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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JBoss jBPM Book on its way from Packt – Java Business Process Management (Workflow)

In a previous life, I’ve been lucky to work with two very good JBoss Products – JBoss jBPM (Workflow) and JBoss Drools (Rules). Just in case you missed it; slides from the IJTC conference (jBPM), Rules presentation to the jBPM conference and of course not to forget the Rules Book. The lines between jBPM and Drools have blurred slightly, but the competing open source teams just enhance the quality of both products, and which one is best very much depends on the problem that you have at hand.

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

So, I’ve been asked by Packt (the guys how published my book) to review the new jBPM Developer guide book. So, not only do I get to help a fellow author (Good Karma), I get the catchup on features of jBPM I may not have used yet in my professional capacity, and I get a free book. What is there not to like?

Disclaimer – getting free copy, but am otherwise free to write good / bad / or completely off the wall ideas about it. Watch this space.

JBoss Business Rules and jBPM Workflow presentation – Dublin

Update: Shortcut to slides (pdf, with notes following) here.

Speaking at the JBoss jBPM community day tomorrow and I’m nervous. I’m nervous because I’m standing up and talking to a group of people that really know their stuff about JBoss workflow. And talking about a project (JBoss Business rules) which has a friendly rivalry with it.

jbpm logo

So here goes

  1. Slides in Powerpoint emailed to myself (check)
  2. Slides in PDF available online (check).
  3. Slides in Open Office on laptop ready for presentation (check)

Drools Logo
More details on the jBPM wiki if you’re interested in attending the event. Anybody give odds on the laptop bluescreen again (like what happened at the Irish Java Technologies Conference)? It’s not what happens, it’s how you deal with it.

JBoss workflow invading Dublin (Free Community Conference)

I’m not going to explain what workflow is as I’ve probably blogged enough about it already. But the JBoss Workflow (jBPM) guys are coming to Dublin on June 6th. If you’re into workflow (and if you’re doing any sort of software for large business you should be) then this is a do not miss event and we’re privileged to have it in Ireland.

The JBoss workflow guys are dream guests. They just asked for a couple of venue suggestions and they finally went for the Guinness Hopstore where Barcamp ran last year. Next thing we got was an email saying that the JBoss Workflow event was go. So for the benefit of people flying into Dublin, here’s the information we gave on where to stay and things to do if you’re making a weekend of it.

(More information on the event on Tom Baeyens Blog)

Workflow

How to get there

Dublin is pretty well served by direct flights from Europe and the US. Aer Lingus and Ryanair are the two biggest airlines flying into Dublin – but there are plenty more (list at FlightMapping.com).

Things to do

  • Tour of Guinness brewery and visit the Gravity bar (one of the highest in Dublin)
  • Dublin Pub Tour and general social scene (it’s a coincidence that the first 2 items are drink related!)
  • Tour of Scenic Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough
  • Liffey River tour by boat
  • Dublin Bus tour – including it’s Georgian buildings and coastline
  • Newgrange – 2000 years older than the pyramids, in the stunning Boyne valley
  • Windsurfing , Kayaking or Rock climbing in Viking Carlingford Fjord.
  • Trinity College Dublin, 400 years old university , right in the city centre including the 1000 year old ‘Book of Kells’
  • For the more curious , Belfast is 2hrs away by express train in Northern Ireland.
  • Get lost in Phoneix Park, the worlds largest city centre park.

Places to Stay

I don’t tend to say in Dublin hotels too much (!) but the following I know are reasonably good value (and quiet / clean)

  • 3 of the Jury’s Inn (Christchurch is just down the road from the event location, but the IFSC and Parnell Street are also good)
  • Academy hotel is ok, if slightly more expensive , if you’re stuck.
  • If you want an airport location (about 20 mins / 20 Euro Taxi from the city centre) the Premier Inn chain are pretty good.
  • Hotel Isaacs is budget but decent , central and near the main bus / train stations.
  • Morgan hotel is where the presenters were put up for the Dublin Java conference. Central but Slightly more pricey.

For people from the community, there’s also plenty of ‘budget’ backpacker type accommodation.

Slides for Life and Death Workflow, using JBoss jBPM

The slides for ‘Life and Death Workflow using JBoss jBPM (Java Business Process Management) are here. PDF , about 800k for 41 slides. I’ve included full notes (even though I won’t get a chance to use them during the presentation), so that they should make sense when reading them online instead of seeing them live at the IJTC.

I’ve been promising people that I’m going to sell my car during the presentation. So here’s a picture of it. Isn’t she a beauty?

Picture of Toyota Corolla

All offers of workflow consultancy work to consultancy@firstpartners.net.

Note: If you’re linking to the slides, please link (here at this page) rather than the PDF (the location of which may change in the future).

Irish Java Technologies Conference – Live

I’m dipping in and out of the presentations at the Irish Java Technologies Conference (IJTC Dublin), so I’m not going to get to see the top 10 speakers. I will update this as it goes along, but my notes on the conference so far are ….

  • Bernie Goldbach came all the way from Tipp on the off-chance that he would get 3 minutes with Joel Spoelsky. Given that it’s a 4 and half hour round trip, I’m glad that he got his interview.
  • Joel, as ever, was a very good speaker. His message for software developers; soft rounded corners matter. Think iPhone instead of Samsung brick.
  • David Syer of Interface 21 was talking about what’s next for Spring (2.5 and 3.0). A lot of good stuff coming up; support for the latest Java Enterprise specs, Webflow , OSGi (deploy bundles , not applications), configuration using annotation instead of XML
  • Shaun Smith of Oracle. Covering building JPA Applications (Java and Databases) using Eclipse and Java. Now, I’m not a great fan of Toplink (I prefer Hibernate) , but the open source work including the work on the Eclipse IDE , and it’s support of the JPA (Java Persistence Architecture) standard, and it’s ability to transform Java Ojbects into loads of things (e.g. XML instead of Database Tables) is making me want to take a 2nd look.
  • Caught talking in the Lobby : Shaun of Oracle Toplink and Emmanuel Bernard of Hibernate. I was vaugely disappointed these two didn’t come to blows (being from rival projects). There were actually nice to each other and exchanged business cards. Fascinating conversation though …
  • James Strachan , Iona and Apache, speaking about messaging patterns. He takes the bean soup that is messaging and integrating your applications and makes it seem really simple. He’s also talking about Apache Camel, ActiveMQ and ServiceMix

Other People Blogging about this:

Links to our JBoss jBPM (Workflow/ Business Process Management) presentation slides to follow shortly …