This current series of columns covers major business process management software vendors and their products, used to automatically generate executable XML-based business process management code from process diagrams using business process management languages. In previous months I covered Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004, IBM WebSphere Business Integration Server, Oracle BPEL Server, SAP NetWeaver and Intalio|n3. This month I will summarize the concepts and products covered in the series.

Summary of Service-Oriented Architecture

In this series I discussed three business process management languages that are used with service-oriented architecture (SOA):

Business process execution language for Web services (BPEL) combines IBM's Web services flow language (WSFL) and Microsoft's XLANG. BPEL is designed to support implementation of any complex business process as well as to describe interfaces of business processes.

Business process modeling language (BPML) defines a formal model for expressing executable business processes. It defines simple and complex activities, transactions and compensation and also data management, concurrency, exception handling and operational semantics. BPML provides grammar as an XML schema to enable the persistence and interchange of definitions across heterogeneous systems and modeling tools.

The ebXML business process specification schema (BPSS) defines a business process for physical business interchanges between parties for collaboration and transactions to be carried out between commercial business partners. It works in conjunction with the ebXML Collaboration Protocol Profile (CPP) and Collaboration Protocol Agreement (CPA). It defines the automatic generation of BPSS code from UML diagrams.

BPSS defines commercial and legal terms and responsibilities between enterprises. This goes beyond the current intent of BPEL, WSCI or BPML. These languages do not provide explicit commercial terms, nor do they have legal intent similar to a trading partner agreement.

BPEL, BPML and BPSS are pointers to a future where application development will be based on automatic generation of these XML-based business process management languages from process models or workflow models. In time it is expected that the first two business process management languages - or a consolidated version of them - will evolve along similar lines to BPSS, but with broader applicability for all applications - not just for enterprise data integration (EDI) and ebXML.

We discussed a number of business process management vendors and their software products:

  • Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 automatically generates BPEL code directly from BizTalk Orchestration Designer diagrams. It includes a business rules engine for efficient management and maintenance of business rules, the most volatile component of business processes.
  • IBM WebSphere Business Server Integration Workbench automatically transforms various UML diagrams. The IBM WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation automatically generates BPEL code from process models. 
  • Oracle BPEL Process Manager automatically generates executable XML-based BPEL from process models. It runs on all of the major application servers, including Oracle Application Server, IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic and JBoss. 
  • The final product that we discussed in this series was Intalio | n3 Business Process Management System (BPMS). With its native support for BPML, BPEL and the use of WSCI and is clearly the direction of BPMS for the future.

Many other business process management tools automatically generate executable code in various proprietary languages at present. It is expected that most will evolve in time to generate code in BPEL, BPML and/or ebXML BPSS.

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