Book Review – JBoss Business Process Management

Quick Review

I would have bought the Packt JPBM workflow book even though I got a free review copy. I wish I had it when I was first learning Workflow / jBPM

Long Review

I like workflow, which doesn’t tend to make me very popular at parties. But, since you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume that you have some interest in Workflow, and will now proceed to tell you all about it (if I’ve got this wrong, and you’re using Google Reader, hit the ‘J’ button now to speed on to something more interesting. We’ll forget all about this in the couple of days when I next blog).

Still here? While most computer programs aim to finish as soon as possible, workflow programs can run over many hours , days or weeks (stick with me, this gets better). Most of the difficulties that programmers face when coming to workflow aren’t technical (workflow is no more difficult than using one of the many web frameworks out there) but  conceptual.

  1. Trust the force, Luke; If you’re used to writing your own programs, it can be a bit of a switch to writing small actions to be embedded into a larger workflow framework.
  2. Forget about Hello World. Workflow is used to solve complex problems. It’s going to take a bigger investment of your time to appreciate the true power of  workflow .
  3. Tip of the iceberg (aka Why can’t I write my own?) Most people start out not needing an entire workflow framework, but to solve a specific problem. So they begin to write their own framework. Then they find another requirement, then another. By the time they realise that they need an ‘off the shelf’ framework, they’re reluctant to to dump their investment.

So where does the book come into this?

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

Put simply, the book lets you overcome those  three big problems more quickly.

Yes, it deals with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of workflow – how to setup the framework. How to use the Eclipse based editor to draw / design your workflow. How to the use the various tasks that come bundled with the framework, and how to write your own. How to persist your workflow so that even if the system fails, the business can still recover. But all of these are covered quite well in the JBoss jBPM documentation, even though having it in book format is very useful.

Where the book is really good is that it talks you through the concepts of workflow, why you should be using it, and gives you the big picture straight away. It also will help convince you (or your boss) that an off-the-shelf framework is much, much better than even thinking of writing your own.

Combined with the fact that jBPM is open source, and is available for free download from JBoss / RedHat (i.e. it is low cost to start, but is credible enough to deploy in the enterprise), this make the book an ideal way to experiment with workflow. Even if you choose (or somebody else chooses for you) to use an alternative workflow framework, once you mastered the concepts (which are the same for most frameworks), picking up the technical details is relatively easy.

Things I didn’t like about this book; One is partly jealously – the style of the book (making a complex subject easily available to beginners) is one that I wish I had mastered in my own book. The other is that while the examples are very good in each chapter, it would have been good if each sample built on the one previously, so that you ended the book with quite a sophisticated system. Given my interest in other JBoss projects (such as JBoss Rules / Drools) it would have been good if these were mentioned and explained (e.g. the Drools rule engine integrates well with decision making nodes)

Minor gripes, and all very specific to my interest in JBoss technology.  I would still buy the book if despite knowing all of this, given that it introduces the concepts and technology so well.

Link to Book on Amazon.

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Business Users Creating Rules – BRMS Guide Preview (JBoss Drools)

Just looking for the Drools BRMS – Business Rules Management System Guide? – click here (pdf)

The aim of JBoss Drools (or any other Business Rules Engine) is to get knowledge out of business user’s heads and into a format where it can be copied , edited and peer reviewed , then run 24/7. Ideally, business users should be able to write these rules directly (a) to save time and (b) to reduce errors caused by a 3rd party having to to ‘translate’ these rules into code..

Drools Brms Screenshot

Drools BRMS (Business Rules Management System) is such a tool. Easily deployed into almost any Java Web or App server, it allows users to write and validate business rules that you can then pull into your Enterprise Java Application.

Because it uses the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) , even though it is a web application (i.e. zero install on client machines) it behaves and performs as fast as a desktop one. And unlike some other (Commercial) Rules Engines, it’s free to Download and use (under the Apache licence) from the JBoss site.

And now there is a guide available online. Shortly to be integrated into the existing JBoss Drools documentation a preview of the JBoss Drools BRMS guide (pdf) is now available.

More Information

You need to go to a self help group – Rules and Workflow

Picture the scene: a self help group meeting, plastic chairs arranged in a circle. Sitting on the chairs are an assortment of (mainly) men in their 20’s or 30’s. One plucks up the courage and mumbles ‘Hello, I’m Paul , and I’ve been writing bad Java code for 10 years‘.

When I got into Java I was using JSP for everything – HTML, talking to databases, doing workflow – anything I could get my hands on. I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing. Even after I got treatment based on EJB, Spring and Hibernate, I still feel that there is a void at the centre of my coding life‘.

Rule Engine Logo

I fell in with a bad crowd. Business types with suits and violin cases. They said they’d pay me good money if I built them something. Now they don’t believe that it works – it’s all techie stuff to them. Those boys are going to play rough if I can’t make them understand the code. What can I do?

There was silence for a while. Then the group leader said

It’s a tough one. Does anybody have any suggestions?

Read the full text of the O’Reilly Mini-Article here.

Business Rules (Drools), Workflow (jBPM) and Seam – anybody want a training session?

Update: The presentation to the Irish Java Technologies Conference: Life and Death Workflow, using JBoss jBPM is partly based on this training session. (Link to Slides)

We’ve given Enterprise Java Training, Struts 2 Training (the most widely used Java-Web framework), and now it’s the turn of JBoss Rules (Drools) , Workflow (jBPM) and Seam. A lot of the material is coming from the forthcoming Masters Dissertation on Enterprise Web 2.0.

The course (summary below) is a private session. If there’s enough interest I’ll setup a public training session, or cut it back to 1 hour and do it as a ‘free’ intro session. If you can’t wait for that, Mark Proctor’s blog has a lot of useful rules information, and Tim Shadel has the pdf of a presentation that he gave in Phoenix Arizon on his blog.

Knowledge and Process Management

JBoss Rules, jBPM and Seam

Executive Briefing

Description: Success or failure in your business depends on dealing with information faster and better than your competitors. This briefing shows you how the JBoss Business Stack (Rules , jBPM and Seam) can do this and how to apply it to your organisation. Crucially, the briefing shows you when not to use these and details the alternative approaches.

The briefing will give delegates an overview of JBoss Rules within a web / enterprise development environment, how to architect an distribute rules within multi-tier applications and how to link these components with existing sources of information using Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).

Audience: This Briefing is suitable for IT Managers and Directors, IT project managers and technical staff who need an insight into the latest JBoss technologies and business processes, and business managers who need to be aware of the new application models and to give buy-in and commitment to applications developed within it.

Duration: Half-day

Objectives: On completion of this Briefing, delegates will:

  • Understand the benefits JBoss technologies offers your business and the key areas where it should be used.
  • Know how to successfully use JBoss Rules, jBPM and Seam with new and existing systems and technologies, including the use of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).
  • Be able to boost projects using pre-built components and frameworks and be able to choose the right one for their needs.
  • Be aware of the main precepts of good application design within the Java component framework, as well as knowing the main Enterprise Java architecture components, terminology and acronyms and their interaction.
  • Understand how end-to-end applications are built using the JBoss frameworks (Rules, jBPM, Seam) and appreciate their organisational impact.

Presenter Biography

Paul Browne has 13 years experience delivering IT Projects in the Financial, IT/ Telecoms, Pharmaceutical and Public sectors. An author on JBoss Rules for O’Reilly Books, he has delivered courses for Limerick Institute of Technology, Siemens, Dell, Trigraph and IACT. Holding a Degree in Business from UUC, he is awaiting conferral of an Msc. in Advanced Software Engineering from UCD.

Briefing Content

Introduction and Problem Space

  • Delegate introduction
  • Trainer introduction
  • Course introduction
  • The problem we are trying to solve
  • Who is JBoss
  • 3 Tier Applications
  • What is a rule engine
  • Alternatives using Java
  • Alternatives to Rules
  • Alternative Rule Engines
  • Section Summary / Intro to next section

Rule Engine overview

    • Business Rules (examples)
    • Sample Business Uses
    • If then statements – can we do better?
    • Rete Algorithm
    • Forward and Backward Chaining
    • Domain Specific Languages (DSL)
    • Decision Tables (what the user sees)
    • Decision Tables (for the Developer)
    • Rule Editors
    • JBoss IDE (Red Hat Tools)
    • Advanced Rule Language
    • System Development Roles
    • Section Summary / Intro to next section

    Integration and Deployment

    • Web environment
    • 3 Tier system
    • Integration with Spring
    • Integration with EJB
    • What is workflow
    • What is jBPM
    • What is Seam
    • Seam and JSF
    • Seam and jBPM
    • Drools.Net
    • Section Summary
    • Course Summary and Feedback

Business Rules (Drools), Workflow (jBPM) and Seam – anybody want a training session?

We’ve given Enterprise Java Training, Struts 2 Training (the most widely used Java-Web framework), and now it’s the turn of JBoss Rules (Drools) , Workflow (jBPM) and Seam. A lot of the material is coming from the forthcoming Masters Dissertation on Enterprise Web 2.0:

The course (summary below) is a private session. If there’s enough interest I’ll setup a public training session, or cut it back to 1 hour and do it as a ‘free’ intro session.

If you can’t wait for that, Mark Proctor’s blog has a lot of useful rules information, and Tim Shadel has the pdf of a presentation that he gave in Phoenix Arizon on his blog.

JBoss Rules Logo

Knowledge and Process Management

JBoss Rules, jBPM and Seam

Executive Briefing

Description:
S
uccess or failure in your business depends on dealing with information faster and better than your competitors. This briefing shows you how the JBoss Business Stack (Rules , jBPM and Seam) can do this and how to apply it to your organisation. Crucially, the briefing shows you when not to use these and details the alternative approaches.


The briefing will give delegates an overview of JBoss Rules within a web / enterprise development environment, how to architect an distribute rules within multi-tier applications and how to link these components with existing sources of information using Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).

Audience:
This Briefing is suitable for IT Managers and Directors, IT project managers and technical staff who need an insight into the latest JBoss technologies and business processes, and business managers who need to be aware of the new application models and to give buy-in and commitment to applications developed within it.

Duration:
Half-day

Objectives:
On completion of this Briefing, delegates will:

  • Understand the benefits JBoss technologies offers your business and the key areas where it should be used.



  • Know how to successfully use JBoss Rules, jBPM and Seam with new and existing systems and technologies, including the use of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).



  • Be able to boost projects using pre-built components and frameworks and be able to choose the right one for their needs.

  • Be aware of the main precepts of good application design within the Java component framework, as well as knowing the main Enterprise Java architecture components, terminology and acronyms and their interaction.

  • Understand how end-to-end applications are built using the JBoss frameworks (Rules, jBPM, Seam) and appreciate their organisational impact.

Presenter Biography

Paul Browne has 13 years experience delivering IT Projects in the Financial, IT/ Telecoms, Pharmaceutical and Public sectors. An author on JBoss Rules for O’Reilly Books, he has delivered courses for Limerick Institute of Technology, Siemens, Dell, Trigraph and IACT. Holding a Degree in Business from UUC, he is awaiting conferral of an Msc. in Advanced Software Engineering from UCD.

Briefing Content

Introduction and Problem Space

  • Delegate introduction

  • Trainer introduction

  • Course introduction

  • The problem we are trying to solve

  • Who is JBoss

  • 3 Tier Applications

  • What is a rule engine

  • Alternatives using Java

  • Alternatives to Rules

  • Alternative Rule Engines

  • Section Summary / Intro to next section

Rule Engine overview

  • Business Rules (examples)

  • Sample Business Uses

  • If then statements – can we do better?

  • Rete Algorithm

  • Forward and Backward Chaining

  • Domain Specific Languages (DSL)

  • Decision Tables (what the user sees)

  • Decision Tables (for the Developer)

  • Rule Editors

  • JBoss IDE (Red Hat Tools)

  • Advanced Rule Language

  • System Development Roles

  • Section Summary / Intro to next section

Integration and Deployment

  • Web environment

  • 3 Tier system

  • Integration with Spring

  • Integration with EJB

  • What is workflow

  • What is jBPM

  • What is Seam

  • Seam and JSF

  • Seam and jBPM

  • Drools.Net

  • Section Summary

  • Course Summary and Feedback

Grabbing people's brains and shoving them into a PC

It didn’t go down too well when an elderly relative asked me over Christmas ‘what exactly do you do?’. After fobbing him off with the usual ‘something in computers’, he was shocked to find out that I spend most of my time ‘Grabbing people’s brains and shoving them into a PC’.

This kind of blog-related-violence is normally associated with Twenty-Major (Warning , Parential Guidance required , unless you’re over 80), so before you call the police , let me explain.

Look at your hands. Unless they’re scarred and calloused (from the weekend’s DIY) the chances are that you work in the knowledge economy. You could work for a Bank , Insurance company, Legal company or be a medical professional but most of your work consists of one thing:  You push pieces of paper around that have some magical value.
Or you would push pieces of paper around if it hadn’t all been computerised in the last 10 years. Now you swap files and emails to get things done.  And you swear on a regular basis when the computer can’t find the information you’re looking for, or someone doesn’t understand the email you sent them. But the important bit, the information processing,  still remains in your brain.
Red Piranha Logo

Which brings us to Red-Piranha (site update in progress) and the shoving of people’s brains into a computer. While we can copy an MP3 music file (with Adam’s and Bono’s imagination in it) and send it around the world, but we can’t photocopy your brain. We don’t want all of it, just the part that gets the magical value-added work done. The bits about drinking beer and playing volleyball on the beach we’ll quite happily leave with you.

So this is what Enterprise Web 2.0 is all about : getting the computer to take a load off your brain so that you’ll have more time to spend on the beach drinking beer. Chapter 3 (draft) of our Enerprise Web book has just been put online, which shows you exactly how to do this.

Enterprise Web 2.0 – Free Book

I’ll blog about it in more detail later, but I’ve just posted the first chapter of the Enterprise Web 2.0 book online. It is being written as a dissertation for the Msc. in Advanced Software Engineering in UCD , Dublin. The working title is ‘Financial knowledge capture using Rules , Workflow, Search and Enterprise Web 2.0‘.

Red Piranha Logo

To kill 4 birds with one stone, It also serves as a manual to the updated Red-Piranha project.[link to old website (search only). New website in progress] .