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JBoss Takes On jBPM Project

JBoss, owners of the popular JBoss open source development community, added another piece to its middleware product portfolio with the addition of the Java Business Process Management (jBPM) Project, officials announced Monday.

Tom Baeyens, jBPM founder and lead developer, will continue his work on the project as a full-time architect and project lead at JBoss from his home office in Belgium. He said serious discussions with JBoss officials began a few weeks ago, though the two have been in contact for some time.

The project's move under the JBoss umbrella was necessary for the project's continued growth, he said.

"The JBoss group has already done this magnificent thing of unfolding business on top of open source projects," Baeyens said. "It's quite a bumpy road to get there yourself; we were trying to do that, and we were successful. But it is a bumpy road, and within the JBoss group we think we can do this in a much more professional way than we were able to do ourselves."

BPM is another component for enterprise networks built with Web services and service-oriented architectures in mind: rather than focusing on the architecture, BPM is designed to monitor business processes when used in conjunction with an application.

It's an area that's expected to gain in popularity with IT managers, as the complexity of integration among enterprise applications grows. According to research at IDC, spending in the BPM industry is expected to reach $1 billion by the end of 2004, with a 25 percent compounded annual growth rate.

Commercial vendors have been flocking to the budding software sector: IBM , BEA Systems , Oracle , webMethods and Microsoft all have products geared toward BPM as a component of their overall SOA and Web services strategy, while companies like Oak Grove Systems and Intalio focus on standalone BPM applications.

jBPM is one of the more popular open source projects tackling BPM. Others include Werkflow, OfBiz, PowerFolder, OpenFlow, Open Business Engine and wftk. Last month, the Apache Software Foundation incubated donated software from Gluecode under the Agila Project.

With jBPM under its belt, JBoss has another business-centric application going in middleware. The company has made a name for itself providing support and consulting services for open source software in an enterprise setting, sometimes called professional open source. In addition to its highly popular JBoss application server, the company supports projects like Tomcat, Nukes and EJB 3.0.

Baeyens said his project's popularity -- jBPM is downloaded 2,000 to 3,000 times a month -- comes from its simple programming model, scalability and a simple but powerful internal engine. He hinted that while the project caters to developers, it's inclusion with JBoss will signal more user-friendly functionality.

"For now, the difference is in target audience; we're more targeted towards the developer community," he said.

Bob Bickel, JBoss vice president of strategy, said jBPM will indeed offer more in the future, focusing on three areas: native BPEL support, a visual designer to map out workflows, and expansion of the process management capabilities. He said an immediate addition to capabilities would be a tool the company's developed, which takes a business process and automatically publishes it as an HTML file. Future additions include integration with Nukes on JBoss, its open source content management application.

He said the reason JBoss went with jBPM over the other open source project was its momentum in the developer community, as well as its ability to integrate smoothly with other JBoss applications.

"From a technical basis, Tom Baeyens had done a really great job on the architecture and is very synergistic with where JBoss sees the world moving to," he said. "It fits in very, very nicely with some of the broader integrated stacks that we'll be coming out with in the future."

JBoss officials rolled out jBPM 2.0 Monday, with scalability, testability, build scripts and functionality updates. Developers can download it here.

Work will continue from three fronts now -- at JBoss, through developer community SourceForge.net and from Baeyens jBPM.org Web site. He noted that the developers, who normally have close ties with the software they are donating their efforts to, supported his decision to move the project under JBoss.

Bickel said the 25 developers on the jBPM Project will remain a vital part of the development process. Users can expect a faster development roadmap down the road, with a beta version of jBPM 3.0 by the end of the year and a final release sometime in the first quarter of 2005. "The partnership between jBpm and JBoss is fully deserved after Tom Baeyens' hard work and clear vision of what an open source workflow engine should be," said David Benson, a jBPM and JGraph project developer, in an e-mail. "His strong commitment to community spirit and adherence to open source principles has earned him the trust of developers worldwide. I'm sure all developers on the jBpm project, both past and present wish Tom every success in this exciting new development."