Has Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which has been around for several years now, moved any closer to assuming the role of de facto standard? Not by Max Pucher's estimates.
Max took a hard look at the protocol, and found, in his opinion, industry-wide support to be lacking. "There are over 200 other BPM [business process management] vendors in all imaginable flavors. Less than ten percent of those vendors support BPEL and their implementations are not fully compatible," he observes, noting that BPEL is an idea that never gained traction:
"BPEL or Business Process Execution Language (an XML format) was created according to the vision that process definitions should be interchangeable between BPM vendors. While that sounds like a noble target, I question its validity. Today BPEL is only supported by that vision as in reality it is unfulfilled."
At issue, Max said, is that BPEL is a difficult standard to work with:
"BPEL is (like any XML format) not something you want to write natively. Certainly not a business analyst. But the vision and claim is that BPEL resembles process code that can be taken from one BPM vendor to the other with little to no effort. That, I am sorry to say, is an illusion. Where it is part of a sales pitch it is a straight lie. It is true that you can upload the BPEL code, but that brings hardly a benefit."
Max also point out that for business process management, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) helps maintain processes in a graphical manner. (Though he referes to BPMN as "another dreadful XML format and the only thing that comes close to a standard.")
In a second part to the post, Max even questions the benefits of BPM in general, noting that he has not seen any "vendor independent studies that prove that rigidly managed process flows are beneficial to a business. Executives chase the illusion that they can implement a business model with IT that will allow them to run the business by remote control."
Is BPEL really all that bad? For a more bullish view of BPEL, readers should check out how Intalio's Ismael Ghalimi lays out the case for both BPMN and BPEL working together within a BPM environment. Bruce SIlver also added commentary on the relationship between BPEL and BPMN, noting that both have their shortcomings, but BPEL still provides some advantages that BPMN does not -- standardized semantics.