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Snapshot of open source BPM offerings

There are many open source BPM products available today. Here is a snapshot of the offerings, including software from JBoss, Intalio, ProcessMaker, and Bonita.

Business Process Management (BPM) engines promise to help simplify business workflow any time a process can be automated, monitored and improved. This field has traditionally been dominated by commercial offerings, and cost has often kept them out of reach for many users. The popularity of JBoss Drools open-source rules engine is helping to build awareness for the power of BPM, and there are many other options including Intalio, ProcessMaker, and Bonita.

JBoss Drools provides an integrated platform for rules, workflow, and event processing. Drools 5.0, the newest release of the platform, is broken into four parts. Drools Guvnor is a business rules management system, Drools Expert is a rules engine, Drools Flow is a workflow engine, and Drools Fusion enables complex event processing (CEP). Drools 5.0 also includes a new API. Mark Proctor, JBoss Rules lead, recently gave a presentation on how to address certain challenges while using Drools. Eric Charpentier of consultancy Primatex commented about Drools on the Primatex blog. "The Drools team obviously is inspired by some commercial products, but they will usually take it to the next level," wrote Charpentier. Charpentier commends the upcoming support of BPMN in Drools v5.1 but claims the documentation for installing and running Drools is "a bit weak."

Intalio's open source BPM tools are built around the Eclipse STP BPMN modeler and the Apache BPEL engine. Intalio BPMN Designer can turn a model into an executable BPEL process without having to write any code when executed on the Intalio BPEL server.In his post on BPM 2.0, Intalio CEO Ismael Ghalini talks about some of the trends in the BPM field since writing the first paper six years ago. He said that many early adopters tried using BPM tools only to be frustrated. He said that BPM 2.0-style tools like Intalio|Works can be used by PHP and developers can be deployed in one click.

ProcessMaker is an open source BPM and workflow tool designed for small and medium sized businesses. It is intended to allow users with no programming experience to design and run workflows and automate processes across systems in different parts of the company such as human resources, finance, and operations. It allows a user to create a process by mashing up different services using a variety of templates. Randall Arnold provided an in-depth comparison of ProcessMaker to a few commercial tools. He concluded that while there is nothing wrong with the commercial offerings, ProcessMaker's open model is the future, assuming it reaches enough critical mass to attract enough mashup developers.

Bonita Open Solution is a fairly straightforward tool for building process-based applications. It includes components for drawing a process, connecting with existing applications and systems, and running the process with minimal coding by the user. Users can interact with tasks in a process through an inbox style interface that makes it easy to organize work, collaborate with co-workers and customers. The company recently announced updates such as a connector creation wizard, forms and applications editor, and data management editor, which are explained in a trilogy of posts by Rodrigue Le Gall.

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