A lot of you know I am a big proponent of XPDL, the XML Process Definition Language. Not only because of the tremendous amount of good work that went into it, but also I see it being successfully used on a daily basis. It solves a real problem, and is available today. I am, apparently not the only one who feels this way.
In the last few weeks we have been investigating software that supports XPDL to try and get a definitive list, so we combined lists from several sources. The result surprised even me: we were able to identify over 60 different products that claim support for XPDL available today. Check the list at the WfMC site as well as my own list. Scan down the list of names, there are many important companies on the list:
- Large corporations: Adobe, Advantys, Appian, BEA(Fuego), EMC, Fujitsu, IDS Scheer, Infor, Interwoven, Global 360, IBM(FileNet), Oracle, Software AG, TIBCO, Unisys, Vignette to name a few of the bigger ones. It is also worth noticing that implementation is not limited to large corporations.
- Open source process editors such as Enhydra JaWE open source process editor and IT Pearls open source plug in for Visio which read and write XPDL.
- Open source process engines that execute XPDL directly, including Enhydra Shark, WfMOpen, Open Business Engine, Bonita, Workflow::WfMC, jawFlow, Pentaho, and others.
- Commercial process design tools like Cubetto Toolset, Jenz & Partner, Eclair Group Lynx.
- Specialized process tools, for example consider SimProcess which is a stand alone process simulation product. Or Zynium’s Byzio product, which can convert any unprepared Visio dirgram into an XPDL file for transferral to other tools.
- Adoption seems to be spread all over the world, including Rodan, HOGA.PL, R-DATA & Polsoft in Poland, Metoda S.p.A in Italy, Together in Austria, numerous companies in France, Germany, England, US, NEC Data & Fujitsu in Japan, Monosys in China, and many other parts of the world.
- Across the technological landscape, many of these are written in Java but there is also strong representation in the .Net world with Ascentn and Aspose both offering .Net products that support XPDL, as well as Perl, C++, and other language offerings.
There is another way to get an idea for the breadth of adoption. Consider Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for BPMS vendors for 2006. In the top three quadrants, there are 11 vendors listed. (Actually 12, but IBM and FileNet merged late last year after the MQ was released.) Here is the alphabetical linup of the top 11 vendors and whether they support XPDL:
- Adobe: YES
- Appian: YES
- BEA (Fuego): YES
- Fujitsu: YES
- Global 360: YES
- IBM (FileNet): YES
- Lombardi: ?
- Metastorm: ?
- Pegasystems: YES
- Savvion: ?
- TIBCO: YES
8 of the 11 top BPMS vendors clearly support the standard, and the other three might, I simply don’t know at this time. Is it fair at this point to consider the standard a success?
Here is the really strange thing, nobody seems to know this! Just two weeks ago yet another article was written in Computer Business Review where Tony Baer makes the following claims:
“Until now, workflow has been fairly virgin territory, given the failure of XPDL, an XML standard developed by the Workflow Management Coalition to attain critical mass support much beyond the classic document workflow crowd.”
“…XPDL got too specific, and began traipsing on the agenda of vendors like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. They dismissed XPDL as being dated due to its document workflow orientation.”
What strange comments! A quick review of the list of supporters make it clear that classifying this list as “classic document workflow” is very much off the mark. How unusual that IBM and Oracle are listed as non-supporters, when in fact they do have products supporting XPDL. Where does this conclusion about being ‘document oriented’ come from? Mr Baer is not alone in being confused by all the mis-information produced by corporate marketing literature, but I would expect a journalist to research more thoroughly than the product brochures.
The biggest misperception in the marketplace is that BPEL and XPDL are in some kind of a war. I have already covered elsewhere how this is silly, so I won’t duplicate it here. I think Jon Pyke’s response makes it clear how these very different standards serve very different purposes.
Yet, in conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Baer. It was his article, after all, that prompted us to get off our duffs and update the list of products that support XPDL. As I said before, more than 60 products supporting XPDL surprised even us. I believe we have reached the tipping point.