First Impression: Fujitsu Interstage Business Operations Platform
- Written by Nathaniel Palmer
Since the earliest days of the BPM market, Fujitsu has been a leading innovator in delivering Web-based process management frameworks, including pioneering one of first truly n-tier, pure Java BPMS platforms. Today Fujitsu offers Fujitsu Interstage Business Operations Platform (“Interstage BOP”), a unified, multi-tier platform built on J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) technology combining composite application development capabilities with robust integration and data-driven BPM. This architecture provides a highly-scalable run-time environment, deployable on-premise and in the cloud, supporting both multi-tenant (hosted solution by Fujitsu) and private cloud configurations.
As a BPMS platform, Interstage BOP is differentiated by its offering of a comprehensive, multi-tiered or layered architecture within a single, unified environment, offering a robust composite application development environment, data-driven BPM tier, and a unique grid-based data and application integration foundation with MDM (Master Data Management), collectively capable of supporting rich user interaction and dynamic process patterns such as Case Management. The logical breakout of these layers is as follows:
- User Interface Layer – presenting a Composition Application Framework (CAF) for creating new business applications and user interfaces with compostable components include dashboards, Inbox and Task Management functions, as well as other UI/UX widgets;
- Business Process Managment Layer – providing a middle tier of Business Process Management (BPM), Case Management, and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) on top of (i.e., with full access to services provided by) the underlying integration foundation (SOA Layer);
- Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Layer – offering a unique grid-based SOA framework with full Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) capabilities for integrating applications and services, as well as MDM (Master Data Management).
The logical grouping of these components is shown to the right.
Architected for the Cloud
Interstage BOP offers a core foundation of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) capabilities with support for both SOAP and RESTful web services, as well as allowing both structured and unstructured data, documents and content to be integrated into processes and applications. The services are delivered through the multi-tenant Smart Services Grid, based on peer-to-peer communication of stateful objects with stateless connections.
The grid orientation of the Smart Services Grid is distinct from traditional ESB architectures, such that all participants are equal and there is no central ‘bus coordinator’ – thus most importantly no single point of failure. A service group represents conceptual service or service façade, with the actual implementation through a service container.
Since Interstage BOP is based on J2SE it does not require an App Server to run, distinguishing it from the majority of its “stack vendor” competitors. It can run on any of several operating systems, including MS Windows Server 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, CentOS 6, AIX and Solaris. Related to this is the fine-grain level of multi-tenancy, enabled down to the process engine level and providing secure containers unique to each tenant, where multiple tenants can have their own process definitions and collections of running processes. The service containers are defined for specific type of services like BPM service container, UI service container, or a database service container.
Run-time management of all service containers is self-managed by the Smart Services Grid, or via the browser based Admin console. The BOP architecture supports clustering on virtualized hardware, as well as load balancing and fail over through allowing multiple service containers to run parallel on different systems.
Master Data Management
The MDM component of Interstage BOP is on the critical defining components for supporting truly data-driven and data-rich processes and application. It provides a virtualized composite of multiple data types (e.., master, reference and transactional data) while linking domain-specific areas such as customers, partners, products, geographies, etc. This allows for providing a single consolidated view (such as a “360 View of the Customer”) while maintaining the integrity of source data within Systems of Record (SoRs). This also allows underlying data structures to be abstracted from the processes that use it, reducing complexity of data access and aggregation while driving greater data quality.
The Interstage BOP platform comes with a range of out-of-the box application connectors, such as those for SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, SalesForce, and domain-specific applications, as well as support for core messaging standards JMS, MSMQ, and MQ. The MDM component allows for “lightweight” (e.g., easily accessed, simple access) data integration via services (read “Data as a Service”) as well as the ability to setup automated and complex data transactions and transformations, such as:
- subscription-based synchronization
- data transformation and translation component
- multiple modes of tracking change
- synchronization of related objects
- batch data processing
- administration and monitoring
An Application Modernization Platform
The UI/UX designer is designed for building Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) across multiple device types leveraging HTML5 combined with the core process management and integration platform. This provides the ability bring together disparate data from multiple sources together with existing tasks, combined with new capabilities built on the BOP platform. Thus while Interstage BOP is appropriate for building new applications in “greenfield” scenarios, it is ideal for modernizing the capabilities of legacy applications such as ERP, core banking, warehouse or inventory management.
During design-time, fully CRUD (“Create, Read, Update, Delete”) enabled web services can be created by introspecting existing data structures and then exposing them as reusable resources available to either business processes or UI components, linked through simple point-and-click in the development environment. The UI components are XForms-compliant and include both basic functions (drop-downs and check boxes) as well as advanced controls such as Google map integration or specific controls to third party applications. Forms are stored natively in XML within the XForms Service Container, which allows them to be dynamically updated at run-time, such as having data-driven menu items or presenting the form in a user’s native language.
Within the Composition Application Framework, Interstage BOP offers a collaborative design environment called the “Collaborative Workspace” or “CWS” designed to allow the full spectrum of roles across the design and development lifecycle (e.g., business users, business analysts, solution architects and developers) to jointly work on a single process or application. The “Compose and Assemble” approach (e.g., essentially “codeless” at this level, coding is done in the lower tiers) is paired with a “Google Docs” style orientation to real-time, simultaneous collaboration by multiple participants on matters such as process models or UI design.
Overall the “Collaborative Workspace” capability is rooted in an inherently model-driven design orientation, which leverages a single meta-data driven repository of artifacts that can be used to design process models and dynamic case models. This also allows design artifacts to be linked to GUI-based development with drag-and-drop capabilities such as associating the design of the UI with a specific process model. The underlying repository is quite extensive, providing a rich library of artifacts for accessing all Interstage BOP capabilities, in the same manner that in other environments you would access a palette of BPMN elements.
Event-based, Data-Driven Architecture
The process architecture in Interstage BOP is such that both straight-through processing (high-volume, transactional, no human interaction) as well as more collaborative, longer-running and typically “human-centric” Case Management processes can be supported not only within the same environment, but within the same process lifecycle. In other words, traditional automated processes optimized for performance and throughput can co-exist with case-oriented processes within the same process model.
This is owed to how Interstage BOP manages state within the process run-time (or specifically within the Process Instance Manager) that enables an inherently event-based, data-driven architecture. In this way, a process represents state machine and can expressed either as a set of interrelated states, or with a single implicit state. The definition of the process model is a declarative set of XML instructions interpreted instructions (e.g. BPMN) interpreted at run-time.
As part of this framework, Interstage BOP offers a robust rules engine for expressing business logic as declarative rules within decision tables layered over the rules, providing a more intuitive and easy- to-read (as well as easier to maintain) approach to both representing and querying data. The Interstage BOP rule engine is available as a Java library, allowing any application to use it as an in-process Java library or called directly as an activity within a process. Alternatively, web services can be exposed on top of a decision table, thus enabling it from all web services consumers.
Within a tradional workflow process, e.g. for customer onboarding, business rules can be fired and steer the process in real time. Similarly, process activities can be defined as a case, e.g. for fraud detection, and instantiate a dynamic case process. This works the other way around as well, where in a dynamic case, straight-through processes would be called for example to trigger correspondence creation, retrieval of data, etc. Due to the event-based architecture, events may trigger processes and cases to stop, pause, skip parts of the process, handle other processed first, etc.
Business Performance Monitoring & Reporting
Interstage BOP has full support of BAM functionality with KPI management, Dashboards, Business Measures and automated triggers / notifications, e.g. when reaching certain limits. Graphs can be created directly on top of processes taking into account any process data. Historical trend information is kept as well.
During process design, goals can be set directly on a process, as well as at an activity level, in the form of KPIs. These KPIs are monitored in the Business Activity Monitoring module where process and business data can be combined and aggregated to ensure that goals are met. Milestones can be defined through definition of states in the Case Management module. This orientiation allows Interstage BOP to support seamless mixing and matching of both goal-driven case flows and traditional structured workflows.
The “first impression” of Interstage BOP is one of a BPMS platform designed for building data-driven, process-oriented applications, and delivering optimal user experience. What immediately sets it apart is the richness of the unified framework composed of the various components described, working in unison across the multiple tiers to collectively manage the user interface, business process, and integration services.
Specifically, however, it is not simply the “sum of the parts” which differentiates Interstage BOP, as certainly offering a UI design, BPM engine, and integration foundation is not by itself unique. But rather it is the unique, highly-scalable, cloud-centric architecture which sets it apart. This allows Interstage BOP to enable true multi-tenancy, combined with Rapid Application Development (RAD) capabilities in a user-centric, collaborative design environment, with high-volume transaction processing.