Will Open Source Software Meet the Challenge? Activiti Enters the Ring
When I worked for a BPM software vendor, I often told people that I wasn’t too worried about open source software because BPM is a different animal than many other software categories- user experience is critical; the problem-space is wide, rather than narrow; and it requires seamless coordination of many different activities, rather than just a few activities. Add to that, the standards and specifications hadn’t firmed up yet, as they had for databases. However, the environment is evolving:
- BPMN 2.0 provides what might be the first standard that is complete enough for open source software to use as a basis for competing with the commercial vendors
- User Interface software development tools have improved. It is easier to produce visually appealing applications that run inside a browser than it ever was before (thanks to HTML 5, AJAX, and several libraries built to leverage both).
- The cloud makes potential deployment of complicated software components easier to manage.
- They’re using a version of Signavio’s modeler. Gero Decker’s team produces one of the better web-based BPMN 2 compliant modeling tools out there.
- The installation process was pretty painless – even on my Mac – for a developer. You need Java and Ant to run the install and build the demo, but clearly it would be a small effort to create a consumer-usable installer if that was warranted. Since the install is really for the server components, I don’t know if an end-user consumable install is really necessary. Authors would just point their browser at the server. Did I mention that the whole stack ran just fine, natively, on my Mac as well as a Windows VM?
- The documentation is already pretty comprehensive, and gets down to no-nonsense details (not true for many commercial products).
- There’s already a REST API. I like the early emphasis on interfaces, APIs, and framework – because that effort will be rewarded by making it easier for contributors to be productive.
- It isn’t clear (to me, yet) what the long-term involvement / direction of Signavio is – after all, Signavio has a for-profit business of hosting modeling in the cloud. But at some point I think a true open source project will want to be able to improve on the modeler as well as other components at the engine level.
- There’s a lot of work yet to do. Right now much of the engine isn’t yet implemented. This is actually apparent from the documentation – and I love that the team had the courage to expose what they have, and what they don’t have ready at this point.
- Earlier I mentioned developer-friendly… what about user-friendly??