Pierre Fricke is Red Hat's director of product line management for SOA products, and therefore-by extension-the guy leading the infrastructure enterprise software company into business process management (BPM). Red Hat, with its JBoss middleware group, is one of the companies I talk about now and again as placing BPM subsidiary to an SOA view of the world, instead of the other way around, as I prefer.
I asked Pierre if my observation was accurate and a fair criticism. "BPM (for Red Hat) is an extension of SOA. But given that we come from a JEE/SOA heritage I can see why you think of it that way," he said.
Fricke continued that Red Hat's middleware lineup has grown from just a JEE platform anchored by the well-known JBoss application server to portals, rules engines and other things and is on the way to what he calls the Red Hat "business automation platform." The business automation platform will be BPM as I typically use the term but Red Hat is not there yet.
The Red Hat BPM roadmap should not be confused (and I admit I had confused it) with the Red Hat productization of jBPM. That's an accurate name in that jBPM provides process management for Java developers, but it is more a workflow engine and not really intended for business analysts. Over time, by combining jBPM and a business rules management system (BRMS) with business alert monitoring and event-driven business intelligence, Red Hat will get to an SOA-based BPM system.
The BRMS part is already here. Pierre described the latest stop on the roadmap, the May 2009 productization of a Drools-based rules engine called JBoss Enterprise BRMS. In it, Drools is extended with a Jackrabbit repository for artifacts, metadata, and version control and an authoring and management front end for analysts. He sees the product as competitive with the functionality of IBM/Ilog's and FICO's (formerly Fair Isaac) rules engines.
Fricke characterized the current state of Red Hat's offering to JEE developers as similar to what Microsoft Workflow Foundation provides to Microsoft framework developers. He plans to get where IBM and Oracle are in terms of providing a complete stack of BPM-enabling software. Then your decision will come down to the big guys in stacks vs. the open source stack. Pierre believes Red Hat in particular and open source in general will win that war because of standardization.
In my opinion, although JBoss Enterprise BRMS is not integrated with jBPM, it could be added ad hoc and maybe get you to an open-source BPMS functionality today. (There are other open source options, too.) The real question is whether BPMS will ever really be the commodity functionality that seems to go hand in hand with making open source a success in a category. In this recent IT Business Edge interview with Active Endpoints, there's a good discussion of why that might not happen.
Notice that I use the word "productization" and the term "open source" here and there above. I do that because one of Red Hat's claims to fame of course is its devotion to fairly restrictive open source licensing terms and conditions (T&C) and the community aspects associated with open source. Everything Pierre described in the next step in the Red Hat BPM roadmap is accessible today via the Apache Orchestration Director Engine (ODE) project extension known as Riftsaw, strongly led by Red Hat developers. Riftsaw is a superset of ODE; as an extender and not a unique open soruce project like the original JBoss and the Fedora community that underlies Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
At this point in time, Riftsaw is concentrating on implementing the BPEL 2.0 standard. If you want to help drive the Red Hat bus (pun intended) along the road map, take a look at Riftsaw. There is also a tie in to the Red Hat cloud-enabling virtualization technology I described in September.