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Eclipse brings BPM into its Equinox-based SOA platform

The Eclipse Foundation has just added BPM to the list of tools in its Equinox-based SOA platform. OSGi will play a role in orchestrating BPM services and SOA integration.

Mirroring a growing need for enterprises to integrate BPM into SOA implementations, the Eclipse Foundation will add BPM to the list of tools in its evolving open source SOA platform. In April, Eclipse launched a new working group charged with pulling together several existing projects into a common platform based on the modular Equinox framework for Java. The latest addition to the platform's toolbox is Eclipse business process management (eBPM), important because, until recently, Equinox lacked mature BPM technology.

[They were] attempting to bridge the gap between the conceptual processing of BPM and the runtime world.
Oisin Hurley
Independent Software Engineer
The recent TechTarget/Forrester State of SOA 2010 survey found that integrating SOA with initiatives like BPM was the No. 1 challenge for respondents. Additionally, 57% said they used BPM tools in their enterprise architectures. This high priority shown for BPM is evidence that integrated BPM can make a SOA platform much more attractive to enterprises.

Eclipse's existing SOA Tools project had already developed a business process modeling notation (BPMN) modeler, but it was not integrated with any runtime executables, said Oisin Hurley, an independent software engineer who led the original SOA Tools project. In February, Italian system integration firm Engineering Group joined Eclipse, bringing in its eBPM technology.

"What the Engineering Group were doing was attempting to bridge the gap between the conceptual processing of BPM and the runtime world," said Hurley, "by creating mappings to BPMN and deployment engines."

The new working group comprises Engineering Group, SOPERA, itemis and Obeo—all European companies that are very involved in open source SOA. The group's challenge is now to integrate Eclipse's SOA Tools and SOA Runtime projects into one cohesive platform.

"At the moment, what we have here is a collection of projects that have been working in parallel for many years," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "More integration and having the tooling do a better job of supporting Swordfish as a runtime platform are definitely things that need to be worked on."

Swordfish is an ESB-based SOA framework for Java built on Equinox. Swordfish offers a modular runtime where components can be added and removed without restarting underlying systems. The modular runtime is made possible because Equinox is essentially an adaptation of OSGi, a module system for Java that implements a dynamic component model.

"The role that OSGi plays in a lot of Eclipse projects is of an interesting common technology," said Redmonk analyst Michael Cote. "And the goal there is to have a way to break up chunks of Java into smaller parts to make them easier to deal with. That's a relatively new thing in the Java world."

The goal there is to have a way to break up chunks of Java into smaller parts to make them easier to deal with. That's a relatively new thing in the Java world
Michael Cote
While there has been growing support for OSGi as a framework for enterprise middleware, there are not many options for BPM technologies that work with runtimes like Swordfish. Through the coming year, the working group will work on integrating the Swordfish runtime with the BPMN modeler, SOA metamodel, policy developer kit and SCA modeler.

"eBPM is not a workflow but is based on a workflow," said Antonio Majori, senior technical manager at Engineering Group. "It is possible to use [business process execution language], or eBPM, but what is different is that it is possible to orchestrate OSGi services."

While the focus is on lifecycle management for OSGi services, he continued, eBPM contains a connector to work with other types of services as well. This will be beneficial to users who may want to integrate parts of the SOA Platform into heterogeneous, best-of-breed architectures.

The first release of the Eclipse SOA Platform is currently available and an updated version will be released in June along with Eclipse 3.6 (Helios).

"The vision has been 18 months to two years to pull together a more integrated, out-of-the-box deployment," said Donald Smith, director of ecosystem development at Eclipse. "The goal for Helios is to have all the core components, use case, workflow and documentation down."

At the moment, all the components are workable, and some—such as Swordfish—have already been used in a number of enterprises, said Ricco Deutscher, CTO at SOPERA and head of the SOA Platform project. At this point, they all need to be integrated. However, even with all of the current components, tooling has not been developed for service governance.

"We plan to initiate a new project for a SOA registry/repository—another very essential piece of a SOA platform," said Deutscher. "The current platform, together with a registry/repository, will be very powerful."

A repository will provide design-time governance through lifecycle management, version control and other features, while the registry will provide runtime governance through features such as mediation. Deutscher said the working group is currently working on a proposal for the registry/repository project.

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