Last week I attended the EA & BPM Conference in London. This is an interesting event covering the Holy Trinity of Enterprise Consulting; Enterprise Architecture, Business Process Management and Business Architecture (the key filling pulling this sandwich together).

This was the second year they have collocated the BPM Conference with the EA Conference and I think this makes for a really interesting mix. It also highlights the rise of BPM as a key function in the Enterprise. This was reflected in the exhibitors where BPM was a recurring theme on the majority of the stands. I found there was so much of interest that selecting a session was really tough over the course of the three days so I’ll highlight a few of my favourites.

Day one was a collection of seminars. I was intrigued by Alec Sharp’s Data Modelling seminar. Not for everyone Alec insisted on audience participation as he gradually built up his set piece of normalisation dance moves. Bizarre initially but I gradually found myself totally buying in to this. It’s a great way to reacquaint yourself with the various forms of normalisation. This was however a serious session providing tips and techniques for applying this ‘Misused Technique’. I’ll be laying out my diagrams in a more structured form and looking to apply ‘Guerilla Modelling’ where I encounter resistance to modelling in the future.

I was introduced to Blue Ocean Strategy during Jeff Scott’s Key Note on day three. He showed the use of the Strategy Canvas as a tool for developing strategy potentially making your competitors irrelevant. This was particularly interesting and BOS has been added to my reading list as a source of inspiration for my growing Business Architect’s toolkit.

For me the most challenging speaker, and also presentation attendee, was Michael Roseman. His constant reference to ‘Commodity BPM’ and ‘Cute’ ideas pushed you to think about the desired outcomes and values of your BPM initiative. Sure you need the fundamentals in place but conventional analysis and modelling techniques aren’t guaranteed to produce the innovation Enterprises need in today’s highly competitive and changeable environment. His classification of brainstorming as a child’s technique that is more often than not a hit and miss affair was great. He continued to explain that what’s needed is patterns for thinking and innovating that allow you to move towards a repeatable approach.

It was a great three days with an enormous amount of information and learning to be gained from both the presenters and in discussions with the exhibitors and attendees between the presentations. I’ve come away with new tools, techniques, ways of thinking and an even larger backlog of reading to cover. All I need is some time to sit down with a good book and a cold beer…

This week I attended the WIUG meeting at IBM’s South Bank. The meeting was a half day event consisting of a Connectivity Stream with presentations on the new features in MQ V7 and Message Broker V7 and a Business Process Management Stream with presentations on BPM and Business Rules.

The Connectivity Stream was the more popular by at least a factor of five but I was interested in the BPM stream and was hoping to gain a little more clarity around the plethora of offerings IBM have in this space and I believe Business Rules Management Suites have a lot to offer as organisations get further down their SOA journey.

The presentations were interesting, both presenters were experts with their subject matter and as it was a small group it was very informal and interactive. I won’t regurgatate the presentations, which I believe will be posted on the WIUG site soon but here are my thoughts following a couple of days to reflect.

IBM’s BPM suite is still slightly confusing. Although I know that Process Server, Dynamic Process Edition and Business Services Fabric are essentially Process Server based bundlings and FileNet is for document centric business processes, it’s not clear where Lotus, Lombardi and Business Space fit into the equation. I guess clearing this up is going to take a little more effort on my part but it would be nice if the guys at IBM had a clear route map.

As well as extracting the Business Rules from your process IBM are talking about Composite Business Applications. The policy about which task is executed next in your process is extracted making it possible to dynamically alter your business process at runtime based on factors such as the channel servicing the request, the platinum status of the customer making the request etc. This higher level of abstraction will allow you to simplify your business process into its core tasks extracting the complex if, then else decisions that don’t form the meat and veg of the process itself.

ILOG BRMS looks pretty cool in action and I look forward to the guys coming into the office next month to talk to our WebSphere practice.

I need to look into Business Space, this came up in both the BPM and BRMS talks and I don’t know anything about it (yet) and also look into BlueWorks BPM again (when I first looked at this a while back it didn’t work – turns out it doesn’t work in IE yet).

For me the most important point of the day was policy extraction from business processes. With a SO approach it becomes much easier to implement business processes by plugging services together. When you’ve got that sorted just make sure you haven’t moved the inflexibility of the past into a higher layer. Look for opportunities for reuse, simplification and policy extraction throughout your model / design.

This week I attended a Cloudburst ‘Proof of Technology’ day at IBM’s Hursley Labs and I wanted to share my initial thoughts following this chance to play with the appliance. It was a scripted do this, then that set of labs along with some presentations so not necessarily a real tyre kicking but enough for things to click into place and some ideas around its value to form.

Colleagues have already blogged about this new appliance so I’ll keep it simple and liken it to a vending machine for virtualised WAS environments. You pick the one you want, press the button, wait and ta-da out it drops into your private cloud all ready to consume.

Its on-demand nature makes this compelling. Having spent significant periods of time creating virtual environments to play with various products this appeals to my fast food, consumer tendencies and although today it’s only WAS HV edition, DB2 HV is days away with Process and Portal Server HV editions following later.

Let’s imagine you are running WAS, have a number of servers that you are trying to maximise your investment in with a little virtualised sharing of hardware and you want clean, controlled dev and test environments to be simply and repeatably rolled out on demand and torn down when not required, with little fuss. You deploy the environment when you need to use it and when done tear it down. It doesn’t have to sit there consuming resources for any longer than the time you actually need it because when you do need it again you can faithfully recreate it. You can timebox the period that your environment is available and if this period is not extended, your environment is removed.

Thats what you get with this, and it’s so simple you can empower anyone who genuinely requires this level of access and automation to potentially remove a period of let’s be honest, faffing around to aquire the environment which could save huge amounts of time and money. There’s no elasticity, you pick your pattern and if you have 2 nodes that’s your lot. Cloudburst does do some monitoring but it’s not going to give you any more nodes when things are maxing out. It really is simple though.

It’s going to cost you, but nowhere near what you would spend scripting this level of automation and control and IBM are funding the ongoing development and maintenance costs with version 1.1 of the firmware coming so soon you can smell it and 2.0 well on the way.

Does it need to be a hardware appliance, I’m not sure but it is and its available today, in purple. Which must have upset the DataPower guys who already have a purple box in the form of the XB60 B2B appliance. So if you have both don’t rack them up too close together or you just know one day, someone is going to unplug the wrong one.

Is it possible to be brainwashed in a day? Possibly but I believe that if you have an investment in WAS you should have a look this appliance and what it brings to the table. Give us a call and we can put you in touch with a man who has one in a flight case with a pair of servers attached (he brings his own cloud!). He’ll come and see you, let you have a go and you can decide for yourself.

Following the recent acquisition of Sun by Oracle an interesting discussion kicked off via email within our WebSphere practice. The general consensus was that it probably wouldn’t change things that much but that it would be interesting to see how they handled their new toys while the BEA ones were still pretty shiny.

Today I came across this article http://www.infoq.com/news/2009/06/g1-paid. Whilst consisting of nothing more than speculation it raises some questions and elevates this a little higher up my list of things to keep an eye on.

Is there anything in this? Have Oracle got a masterplan to make money out of Java where Sun failed?

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