This article is created jointly by Brian Petrini and Andy Ritchie

Business Operations Connect is a new capability for IBM Business Process Manager (BPM) and IBM Operational Decision Manager (ODM) to provide a new approach for Developers to consume enterprise business processes and decisions in their solutions via the API Economy. It also enables Process and Decision Developers to consume services hosted on other systems via the API Economy also.

api economy

Enterprises have a wide array of valuable services which can be re-used when implementing new business solutions like processes services, decisions services, and internal and external information services.

However it can be very difficult and time consuming for new business solution developers to find these API’s and services, manage a wide array of service formats like XML, XSLT and SOAP, manage and control security access, manage the lifecycle of the service interfaces and finally have consistent tooling for providers and consumers to use.

A new approach is needed built around API’s to address all these challenges to reduce the development time and time to market of new solutions, provide a secure self service access to the assets and make it easy for developers to share new API’s as well as consume them in a consistent way.

IBM has just announced in March 2016 a new set of products built around a new and enhanced API management product called API Connect V5 which combines major enhancements to manage, test and run API’s from IBM Strongloop. This capability is also being included in App Connect and there are new Connect Capabilities in WebSphere Connect, Z Connect and IBM Integration Suite.

This same API capability will support making enterprise processes like Account opening, Order Processing, Claim processing and decisions like Pricing, Eligibility, Compliance available to new solution Developers using IBM BPM and ODM ODM using their respective Process Connect and Decision Connect capabilities. This not only enables new solution prototypes to be developed faster will less code, but should also enable greater solution re-use, less effort and reduced time to market to transition this to use production enterprise processes and decisions.

If we take an example of a Travel Booking firm wanting to provide enhanced solution to its clients. It needs to consume API’s from multiple hotel, flight, car rental providers. It also has to link this with its own booking process and pricing decisions which factor in both simple and more complex bookings, discounts, flight taxes, and promotions.

Traditionally the Booking Process and Pricing decisions could be exposed via web services or REST based services. However this does not make it any easier for the Application Developer to find, consume, view the interfaces, or the Application owner to define what level of service is required.

The new Business Operations Connect capabilities with IBM Operational Decision Manager and IBM Business Process Manager will use capability from IBM API Connect Essentials – an offering for developers and businesses to provide the essential functionality to create, run, manage, and enforce the consumption of APIs and Microservices.

Businesses can additionally purchase

  • API Connect Professional for departmental use and single projects functionality to begin their business transformation and innovation journey through APIs and Microservices.
  • API Connect Enterprise for enterprises and includes comprehensive set of enterprise-grade capabilities and clustering to create, run, manage, and enforce consumption of APIs and Microservices

New Capabilities provided

The new API Connect capability when packaged with IBM BPM and IBM ODM provides the following enhancements

1. Where a business solution needs to re-use existing processes and decisions a Process or Decision developer can iteratively design APIs by using the enhanced API assembly capability and utilize the new, built-in policies with the new API Connect toolkit.

  • Use a toolkit rapidly and iteratively to design and develop APIs by using Swagger 2.0
  • Create APIs from existing Processes or Decisions designed in BPM Process Designer or ODM Rule Designer with REST/JSON or REST/XML interfaces
  • Add examples of how to use the API.
  • Deploy the new API’s to the API Connect Server Catalog to enable visibility for Application Developers
  • By logging onto the Server optionally define an API plan which defines its visibility and whether its Public API, restricted to certain users, whether there is a API consumption rate limit and how its enforced

2. An Application developer can use an enhanced API Connect developer portal to find content available to them and collaborate with the community.

  • Use consistent User interface with API Providers to list and find API’s defined in the API plans as visible to them
  • View Swagger 2.0 API definitions for the API created by the Process or decision developer
  • View code examples provided by the API developer
  • Test the API using the tools, before integrating into the new solution

3. An IT administrator can automate API deployments across environments for API Connect whether On Premise or on IBM Cloud.

  • Automate deployment of APIs across environments and lifecycle stages.
  • Enable enhanced auditing of security administration tasks.

4. Where a Process Developer or Decision Developer want to consume API’s running on premise or on IBM Cloud they can

  • Logon to the Developer Portal of API Connect using their credentials and view the set of API’s which have been provisioned for their specific use.
  • View the Profiles and swagger definitions of the API’s
  • View code examples provided by the API developer
  • Test the API using the tools before integrating into the Process flow of decision

There are many advantages for adopting this new approach to using API’s and API Management using IBM API connect capability to manage the visibility, format, testing, deployment and plan SLA’s and enforce these which simple manual API or service discovery and invocation lacks.

By Providing consistent easy to use tools for both API providers and consumers it makes it far more productive to provide improved Hybrid cloud solutions with IBM BPM and IBM ODM hosted on Premise and in Cloud to create Innovative new solutions which

  • Enable Cloud native solutions to use existing enterprise processes and decisions quickly and easily
  • Enable enterprise processes and decisions to enhance and transform their capabilities invoking new Analytic and Cognitive services in the IBM Cloud to improve Cognitive Business Operations
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7 comments on"Business Operations Connect"

  1. Matt Warta April 05, 2016

    Great Article Brian! We have also found that by taking an API approach with BPM, we improve the extensibility, consumability, and reusability of our process soulutions. Excited about the new capabilities improving upon Strongloop.

  2. Joe Motacek April 05, 2016

    As a solutions developer who’s worked with IBM BPM Cloud for over a year I’m really glad that their integrating Strongloop into BPM. I’m confused though, will this be replacing, augmenting or be in addition to the current BPM API? Also your post eluded to the capabilities but doesn’t really explain how to enable or add this functionality to an existing non-cloud platform. It sounds like it’ll be packaged with API Connect and BPM/ODM. Does this mean it will eventually be part of the BPM and ODM platforms or that it is additional functionality that can be added to these platforms? You also mentioned a toolkit any speculation on when it will be released? I’ve been working with Strongloop for several months now so I’m really excited to get started, I just need to know where to go next.

  3. […] You can read more about this in this article. […]

  4. Kathy Terry April 20, 2016

    Fantastic blog… I’ve been highlighting this capability as well. This is a GAME CHANGER!!! Everyone needs to take advantage of this.

    Process Transformation + Cognitive (Watson) + Mobile + API Economy = Business Innovation

    • Jeff Hampton May 11, 2016

      Kathy, I read your comment about this being “a game changer”……I am a bit ignorant to what this announcement really means and the business value it brings to our customers….Can you elaborate a bit on why this is a game changer, other than another way for developers to access and consume BPM/ODM services…What’s different about this approach that is not currently available with Bluemix (Asking from an ignorant perspective)?

      • This makes it easier to leverage assets from BPM and ODM and use them with other APIs from everywhere (including Bluemix). The full products for BPM and ODM allow for process transformation including automating business rules and acting on business events occurring over time – all of these capabilities are not available in Bluemix. There is a “workflow” tile in Bluemix and “business rules” (but not the full capabilities as offered with IBM BPM and ODM).

        This also compliments the “rest of the story” around the Mobile API Economy where you can take advantage of “mobile moments” such as location based sensing and depending on the customer and what they “opt in” for you can then leverage an API exposed from a “business process” or invoke a set of business rules exposed as an API to sell something to them or let them know their options. Business processes allow you to offer different paths depending on the client.

        You could also leverage analytics as well as Watson to give “expert advice” when trained properly and then integrate that with a business process at just the right point to reach the customers when they would want to buy something (retail example).

        It makes it easier for you to leverage these assets with other elements that you might have built in Bluemix.

        The bottom line is that once you have made it easy to expose BPM and ODM services as an API they become easily usable by anyone that you want to share them with. That could be inside the company, with partners or even publicly in some cases.

        As we have many APIs available (many from IBM, competitors and clients and they are in Bluemix as tiles as well) we also need a way to manage, version and create APIs and that is what is provided by API Connect (which itself is available in Bluemix but also on-premise etc…) It provides the ability to also build new micro-services and extend the solution further and leverages Node.js for adding new business logic to the solution.

        It is in leveraging ALL of these capabilities that we can help clients deliver solutions they never imagined were possible. We can even add-in the Internet of Things, connectivity, security, visual recognition from Watson, Weather data, language translation and more to create an amazing solution for clients.

        Even IF your client is not ready for all of this YET… we need to set the VISION for them in an industry context so that they will know that no other vendor in the market can deliver an innovative solution in this way. No one else has Watson… No other vendor has leading edge capabilities that can easily be combined in this way supporting hybrid cloud “of choice” solutions while also leveraging existing legacy assets.

        Every client in every industry can be showcased as a use case leveraging elements of the above. It is in consultatively engaging with the client that we can “set the table” for what they want to do NOW and then also construct a vision for “what is possible”. They will not do all of this at once but only IBM makes it possible with exclusives including Watson.

        We need to leverage “just the right ingredients” from the IBM “table” to help clients create innovations that will change their business and move them to higher levels of market reach, profit etc.. It’s not about a “single offering” but about the ability to bring it all together.

        Bluemix does this in a great way… but it does not include everything either… so we need to bring the world of existing assets including services from WAS, CICS, IMS, business processes, business rules, events, transformations of data etc.. together with Bluemix thus leveraging both on-premise and hybrid cloud options.

  5. […] Get more tips from Andy Ritchie and Brian Petrini, an IBM Business Process Manager technical offering manager, on the BPM/Dev developer center. […]

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