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JBoss Continues SOA Push

Professional open source vendor JBoss has enhanced what it says is the only open source SOA platform. Officials announced Tuesday at the company's JBoss World Barcelona 2005 user conference in Barcelona, that it will assimilate the Drools Project, an open source business rules engine project.

The announcement is a part of an overall effort by the Atlanta-based company to show its middleware software is a good foundation for an SOA platform.

Two key pieces of that effort, according to officials, are the incorporation of the Drools Project and an update to jBPM, its business process management (BPM) component.

Mark Proctor, Drools Project lead developer, will join JBoss as a software architect and shepherd development of the technology. Drools Project founder Bob McWhirter will act as a consultant on the integration of the rules engine with JBoss' middleware software.

Officials expect to launch the product, under a name like JBoss Rules or Business Rules, sometime in the first quarter of 2006.

The Drools Project is a key addition to the JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS) stack, as it provides a rules engine necessary for companies that need to implement complex and frequently changing business rules in a Web services environment.

"[Business rules] change more often than business processes, execution logic or presentation logic and so separating them out in a business rules engine and repository makes a lot of sense," said Pierre Fricke, JBoss director of product management. "What that enables is the ability to change these rules much more quickly."

JEMS is the middleware software suite that provides an open source alternative to the commercial middleware available by vendors today. It includes the application server, a portal platform, an object/relational persistence and query service, an object and data cache and an Eclipse-based IDE.

JBoss shepherds the projects through an open source community of developers and sells premium services to companies that want to implement and maintain the software suite on their networks.

While many software vendors such as IBM , BEA Systems , HP and Sun Microsystems are working on their own initiatives, open source alternatives are not as available.

In August, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) started work on a Web services broker/Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) project called Synapse. Web Services Oxygen (WSO2), Blue Titan, Infravio and Sonic Software donated the code to create a flexible transformation, management and routing system, according to officials at the time.

Some consider the Synapse project an SOA platform itself, which can be confusing, said Jason Bloomberg, a senior analyst with research firm ZapThink. Part of the problem, he said, is there's no clear definition of what makes an SOA platform.

"JEMS has a very different value proposition from Synapse, so it doesn't make much sense to use the same term for both," he said. "JEMS is a coordinated collection of components, including Tomcat, Hibernate, Eclipse, jBPM, JBoss Portal and others that provide a broad set of distributed computing capabilities.

"Add a registry/repository, distributed intermediaries, and run-time management and you'd have much of the infrastructure you'd need for a successful SOA implementation."

Synapse might complement JEMS more than it competes with it, Bloomberg added, because it has a narrower focus on distributed intermediaries.

JBoss also announced Tuesday the availability of jBPM 3.0, the organization's BPM project component within JEMS.

Like the Drools Project, jBPM is an open source project assimilated by JBoss and integrated with the rest of the JEMS stack.

BPM tracks business processes used in an enterprise application to ensure the proper steps are taken by employees, e.g. notifying a sales lead in the event of a large sale or adding the human resources manager to any correspondence involving personnel issues.

JBPM now supports the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), a somewhat controversial language for automating business process transactions. The BPEL support within jBPM 3.0 comes in the form of an extension to the software.

JBoss jBPM is now available for download.