Part 1 of this series introduces the concept of business entities as a means of representing the business view of data. It proposes two new standards, the Business Entity Definition Language (BEDL) and BPEL4Data for the holistic design and execution of process with Business Entities.
The specification and deployment of business processes and operations is crucial to the successful management of medium or large-scale enterprises. In most business process management tool suites, data is treated mostly as an afterthought. Activities and their flows are the main abstractions and the data manipulated by the processes is essentially hidden in process variables. The presentation and aggregation of data is handled outside of the process definition, and implemented through generic service calls. This process-only approach ignores the important data perspective during business operation analysis, often obscures key aspects of the operations, and can lead to costly re-factoring throughout the solution lifecycle.
In this article series, experts from IBM lay out a technical vision and approach for how data can be represented and specified in a first-class way for BPM applications. In this series, to be published over the next several months, the authors will present various facets of this vision, including:
- Proposing new specification standards and positioning them with existing standards like WS-BPEL and BPMN.
- Presenting process modeling use cases and scenarios enabled by this new architecture.
- Providing ideas for implementing the architecture with the IBM BPM stack.
Part 1 of this series introduces the concept of Business Entities as a means of representing the business view of data. It proposes two new standards, the Business Entity Definition Language (BEDL) and BPEL4Data, an extension to WS-BPEL for the holistic design and execution of process with Business Entities. Part 1 covers BEDL in detail.
Part 2 will cover the BPEL4Data language elements in depth, and discuss the architecture that brings together the BPEL family of languages (WS-BPEL, WS-HumanTask) with BEDL in execution scenarios.
Part 3 will cover process modeling scenarios and patterns with Business Entities using Websphere Business Modeler notations and semantics, and will use a complex scenario to demonstrate the modeling patterns.
In Part 4 we'll turn to the execution side and cover how the holistic model of processes and Business Entities extends design-to-deploy with additional semantics for a richer interactive process design experience.
Over the past decade, a new approach to business process and operations modeling has emerged that is based on business entities. Business Entities (BEs) are key business-relevant dynamic conceptual objects that are created, evolved, and (typically) archived as they pass through the operations of an enterprise. A Business Entity includes both an information model for data about the business objects during their lifetime, and a lifecycle model, which describes the possible ways and timings that tasks can be invoked and performed on these objects.
Business Entities provide a new basis for specifying business operations that combines data and process at a fundamental level. While the approach has proven successful in several contexts, its application has taken the approach of creating a business entity layer on top of existing SOA and middleware tools. In contrast, this article introduces a way to take advantage of the business entity approach while still using and building upon standards such as WS-BPEL and BPMN. This enables the use of business entities in conjunction with the large industrial investment in, and vast embedded base of, tooling for these process-centric approaches.
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Prabir Nandi is a Research Staff Member in the Business Informatics Department at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center. He is an inventor of the Business Entity concepts and has led its continued research and development for the last several years, including the now commercially available Business Entity Lifecycle Analysis (BELA) capability as part IBM Global Business Services method and tools.
Dieter Koenig is a Software Architect for IBM WebSphere BPM products. He is a member of several OASIS technical committees for the standardization of Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) and Service Component Architecture (SCA) specifications. Dieter has published many articles and has given talks at conferences about Web services and workflow technology, and is co-author of two books about Web services.
Simon Moser is a Software Engineer and Architect with the Business Process Solutions Group at IBM’s Software Laboratory in Boeblingen, Germany. He has published many papers and given talks at international conferences, mainly in the area of Web service systems and business processes. He holds a M.Eng degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany.
Richard Hull is a Research Manager in the Business Informatics Research Department at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center. He is widely recognized for his research contributions in the areas of Web services, business process management, and database theory. He became an ACM Fellow in 2007. His current research foci include bringing a declarative style to the business entity lifecycle approach for the modeling of business operations, and applying the business entity lifecycle approach to the challenges of service composition and interoperation.
Vlad Klicnik is the lead architect for the WebSphere Business Modeler product. Prior to joining the Modeler team, Vlad was an architect for WebSphere Integration Developer, and a foundation member of the Eclipse development team.
Matthias Kloppmann oversees the architecture of IBM's WebSphere BPM runtime, and is involved in BPM standardization activities at OASIS (BPEL4People) and OMG (BPMN 2.0). Over the last fifteen years, he has been involved in the development of three generations of BPM middleware products.
John Vergo is the Senior Manager of the Business Architecture Department and Strategist in the Services area of Research in the Business Informatics Research group at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, New York. He has extensive business modeling and architecture experience, working with large enterprise IBM clients. His current research interests include business entities, business architecture, component business modeling (CBM), business design, and business transformation. His past research areas include human-computer interaction, user-centered design methods, multimodal user interfaces, e-commerce user experiences, speech recognition, natural language understanding, scientific visualization, 3D graphics and software development methods. He has a BS in Mathematics and Psychology from the University at Albany, an MS in Computer Science from Polytechnic University and an IBM Research MBA.