Mark Little on jBPM 4 Support

Scott Francis
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With all the hubbub about Activity, I have to admit I found Mark Little’s post about jBPM underwhelming.  After four rambling paragraphs about the historical ties between jBPM and the rest of jBoss (much like the pre-amble you hear right before someone says “…buttttttt…..” ), Mark finally gets to the point.  By this time, I was waiting for the axe to fall.
But of course things don’t always run according to plan and 6 years after joining, Tom decided to leave for pastures new. That left us with a new jBPM lead, Alejandro, who has been a skilled engineer working on the project for many years. It also coincided with the release of SOA-P 5.0 and a need to continue the workflow rethink that had been going on for quite a while. Naturally the departure of any project lead may cause worries in the community and with customers, but where jBPM is concerned they are unfounded: jBPM has been core to all of our BPM and SOA efforts for years and that will remain the case, whoever is the project lead.
Oh wait. That wasn’t the point yet. Ah, here it is, two paragraphs later:
However, it seems that there remain concerns around jBPM 4. Will it be productized? Will it be supported (really the same as the first question)? Will we put any engineering effort into it? It is fair to say that there was expectation that jBPM 4 would appear in a version of the SOA Platform as a replacement for jBPM 3. With the changes to the jBPM project team and the next steps in unifying our efforts in this area across projects, it is not going to happen.
Mark reassures the jBPM faithful that they will continue to invest in jBPM 4 and release new versions.  But RedHat isn’t going to offer paid support for it, and yet they don’t have a plan for jBPM 5 yet.  There’s a pretty tough thread on the discussion forums. You can’t help but feel for people who’ve advocated for jBPM4 who now feel abandoned because they or their customers cannot purchase jBPM4 support contracts. I think the interesting part is that Mark doesn’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about.  The comment thread on his blog is an interesting read. Mark’s first response to a very tough criticism (from Mark Roy) of the handling of the transition is:
Mark, I’m surprised and disappointed that you feel that this transition has been handled poorly. The team needed to think things through before making many public statements and that’s the right thing to do. I don’t think the community or our customers would thank us for making rash statements that we then retracted only a few days later. And let’s be clear: it’s only been 3 weeks since Tom left and in the software business that’s hardly an eternity. […]
Well, I think that the open source community expects to be involved in the discussions. They feel an ownership of the project, because they’ve invested in it. They want to be able to make their case *before* a final decision has been made behind closed doors, not after.  Managing communities (open source or otherwise) is tough.  Mark and his team have their work cut out to rebuild trust in the jBPM community.  I’m not an expert on the jBPM community or the politics within open source communities in general, but I thought this kind of support angst only happened with commercial software!

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