Comment lines by Christina Lau: IBM BPM BlueWorks, a WebSphere cloud experiment

Learn about new IBM® WebSphere® cloud experiments to create multi-tenant WebSphere runtimes, tools, and programming and business models. A realization of this architecture is the upcoming IBM BPM BlueWorks. This article provides an introduction to BPM BlueWorks, reveals the technologies behind this new offering, and offers some insight on where all this could go. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

Christina Lau (clau@ca.ibm.com), Distinguished Engineer, IBM

Author photoChristina Lau is a Distinguished Engineer and leads the BPM Architecture and Advanced Technology Team in WebSphere, focusing on emerging technologies. You can visit her blog on the BPM Experience .


developerWorks Contributing author
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22 July 2009

Also available in Chinese

Making a cloud blue

IBM BPM BlueWorks is an upcoming set of cloud-based business process management (BPM) tools and content to help you get started with BPM quickly and easily -- and at no cost. With BPM BlueWorks, business stakeholders can collaborate to capture business intent, understand capabilities, and sketch out their business processes. They can leverage pre-built BPM content and contributions from BPM experts and users around the world to move quickly from strategy mapping to process execution. BPM BlueWorks provides an easy on-ramp to the IBM BPM Suite, enabling you to author processes in Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), and ultimately deploy them as working processes in your business.


Cloud architecture

Cloud computing is a concept that enables you to work smarter by doing more with less. It is a logical construct for sharing hardware and software, and can grow and shrink on demand. One of the most important aspects of cloud computing is that there is nothing to install -- everything is self-service, accessible through the Web, and pay as you go. These attributes make cloud computing attractive to businesses of all sizes:

  • Large enterprises are looking to leverage private clouds with advanced virtualization, automation, and management to reduce operational expense.
  • Small and medium-sized business are looking to leverage public cloud services, which require minimal up-front expense including skills and setup costs.

As an emerging technology, the programming model and development approaches associated with cloud computing are emerging as well. As such, BPM BlueWorks is providing the IBM WebSphere® team with an excellent opportunity to experiment with what it takes to put together a cloud platform that is made up of three layers:

  • Application-as-a-Service: BPM BlueWorks is a good example of a modern Web application that is built on Web 2.0 technologies, such as Dojo and REST. It provides a rich Internet experience to users and is designed from the ground up with an “as-a-service” delivery model.
  • Platform-as-a-Service: BPM BlueWorks runs on a middleware platform that includes application servers, database servers, collaboration servers, and security servers. The BPM BlueWorks application is co-sharing the middleware platform with other applications.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service: The applications and the middleware are deployed in a data center where the infrastructure (network, storage, machines, and so on) are managed and are also shared.

While many aspects of the cloud architecture are no different from traditional Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), it does introduce some interesting new concepts like multi-tenancy, plus additional steps in the product development life cycle, such as:

  • Integration with the data center.
  • Testing for additional security and vulnerability issues; for example, malicious attacks on a deployed application that can indirectly harm other applications in the data center.

The multi-tenancy cloud

Multi-tenancy refers to a principle in software architecture where a single instance of the software runs on a software vendor's servers, which serve multiple client organizations (tenants).

In traditional approaches to multi-tenancy, isolation between tenants can be achieved by each tenant having its own infrastructure and its own version of the applications. While there is strict isolation between these tenants, sharing is not effective in these configurations.

The evolution of this concept is to a collaborative multi-tenant model (Figure 1) where clusters of servers are shared between tenants, but access is controlled at a granular level. Sharing and isolation of artifacts between tenants are both possible.

Figure 1. Collaborative multi-tenant
Figure 1. Collaborative multi-tenant

BPM BlueWorks supports the collaborative multi-tenant model. Public assets such as best practices, white papers, demos, strategy maps, process templates, and so on, can be viewed by everyone. A company can publish assets to share with other companies, or publish their assets privately, so that only users from that company can see.

Behind the scenes, BPM BlueWorks is powered by multiple products and technology components that are integrated together to form an initial cloud platform with multi-tenancy support. The underlying technologies include:


Using BPM BlueWorks

Anyone will be able to visit the BPM BlueWorks Web site and browse the various learning material. However, if you want to create your own strategy maps, capability maps, or processes, you must get an account by going to the Ready to Sign up page and completing the information.

You will need to enter the name for your tenant. A tenant can be a company, an organization, or a team. If the name has not been registered before, the tenant will be created. You will become the first user for the tenant and the default account administrator. A tenant will be provisioned its own Business Space and Rational Asset Manager community, and the assets it creates (for example, maps, processes, and so on) will be isolated from other tenants.

If the tenant is already registered and an account created, you will be invited to join the account. To do so, simply click the Join button. The account administrator for the tenant will have to approve the request using the Company widget in their Business Space. When your request is accepted, you will receive an e-mail with a sign-up link for you to login with the password you entered.


Collaborating to create BPM assets

BPM BlueWorks deploys one instance of Rational Asset Manager in the cloud with a predefined taxonomy. There is a public community called BPM BlueWorks. Any tenant can publish assets to this public community, as well as view or import assets from this community. When a new tenant registers to BPM BlueWorks, a private Rational Asset Manager community is automatically created for the tenant. This private Rational Asset Manager community is only accessible to users from that tenant.

To give you an idea how this might work in practice, here is a typical usage scenario for a tenant discovering and reusing assets:

  • Tom from the Hillcrest Club logs in to his Business Space and connects to the BPM BlueWorks community. As shown in Figure 2, he discovers an interesting Purchase process that he decides to reuse.
    Figure 2. Import public assets from Rational Asset Manager
    Figure 2. Import public assets from Rational Asset Manager
  • Tom imports this Puchase process into his BPMN Editor and customizes it (Figure 3) by adding some additional steps that are applicable for his club.
    Figure 3. Customize the BPMN process for your company
    Figure 3. Customize the BPMN process for your company
  • After making his customizations, Tom exports the process to his Hillcrest community (Figure 4). This way, the customized process will be private and not visible to other BPM BlueWorks users.
    Figure 4. Export your customized assets to your company’s community
    Figure 4. Export your customized assets to your company’s community

On-ramp to IBM BPM Suites

Companies that want to let many business stakeholders collaborate on process improvement initiatives without being limited by the cost of on-premise modeling software for each business analyst can start by using BPM BlueWorks to design their processes and iterate on the designs. Once a process is finalized, a business analyst can export the process into on-premise modeling software such as IBM WebSphere Business Modeler. The process can be then be implemented using one of the IBM BPM Suite products, including the IBM WebSphere Dynamic Process Edition and the IBM FileNet® Active Content Edition.


Conclusion

BPM BlueWorks is the first WebSphere experiment toward a cloud computing platform. But we don’t plan to stop at just collaborating and authoring BPM artifacts. Together with our research team, we have been incubating the next phase of our project to look at how we can also execute and monitor situational applications directly in the cloud. We called them Business Mashups; composite Web applications that coordinate processes and data to automate many day-to-day common business activities with no coding required. Some of these ideas have already been presented at various conferences.

Also, Project Virtuoso is the code name used to describe the incubations we are doing around the WebSphere cloud platform. Project Virtuoso provides secure enterprise integration that leverages our middleware (for example, WebSphere CloudBurst, WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, and WebSphere Extreme Scale) to bring the "as-a-service" experience to our customers. You can expect to see more of these new features coming throughout the year.

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