Cognitive Request Router and Process for Developers [Video]

  • November 7, 2018
  • Scott
  • 0 Comments

A little over a month ago, three of us made the trek to Berlin to participate in CamundaCon.  It was our first time attending the conference, an annual gathering of Camunda developers, customers, and users in Berlin.

As followers of Camunda for many (five?) years, and friends from even before that, we took advantage of the opportunity to attend as the conference has shifted to primarily English language, giving us a better opportunity to really appreciate all of the content. We took with us a demonstration of Cognitive Request Router – it is a solution for inbound communications, interpreting the actions requested, analyzing the sentiment, categorizing, routing to the right teams or functions, and even automating some of those actions.

One of the clever things about Cognitive Request Router is that the core technologies are largely interchangeable. It says a lot about the current state of the world that we can swap in-or-out the sentiment analysis, the machine learning for categorization, the paper-to-text translation (OCR), the routing logic, the automation of tasks, and the process engine underneath.

Camunda’s Jakob Freund gave a good talk on the re-emergence of process workflow automation.  And he has a point: Process has gotten a bad rap with all the move to digital experience, devOps, and microservices. Jakob talks about moving from batch processing to real-time processing (directly related to supporting the digital experience). Jakob makes the point that this isn’t about moving from analog to digital, it is from digital to a better form of digital more suited to our customers’ needs or desires (real-time response).

It turns out, modeling process, or workflow automation, is going to have even more relevance as we go forward:

The big pitch appears to be to break up TLMs – terrible legacy monoliths – and gradually replace them with microservices and new tech infrastructure. We have used approximately this approach with a number of our clients, in order to decommission a system that was deeply embedded in the way a client does business.  You can’t just replace it, you have to gradually chip away, or as one client put it “we have to improve it to death!”

Make no mistake, Camunda is not making a play for low- or no-code solutions. They are pitching directly to developers and developers’ hearts.  Their examples that drive this behavior are, for example, Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub.  More recently, we’ve seen IBM purchase Red Hat.  These are plays for the hearts and minds of developers – on the bet that *developers* are the new king makers.

Co-founder Bernd Rücker gave another talk on the role of workflows in Microservices:

What I found really interesting about this is that when I started working at Lombardi Software back in 2003, BPMN had not yet been adopted as a standard.  Lombardi’s notion of a process was a series of “services” (I guess they weren’t micro yet), connected by a series of events…

There was no overall diagram of the process. Any number of services could listen for the events – it was roughly a pub/sub model.  You could represent quite complex behavior with efficiency.  But it did require exceptional abstract thinking skills, and a diagram that was apart from the running code (usually in Visio or some other drawing tool) to describe that abstract process.

Despite the shortcomings, you could feel the magic of how Lombardi’s solution worked in practice.   The services were described by a scripting language, usually Javascript (a VERY early form of server-side JavaScript, we didn’t know we were being pioneering to be honest, we felt like we were hacking it).

When you added the notion of a BPMN diagram to connect these services in the intended order, it was a great improvement to how quickly and correctly we could build solutions for our clients.

All of this is a long way of saying, I think Bernd has hit it on the head – Microservices shouldn’t just be floating in the void waiting for their Kafka messages – we should have a notion of how these Microservices are triggered in the context of a larger process – otherwise it will be hard for future developers/contributors to understand the impact of changes they make to the system.  Bernd does a better job than I could of making that case in the embedded video.

Camunda records nearly all of the sessions at their conference, resulting in high quality video presentations that have now been published on YouTube.

 

 

 

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