IBM Business Process Manager – Advanced

The edition of IBM Business Process Manager (IBPM) known as IBM Business Process Manager Advanced could trivially be the subject its own book (and more likely many of them). Here we will cover the core concepts and patterns of this edition of the product. First, we will discuss the heritage of this area which will give us a good understanding of why things are the way they are.

In 2005, IBM released a powerful product to their customers called WebSphere Process Server (WPS). WPS was a BPM runtime based on the industry standard language called BPEL. Beyond simply choreographing work flows, WPS provided a first class environment for achieving integration with external systems. IBM saw the coming together of technology that could be called "Enterprise Application Integration" with business process management. Without the ability to integrate a consumer's existing IT solutions, it was arguable that BPM would not succeed. To achieve this goal, the WPS environment provided an integration framework that was called Service Component Architecture (SCA) that provided a solid grounding for building Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) solutions. All of this will be covered in much more detail later.

After the procurement of the company and products called Lombardi, IBM effectively had two BPM solutions available. These were WebSphere Lombardi Edition and WebSphere Process Server. With the latest release of IBPM, these two, distinct entities have been carefully integrated together to provide the best of all possible worlds. The joining of WLE and WPS provides a super-set of capabilities of both historic products in one run-time environment. Building a solution that involves capabilities of what was once WPS and what was once WLE now becomes a very achievable proposition.

However … there is a catch.

IBM has chosen not to distribute both the heritage WLE and WPS functions with the standard IBPM edition. Instead, for customers that need just WLE functions, the product is sold as IBM Business Process Manager Standard Edition. For customers that can utilize both WLE and WPS functions, there is a second version of the product which is called IBM Business Process Manager Advanced Edition. In this section of the book, I will assume that you now understand that there are two marketed versions of IBM BPM … standard and advanced and that when I say IBPM from here onwards, I am referring to the edition called IBM Business Process Manager Advanced.

The following diagram illustrates the high level schematic of what is contained in each edition.

The breadth of additional functions available in the IBPM Advanced edition is huge. There are capabilities found in there to solve every conceivable integration and SOA issue. However, with richness comes a degree of complexity. Fortunately, the amount of knowledge needed to build a solution using these functions is easily manageable as long as one realizes that every solution doesn't need to use every capability. By way of an analogy, here is a picture of my TV remote control.

99.9% of the time, I use it to switch on and off the TV, turn up/down the volume and change the channel. In principle, this means that I need only three buttons yet when I look at the device, there are buttons everywhere. Some have labels, some have colors, some have multiple functions. Fortunately, I don't need to learn all the buttons just to watch TV. Once I know what I want to achieve I can then find the appropriate button because I trust that it is there somewhere. The same is true for IBM BPM Advanced. I believe it is important to learn what functions are present, when and where they should be used. The mechanical acts of pressing the correct buttons when needed will simply come by referring to manuals and other documentation.

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