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In an earlier Formtek blog I described and compared BPEL and BPMN 2.0 technologies and discussed how both are important to BPM. BPEL is a language that describes the flow and coordination of interactions between published business component interfaces. BPMN is a notational language that can graphically describe business processes. In the current spirit of all-things 2.0, Ismael Ghalimi even suggests that the next generation of BPM is a combination of these two: BPMN + BPEL = BPM 2.0.
Now, after three years of redesign, from September 10th through November 9th, an updated WS-BPEL 2.0 specification is out and available for public review and comment. John Evedon, co-chair of the OASIS specification group and architect at Microsoft, has a list of relevent links related to the new WS-BPEL 2.0 spec.
What’s new with WS-BPEL 2.0? Quite a lot. BPEL 1.1 had a lot of unfilled holes that vendors filled in ways that best matched their own product architectures. The result was that BPEL 1.1 did not live up to the goal of avoiding vendor lock-in — vendors did not implement the specification consistently.
Because of that, moving up to BPEL 2.0, a lot of syntactic and semantic changes were made to the specification so that it is not backwards compatible. The unpleasant side effect of these mid-course corrections are that upgrading from 1.1 to 2.0 versions of BPEL will not be without pain.
It’s unlikely though that the incompatibility problems of the version 2.0 release will stop the momentum behind BPEL. The upside is that long-term the changes should realize the originally envisioned inter-operability of BPEL engines.
Microsoft, BEA, Oracle and IBM have been involved with the BPEL specification as editors and have shown strong support of BPEL with their products. Of interest is IBM’s recent purchase of FileNet because it further reinforces their investment in BPEL. FileNet was also an active participant in the BPEL spec and used BPEL for the support of their workflow processing.
Many people think that BPEL will power the infrastructure of SOA by allowing business processes to be composed from Web Service interactions. BPEL, Web Services and SOA will enable BPM. If done right, SOA-based BPM could lead to significant ROI.
One missing piece of the puzzle, even with the BPEL 2.0 specification, is how human interaction can be drawn into a BPEL-automated business process. But BPEL 2.0 is clearly a step forward.