Alfresco quietly released version 1.5 of its commercial Activiti product recently. There are some important updates included, worth noting here.
The most significant new addition to Activiti 1.5 is the ability to create simple data models in the design environment, and then have those models drive data management logic. With this capability, Activiti manages business data directly, on behalf of business process applications you create.
Here Activiti is delivering capabilities now also found in other analyst- (rather than developer-)focused business process platforms products from the likes of Appian, IBM, Pegasystems and more. It’s an important enabler for organisations wanting to build and operate standalone business applications that are process driven (rather than business process co-ordination systems that are principally concerned with orchestrating actions in external applications). We’re seeing this more and more as a use case for business process platforms, particularly in those organisations without long-running heritage investments in BPM technology. Activiti 1.5 offers a generic data provider API, so if you want to have Activiti manage data in a system not currently supported you can implement that yourself relatively straightforwardly.
Alongside the data modelling and management features, Activiti 1.5 also:
- Makes it easier for process application creators to invoke content management features across the Alfresco One ECM platform.
- Makes it easier for teams to promote Activiti applications across development, test, staging and production environments.
- Provides multi-schema support for multi-tenant deployments, meaning that commercial licensees of Activiti (or large customers with centralised BPM technology service provision) can use it to power multi-tenant service deployments more easily, safely and securely.
- Delivers more elegant provision of, and navigation between, performance monitoring reports and graphs for those with application administration rights.
In my briefing on Activiti 1.5, I also got an update on what to expect with the next major release of the commercial product – 2.0. The biggest update will be the introduction of the v6 core runtime engine (already available in beta to open source community edition users), which is a very significant rewrite of the v5 engine offering major efficiency and scalability improvements. It interprets BPMN directly, enables pluggable persistence engines, and enables much more dynamic alterations to process models to be implemented ad hoc at runtime.
Alfresco is in an interesting position with Activiti. On one hand it’s working to match (or beat) the business analyst-friendly (‘citizen developer’) capabilities of its commercial competitors, focusing on ease of application delivery and design tool use. On the other hand it’s working to deliver a very high-performance system that will appeal to more technical developer groups wanting to push the technology to the limit – aiming to compare favourably with the likes of Camunda.
The big strategic challenge for Alfresco here is to work out how far it wants to go in each of these directions, and to potentially apply very significant resources so it can keep pushing.
What’s your take?