JBoss adds open source BPM engine to its offerings

JBoss announced it has acquired the open source business process workflow engine jBPM.

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JBoss Inc. announced today it has added a business process workflow engine to its array of open source offerings.

Known for its popular application server, JBoss said it has acquired the open source Java Business Process Management project (jBPM) and hired its founder and lead developer, Belgian Tom Baeyens.

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JBoss vice president of strategy and development Bob Bickel said jBPM has been downloaded 30,000 times and will be available from JBoss as a free download under the Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The LGPL is amenable to businesses because it requires the user to release only the changes made to the open source code, unlike the GPL which requires release of the entire code stack to the development community.

JBoss will also sell a supported version of jBPM that can stand alone or be embedded in other projects for less than $10,000, Bickel said.

"This is the right time to have an open source [BPM] implementation. This is analogous to when JBoss first came out and was just an [enterprise Java beans] server, and not a full app server," Bickel said. "This is still raw and the fact that it's an open source project allows developers to play with it and not pay $80,000 per CPU for an integration suite."

JBPM 1.0 has been available since December. Version 2.0 is available for download today with a new version expected in the coming 12 months that will concentrate on enhanced visual design elements.

"It's a core workflow BPM engine that only needs a Java virtual machine and a database to run," Bickel said, adding that it can run on any application server and is not tied to strictly to the JBoss app server. "It can be used easily by any Java developer."

It scales to handle workflow patterns common to other commercial BPM systems.

"It's not for everybody," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst with Current Analysis of Sterling, Va. "People like graphical tools, they like easy-to-use tools, they like bells and whistles. This won't have all that until later next year. This is for people with strong programming skills who like to do things themselves and don't need things laid out for them in a pre-built tool. There is an audience out there."

The addition of jBPM also gives JBoss a presence against BEA Systems, Sun Microsystems, Oracle Corp. and SAP AG, all of which have strong BPM engines among their offerings, Willett said. Bickel added that none of those vendors offer a BPM engine as a standalone, rather it is integrated into an existing product.

Baeyens said in a statement that native BPEL support will be part of the next jBPM rollout. BPEL is a standard for message exchanges and Web services around business processes. He added that the graphical workflow designer scheduled for the next ramp-up will integrate with Eclipse.

"JBPM has gained tremendous traction since the project's start more than two years ago, but our success has also made support and services an often challenging task," Baeyens said. "With JBoss behind us, we have the opportunity to take jBpm, now JBoss jBPM, to the next stage of growth and provide a full range of services and support around it."

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