Tale of the tape: The fight for open source BPM dominance begins

Tom Bayaens and Alfresco launched Activiti yesterday, a new open source business process management platform which is looking to take on the commercial suites head on. But there’s something else brewing under the surface. Whilst I could have focused on a review based on a powerpoint presentation, Tom’s direction made it pretty clear that he’s throwing down the gauntlet to the likes of Bonitasoft; we’re going with Apache and we’re going to win.

In earlier years the likes of Intalio were vocal in supporting open source BPMS but they’ve slightly lost their way in recent times, there’s very little marketing noise generated and attempts to engage with them has been fruitless to be honest, so the meteoric rise of Bonitasoft has been pretty easy and with a vibrant development community there’s always something being said about them. When Tom left jBoss they had around 25,000 downloads a month at their peak and he admits he’s looking to exceed this in 12 months with Activiti, how this compares with Bonitasoft I’m not sure just now but the direct challenge is not in how often both are downloaded, whether there is BPMN 2.0 and CMIS compliance or not but what licence model their working with.

This is going to be a fight between GPL and Apache and Tom is very confident his open source model will win. He sees the spread and speed of Apache adoption far greater than GPL or Eclipse and is betting on Activiti becoming the defacto open source BPMS of choice to develop and implement. But there’s another element here to consider. Whilst it may well be down to the flavour of java licence used as the differentiator the biggest factor to bear in mind is the community developers, without which both would be pretty much helpless. In any prize fight whilst weight (licence and backing) is crucial so is the fighter’s reach and the development community is that reach.

Whoever wins will be the one with the longer and more powerful arms, not the heaviest.

Seconds away, Round 2…

(This blog post was brought to you today listening to Eye of the Tiger by Survivor)

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2 responses to “Tale of the tape: The fight for open source BPM dominance begins

  1. Hi Theo,Nice to read your review on that topic 🙂 I really don’t think that this can be reduced to a fight between two different open source project licences. Even more, most of the people involved in BPM application developments don’t care about whether the licence is GPL, Apache or any other open source licence, as soon as they can develop and deploy BPM applications on top (which is basically what both licences allows).So, coming back to "real" differentiators, democratizing the BPM market is not just about providing a lightweight and embeddable BPM engine that runs in Java applications, in a JEE server, on the cloud… but also about providing a standalone and complete BPM solution (including business connectivity, user applications generation and customization, reporting, data management…)This is what BonitaSoft has achieved with the release of Bonita Open Solution: we give to the market a fully functional open source BPM solution that can be run as a standalone BPM product or as a lightweight and embeddable solution in any of the previously listed configurations.best regards,MiguelBTW, I confirm, since the release of Bonita Open Solution we are getting more than 25.000 downloads per month!

  2. Once again we see the assumption that there is a "single" approach that is going to "win". There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all process engine.It does remind me of the diatribe emitted by Intalio when explaining that all engines would be using BPEL. I am glad to see that Tom and Alfresco are wiser than that, and are planning to implement the full capabilities of BPMN, but even that is terribly limited when you get outside of web services orchestration domain. The BPMN team has rejected hundreds of enhancement requests — many of which are actually available and running in other systems such as Bonita.I think it is great that Alfresco is taking this on. It will give a lot to legitimacy to the BPMN approach, but there is no danger that this will diminish Bonita in any way. This would be like thinking that a new model of Maserati would eliminate all other brands and makes of cars. This would be like suggesting that Ruby as a language would eliminate all traces of Java as a language. The world is not so simple, and the process space not so simplistic.I am glad to see this turn of events. I do wish all the best to the effort. Given the content management nature of Alfresco, I would expect that the only vendors really threatened by this are one that are in the content management space, and charging a lot for an outdated and feature poor process language.

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