software components easier to manage.

And this creates an opportunity for a new wave of open source BPM projects. The latest of them, - Activiti, was announced just last week.

One of the distinguishing features of the Activiti project, according to Sandy Kemsley, is that:

They believe that BPEL will be replaced by BPMN for most general-purpose BPM applications, with BPEL being used only for pure service orchestration... Although they are only supporting a subset of the BPMN 2.0 standard now - which could be said of any of the process modelers out there, since the standard is vast - they are committed to supporting the full standard, including execution semantics and the interchange format.

Tom Baeyens, Alfresco’s BPM Chief Architect and project lead, has expressed some of the goals of the Activity project:

The first target of Activiti is to achieve the same developer friendliness that we established at jBPM... Thanks to the Process Virtual Machine design, apart from BPMN 2.0, Activiti will also be able to support other process Domain Specific Languages (DSL)... our ambition is to build the clear #1 BPM engine.

Peter Hilton from Lunatech Research sees a lot of potential in Activiti:

Activiti starts a new generation of business process management (BPM) software that will disrupt the existing BPM engine landscape. Activiti promises to be the ideal choice for using BPM in commercial application development, because it is both based on open-standards and distributed under a liberal open-source license. More than anything else, these two aspects of Activiti make it more interesting for commercial software development than either other open source BPM platforms that have more restrictive licenses, or closed-source commercial offerings that carry the heavy price of vendor lock-in.

Francis considers that the focus of Activiti is on:

... embedding the engine inside other software - and on more liberal licensing terms (Apache license) that should make it easier for software companies to adopt it. And I think the market is ripe for an open source BPM platform that leverages standard underlying technologies and is built from the beginning to allow for cloud-based deployment. I think they’re off to a good start to create something that is really developer-friendly.

Which causes a negative reaction from Active endpoints:

BPM is a management discipline... That means that not every process ends up being automated. Of those that do... it makes no sense - none whatsoever - for those to be automated inside another type of product. Instead, the real opportunity for BPMSs is to allow the extended development team to break down the design barriers of ECM, CRM, ERP, PLM and other application types to focus on the core business process. The desired process model is, literally, "above" the constraints and assumptions of the containing systems.

Activiti is definitely a very strong new player in the open source BPM arena. It will become even stronger providing that BPMN 2.0 will really become not only a notation, but a de facto BPM execution language.

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Drools Flow, BPMN2, Apache License by Mark Proctor

Drools Flow has been around for a while now, it also offers BPMN2 and is gearing up for a final release. I think that a heatlhy OSS eco system with multiple implementations for BPMN2 will help to quickly establish BPMN2 as a popular choice. Like the rest of Drools it is embeddable with small jar sizes, minimal dependencies and under the Apache Software License.

For those interested, I put together a few previous blog articles as part of an overview:

Drools Project Lead

Look at the industry consolidation by peter lin

It's pretty clear stand alone BPM is going to be a nitch. Alot of commercial BPM have been bought out by bigger companies. The industry is moving toward BPM embedded in other products that solve a business problem. General purpose BPM tools is going to be difficult to sell without strong vertical components to drive sales. The BPM products that are hot today like Pega Process commander focus on a specific vertical segment.

I have doubts BPMN 2.0 will make that big of a difference.

my bias 2 cents.

Meet Tom in Person - talking the first time about activit by Stefan Klose

More BPM failures by Jean-Jacques Dubray

I am not quite sure why there is yet another wave of marketing around BPMN 2.0 and Open Source BPM. BPM will fail as long as people such as Tom or Ismael will continue to use the wrong model for the Job. OSS or Cloud will not help until the correct semantics of BPM are used. Fortunately, they are coming.

"BPM is a management discipline... " by Bernd Ruecker

The first sentences from the quote of Alex Neihaus (ActiveEndpoints) is pretty true! BPM is not only about automating workflows!

We strongly believe, that developing Software in the field of BPM will change a lot! This is not about Zero-coding, there will be a completely new way of collaboration in BPM projects in feature! My college Jakob and me just blogged on some of our ideas the last days:


And we work on a tooling to support this new Agile BPM vision with camunda fox (, which will push Open Source BPM to the next level and overcome Alex concerns :-)

But why? by Richard Clayton

"Activiti is definitely a very strong contender for the dominance in the open source arena, providing that BPMN 2.0 will really become not only a notation, but a de facto BPM execution language."

Activiti doesn't exist yet, however, it is now a "strong contender for dominating Open Source BPM"? If jBPM was any sign of how what Activiti might look like, no thank you. I think we also have to ask why we need another BPM solution? After evaluating a number of the Open Source BPM offerings, I see the dominant solution being Drools Flow; the "Business Logic Integration Platform" (Rules Engine, BPM and Complex Event Processing all in one) is far more compelling than plain old BPM.

Re: But why? by Richard Clayton

Excuse me, I stand corrected. Activiti ( has been released.

Re: But why? by Maurizio Turatti

Activiti comes out from Alfresco's desire (and jBPM's founders) to have an embedded BPM into Alfresco ECM having a more business-friendly license (Apache) and more in direct control of the company. It seems to me that jBPM is a bit of a stranger within RedHat, while Alfresco thinks that a strong BPM tool is crucial for its ECM strategy.
jBPM is a very good product but it lacks a modern authoring environment, Activiti is focused on BPMN 2.0 with a strong web-based graphical editor (Signavio). I think the combination BPM + ECM is one of the most important in the enterprise, to enable documentation workflows easily.
At present Activiti is in alpha stage, we'll see in few months if it can maintain its promises. Seeing is believing.

Re: But why? by peter lin

If you look at the market, the dominant BPM solution today is actually Pega Process Commander. They've seen tremendous growth the last 4 years and has been hiring aggressively. Compared to other BPM solutions commercial and open source, they seem to be doing better than their competitors. While other solutions have been bought out by bigger firms, Pega "appears" to be going strong. I don't work for pega and I don't actually like their technology, but it doesn't matter what I think. Their customers seem to love it and their business is growing. I know other products haven't done so well in the recession. As far as I can tell, none of the open source products have been able to match the success of the top commercial products. I attribute that to vertical components. Regardless of the design or implementation of a BPM framework, it absolutely has to provide strong vertical components. Without that, a product won't have much chance at success. Luckily for Activiti, it's embedded in Alfresco. For Activiti to really grow and succeed, they'll need to find a few domain they want to tackle and build some nice vertical components.

Re: But why? by Richard Clayton

I don't use Alfresco and imagine many other developers don't as well. I have not found one limitation using Drools Flow, managing to integrate BPM throughout our entire architecture. Who cares how many people are using "Pega Process Commander". All that really matters is the existence of a framework to do BPM. If you are arguing that we need a framework that makes BPM stupid simple, why not build tools for an existing one?

Re: But why? by peter lin

The point I was "attempting" to make is that across the industry, the products that are growing have strong vertical components. Products that do not will have a short shelf life or will have a difficult time making money. For many projects like apache projects, it's ok since there isn't a central commercial entity selling services. For other products that need revenue to stay alive, having vertical components is going to be critical. I don't use Alfresco either, but it looks like they're successful and have real revenues. That bodes well for activiti, since CMS is an end solution business will pay for.

Honestly, the BPM framework really doesn't matter. There's already a lot of them and the differences aren't going to persuade managers or executives. To a developer those differences "may" matter, but at the end of the day the manager only cares about the final result. I've seen several different BPM products for Java and .NET and tried a few. Many people have said this already, but it's clear that stand-alone BPM is dead.

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