IBM adds to business process modeling tool

IBM is looking to improve business process modeling in its WebSphere Business Integration Modeler tool by backing an emerging Web services standard and building its product around the Eclipse development tool framework.

Available sinceThursday, Version 5 of IBM's WebSphere Business Integration Modeler tool enables exporting of business process models in BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), which is expected to become an XML-based standard for using Web services to implement business processes. Through BPEL support, business process models mapped in the tool can be exported to other tools that understand the BPEL format, according to Rachel Helm, director of WebSphere Business Integration at IBM. This enables sharing of models with other departments, for example.

An analyst said BPEL backing will grow in importance as application development becomes more focused on service-oriented architectures.

"It is one of the first modeling tools to be producing a BPEL file type, and that's strong because we think that BPEL is and will become the dominant business process orchestration description language," said analyst Janelle Hill, senior program director for integration and development strategies at Meta Group Inc.

"That is pretty important (because) we think as the style for developing applications increasingly moves to service-oriented architectures based on Web services, BPEL will be the standard by which a programmer describes how to sequence the Web services themselves," Hill said.

WebSphere Business Integration Modeler enables modeling of business processes such as integrating Siebel applications with an order management system, Helm said. The tool provides a view of the network execution of business processes such as customer service, claims processing, or supply chain management, enabling users to look for efficiencies, detect slowdowns, and respond faster to customer demand and changing market conditions, according to IBM.

"It is a modeling tool that is focused to enable line-of-business users to model their business processes, and it provides also the capabilities to do simulations," Helm said.

By being built on top of the Eclipse workbench, users of WebSphere Business Integration Modeler Version 5 can take advantage of services provided such as source code management, boosting team development by enabling users to check in and check out model assets, Helm said.

IBM with its Eclipse move is trying to provide a consistent look and feel for its tools, Hill said.

Also featured in Version 5 is the ability to import Visio diagrams that document business processes, Helm said. The tool also can leverage models generated in middleware products such as the IBM WebSphere MQ Message Broker or WebSphere Business Integration Server. UML (Unified Modeling Language) 2.0 models can be used within the tool through the use of import and export capabilities.

Hill, though, said Meta Group has not been able to find actual users of WebSphere Business Integration Modeler. "We have a lot of trouble finding anybody using it," she said. Also, IBM last year promised Meta Group a demo of the product but showed film clips of it instead, said Hill. She noted IBM acquired the technology when it bought Holosofx in 2002, adding that this may mean that few within IBM's own software group actually know the product.

There are 250 customer sites worldwide using WebSphere Business Integration Modeler, according to an IBM representative.

Version 5 of the product starts in price at US$1,250, including one year of maintenance support.

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