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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Dennis Byron

Sarasvati: BPM in the Real World of Open Source Software

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So what do you do in your spare time? I watch too much C-Span but Paul Lorenz writes business process management (BPM) software. I don't know Paul (or anything about him other than what he himself has written on serverside.com) but I like his kind of story. On November 5 he formally beta'd Sarasvati, a workflow/BPM engine based on graph execution. He distributes it open source under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). It has been incubating on Google Code since May.

His story is what's really right about open source. It epitomizes the Dennis Ritchie description of what writing Unix was all about 40 years ago. According to the Sarasvasti thread on serverside, Paul's

"been maintaining a proprietary workflow engine and writing process definitions for the engine over the last four years. The engine is about 10 years old and is based on hierarchical colored petri nets. On the whole it has done well, but for several reasons we are looking for a replacement."

In his "launch" message Paul says his product is designed for situations where

"You don't want the workflow engine to dictate how users, groups and tasks should be modeled."

He doesn't say what proprietary product is being replaced but by his description I suspect it's one of the engines built into a packaged application, as opposed to a BPM middleware product (who uses colored petri nets?). This is solely my guess.

The analogy with the real beginnings of open source is that Paul's "launch" contains no diatribe about the evils of the proprietary software world and no false illusions about open source. He explains how he looked at jBPM and why he then wrote his own open source software. Open source is so simple when you take all the Microhate and industry politics out of it. Paul's got some code; he needs a community.

(As as aside, he says "Sarasvati is both the name of a river and of a Hindu Goddess. This project is named in honor of the goddess... The patron deity of all that flows seems a worthy namesake for a workflow engine.")

-- Dennis Byron

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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