JBoss moves up the stack

Builder: The open-source application server has collaborated with the open-source project jBpm and released a workflow engine
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor on
JBoss on Monday released jBPM 2.0, an open-source workflow engine, which it developed in collaboration with the open-source project of the same name.

Sacha Labourey, European general manager at JBoss, said this is the next stage in the company's strategy to build a full open-source middleware stack. The company already has various enterprise offerings including an application server, JBoss AS 4.0, and a caching facility for server clusters, JBossCache.

Labourey said that when growing the stack the company either does in-house development or uses projects that are already available in the open-source community. In this case, it decided to work with the jBpm project, and employed its founder Tom Baeyens.

Baeyens said this release of jBPM does not have a GUI, as the developer team initially concentrated on creating a powerful workflow engine. A version of the product with a GUI will be released in the first quarter of 2005.

The market for workflow engines is fragmented, with no single vendor able to handle all process requirements, according to a report from Gartner called 'Creating a BPM and Workflow Automation Vendor Checklist.' JBoss hopes to exploit this fragmentation, and its developers claim that jBPM will be cheaper to implement than other market offerings, and has been designed to handle all requirements.

Wil van der Aalst, a professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology and the author of various books on workflow management, said that workflow vendors have traditionally had a hard time making an impact in the market, due to both cost and a lack of understanding by management.

"It is very difficult to explain a workflow system to management as it doesn't solve just one problem," said van der Aalst.

At present, workflow engines are mostly used by large organisations such as insurance companies and banks, according to van der Aalst. But he points out that workflow engines are often a component of other systems such as ERP systems, Product Data Management systems and call-centre software.

Van der Aalst said that JBoss may also face competition from within the open-source community, as there are more than 20 open-source workflow projects, including YAWL, an engine which he is collaborating on.

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