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JBoss upgrades SOA platform with new BPM

JBoss Inc. has added BPEL functionality to its business process management engine and absorbed Drools, an open source business rules project.

JBoss Inc. today released its latest business process management engine, offering simplified persistence, a new pluggable architecture, extended task management and new extensibility based around the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) specification.

The announcement comes at the start of the open source middleware company's European user's conference in Barcelona, Spain. In addition to the JBoss jBPM 3.0 release, the company also announced that the Java-based business rules project Drools has voted to join JBoss, with Drools lead developer Mark Proctor coming on board as a full-time software architect.

We are not interested in being the intergalactic SOA platform We're focused on building tools that allow customers to consume SOA much more easily.
Shaun Connolly
Vice President for Product ManagementJBoss Inc.

Drools will provide the business rules backbone for the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS), the Atlanta company's developing SOA platform. The Drools addition follows the path JBoss took in bringing Hibernate and Apache Tomcat within its corporate walls. Drools will collect business information inside an SOA and pump that information out to decision makers.

According to Shaun Connolly, JBoss vice president for product management, it will also be a key component to the JBoss enterprise service bus (ESB) release, currently targeted for late in 2006.

"We're trying to address the unserved market of people who are rolling their own [SOA]," Connolly said.

The addition of BPEL provides for easier Web services integration for the jBPM product, though Connolly was quick to point out that it should not be viewed as just a BPEL offering.

"BPEL is designed to orchestrate Web services," he said. "It's good for integration, not for deeper business logic. We don't view BPEL as the be-all and end-all."

For that deeper business logic, JBoss has its own Java-based process definition language.

Persistence has been decoupled from the jBPM workflow operations for the sake of simplicity. The pluggable architecture marks an attempt to have the business process engine run either as a standalone or within any Java application.

"We want to build a set of tools that doesn't lock you into one way of building an SOA," Connolly said.

Of late, JBoss executives have been touting the company's SOA vision, making it clear that the open source vendor wishes to expand well beyond its Java-based application server roots. Since its revenue model is reliant upon professional services more than product, migrating into the architectural space makes sense.

Steve Garone, an analyst with Ideas International Inc., views JBoss' push toward an SOA platform as a point of inflection for the company, requiring it to compete with major platforms like IBM, Microsoft and BEA Systems Inc. on performance and reliability.

"As we get into enterprises, which is certainly where JBoss is heading, the suitability and quality of the product will matter more, as it should," Garone said.

For more information

Check out our BPEL Learning Guide

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He noted that many large vendors have gone the open source route with some of their development and middleware tools, specifically citing Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

"You're not going to win based on the fact that you're open source," Garone said. "It's a convergence of models, everyone's starting to look the same."

Modularity and interoperability would seem to be the areas where JBoss is making its enterprise SOA pitch. While it builds out the rest of its SOA stack, including the ESB, it clearly hopes that businesses will find bits and pieces of the JEMS offering to be useful glue inside an SOA.

"We are not interested in being the intergalactic SOA platform," Connolly said. "We're focused on building tools that allow customers to consume SOA much more easily."

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