Thursday, 13 March 2008

BPMN to BPEL: Lipstick On A Pig?

Yesterday I came across William Vambenepe's blog post: BPMN to BPEL: going to battle with one hand tied? It shows that if you translate a simple BPMN model to BPEL, the BPEL process is not really recognizable any more. It seems to reconfirm my initial estimations about that kind of transformation.

I'm happy with the rapid adoption of BPMN in the BPM world. But I was always puzzled by the big focus of the BPMN to BPEL conversion. I have not done the excercise myself of trying to write an algorithm that did such a transformation because the models just don't seem to fit. BPEL is a composite (aka block) structured language. BPMN is graph based. BPMN is focussed on process analysis, while BPEL is about orchestrating web services. And in my experience, the non tech business analysts don't think in terms of web services.


  1. BPEL is not at all restricted to block structured modelling. Using a flow activity allows you to define links (linking a source activity with a target activity) with or w/o transition conditions. You can also define a join condition which must evaluate to true before the activity can start. That is a very powerful mechanism compared to the block based modelling capabilities of BPEL; it's even more intuitive for non-IT people and most of the BPMN constructs can be directly modeled as BPEL flows.

    Anyhow, I agree that non-tech business analysts don't think in terms of web services. Thats indeed a problem. When the dependency on WSDL was removed, the business-IT gap would not be such an issue. There is some research work like BPEL light which removes the dependency on WSDL.

  2. Tammo,

    I don't think that BPEL links make BPEL less of a block structured language.

    I do agree with you that links are a powerfull mechanism and that it is somehow intuitive.

    While BPEL light might have its merits (i didn't yet have a look at it), only removing the WSDL dependency is not a real big differentiator. I see the diversity of process languages as similar to the diversity in programming languages. Each developer has their own preferences, depending on the target application. In that respect, I think we should strive for just a few languages that give good coverage over all possible use cases.

    A second point is that if BPEL light would use the same process structure and the language would be used for implementing analysis models, then it would end up in the same problem as William's blog post shows: the executable process model doesn't look at all like the analysis model any more. So what is then the use of having a diagram based executable process ? The analyst will probably not understand it since it is so different. In other words: What is then the difference with generating programming logic code instead of such a different implementation diagram ?

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