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First Look – Intalio Business Edition

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I got an update from Ishmael Ghalimi at Intalio this week. I have blogged about Intalio a few times, including a set of posts from their user group – check out the intalio tag. Intalio is a company built on a variant of the open source model with 80% of their code in open source, a free community version (based on this and not open source) plus an Enterprise Edition (which is licensed but for which you get the source code). Intalio claims 50,000 user organizations with at least one process deployed and 500 paying customers, doubling year over year since 2005. They also take pleasure in a zero percent attrition rate among these paying customers. The recession is helping some – probably because you can get started cheaply – and they have recently raised some new money to get to profitability next year. They are also raising some more for 8-12 acquisitions – probably small open source technology companies.

Anyway, these two editions are being extended. The free community edition (BPEL engine, Task Manager and BPMN designer) and subscription-based Enterprise Edition (adds business rules, Enterprise Service Bus, Business Activity Monitoring, Content Management, Master Data Management and a Portal) are being joined by a Developer Edition and a Business Edition. Where both the original editions were aimed at senior technical people – architects for instance – the new ones are aimed at developers / coders and business users respectively.

The Developer Edition is a 100% open source, lightweight engine (implementing what they call Simple Orchestration or SimPEL), supporting a Task manager and providing object bindings for multiple languages. They view this as a utility for long running transactions and state management. It is similar to jBPM but is not limited to Java, supporting PHP, Ruby, .Net and Javascript too. It uses SimPEL because BPEL is not easy to use for people – it is too computer-centric. SimPEL uses the Ruby syntax style and uses REST (an easier model for integration). They have a RESTFul BPEL integration and a bi-directional link from SimPEL to anything with a JVM implementation like JRuby. Any language can invoke SimPEL and SimPEL can invoke any code object either in the same JVM for speed or a on a different one. The components built can be used in the main BPEL designer and they plan to have a SimPEL to BPMN convertor to clean up the maps.

The Business Edition is aimed solidly at business people. In Intalio’s mind these users want to document processes easily and then run these processes without IT involvement when they do not need to be integrated with any third party system – human centric, ad-hoc, highly variable workflows. To make this work they acquired Process Square in Germany that offers an on-demand SaaS business user product built using the Google web toolkit. This has some nice location and organization structure modeling as well as supporting the documenting and execution of processes. It is built on top of a lightweight finite state machine. Tasks and work items are created directly in Notes or Outlook using a plug-in instead of a separate portal.

This product is the heart of the Intalio Business Edition. I took a look at it, albeit with its old user interface, and I was impressed by its simplicity and clarity. Properly integrated with the rest of Intalio’s product this could be a great tool for bringing business users more fully into the process management environment. They have already embedded the state machine in the BPEL engine and are working next to allow users to open the simple process maps in the main designer and represent them as a simple BPMN diagram. They plan an ability to expose part of a process designed in the Enterprise Edition to a user of the Business Edition and are talking about reusing their new rulesheet metaphor in the business edition. The product is free for up to 3 users and 10 process maps and then a per-user per-month $20. Companies can get it on premise for 50 users up.

Besides being in the market for various acquisitions to build out their stack (analytics, application server, calendaring, CEP, verticalized templates, EII, process discovery and process import, Sharepoint integration and social computing among others) they are working on the core product features. They are moving to BPMN 2.0, adding tooling for it and integrating that tooling with XML and UML tooling in Eclipse. They have expanded their RIA front end from XFORMs to also use the Tibco GUI open source product and completed their rulesheet editor. They embed 3 ESBs – ServiceMix, Mule and Axis2/Synapse, have upgraded the BAM framework to effectively link to external data elements that might change outside the process and have improved the portal and content management.

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