IBM & ILOG Matrimony: Good for BPM, Uncertain for SCM? -- Part 2

Part 1 of this blog topic analyzed IBM’s rationale to acquire ILOG to bolster its service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) platforms. Eventually, with ILOG fully integrated, IBM hopes to establish the following:

  • a leading rule repository and end-to-end rule lifecycle management;

  • a full spectrum of rules definition and execution methods;

  • maximum rules reuse – across all BPM initiatives, SOA initiatives, applications and modernization efforts; and

  • tight integration between IBM WebSphere and ILOG.

In addition, as hinted in Part 1, IBM is expected to leverage ILOG's presence in optimization and visualization, which are also of relevance to BPM, Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) & analytics, and Complex Event Processing (CEP) opportunities.

During the past several years, the consolidation of the independent business rule management systems (BRMS) market has been highlighted by the acquisitions of small vendors by larger ones, such as Collaxa in 2004 by Oracle, RulesPower in 2005 by Fair Isaac, and MindBox in 2006 by MDA. 2007 was also an acquisitive year, as Gensym Corporation was gobbled by Versata Enterprises, YASU Technologies by SAP, and Haley Systems by RuleBurst Ltd.

With the departure of BRMS market stalwart ILOG, the remaining independent rule engine providers like Fair Isaac, whose rules engine many other SOA vendors still embed, will face difficulties as independent companies. While some BPM vendors like Lombardi have downplayed the event, the mounting pressure on all players might increase, especially in light of Oracle's recently spruced up Oracle BPM suite on the heels of the acquisition of BEA Systems.

Oracle BPM Suite – a Market Threat or Validation?

Indeed, the recent acquisition of the former middleware competitor has promoted Oracle into the middleware market leader position, at least in the Java world. For more on Oracle’s strategy behind the ambitiously broad Oracle Fusion Middleware (OFM) suite and on its plans to stratify the middleware products into the strategic, continued & converged, and maintenance categories, please see my “Taming the SOA Beast” blog series.

Zooming in on Oracle’s BPM product strategy, the idea here is to offer a complete and integrated BPM platform that caters for system-centric, human-centric, document-centric, and decision-centric business processes (workflows) in a single runtime environment. The suite is aimed at business owners and developers to collaborate, to define processes across systems and lines of business (LoBs), and to improve business process efficiency by modeling, executing, monitoring, analyzing, simulating, visualizing, and optimizing business processes.

To that end, most of the Oracle and BEA products will end up in the strategic product category, starting with Oracle Business Process Analysis (BPA) Designer, which is a structured BPM designer for rigorous process modeling and simulation, and BEA AquaLogic-BPM Designer, which is an agile BPM designer for iterative process modeling. The above strategic Oracle BPM suite can be bolstered optionally with the BPA, design, and modeling capabilities via the partnering IDS Scheer's ARIS tool (e.g., for achieving the Six Sigma compliance).

But at the core of the Oracle BPM suite are the converging BEA AquaLogic BPM (formerly Fuego) and Oracle Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) Process Manager (former Collaxa) products. This convergence will cater to both human-centric and structured BPM in a single Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) and BPEL runtime environment. Such an environment is seen to bridge the traditional gap between business users and the information technology (IT) departments.

Other parts of Oracle BPM are Oracle Document Capture & Imaging (coming from the Stellent acquisition). This content management module [evaluate this product] enables paper document capture, imaging, and document-centric workflow with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integration. For its part, Oracle Business Rules is a declarative rules engine for users to express their business policies, while Oracle BAM provides dashboards for users to monitor business events and business process key performance indicators (KPIs) for optimization purposes.

Last but not least, the Oracle WebCenter suite supplies a business process portal interface for users to visualize composite processes. When one adds Oracle CEP to the above portfolio, which is an in-memory event computation engine that is being integrated with BEA WebLogic Event Server, as part of the Oracle SOA Suite, it is small wonder that IBM had to do something to counter Oracle’s BPM assortment. Hence, the ILOG acquisition.

Part 3 of this blog series will analyze the fate of ILOG’s non-BRMS product lines, particularly supply chain management (SCM) applications. In the meantime, please send me your comments, opinions, etc. I would certainly be interested in your experiences with the BPM software category (if you are an existing user) or in your general interest to evaluate these solutions as prospective customers.
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