AMELIA ISLAND, Fla.—At its annual ProcessWorld conference, held Feb. 6-7, IDS Scheer gave a nod to the technology side of its software business with a new integration tool, dubbed ARIS Bridge. Developed with a little-known systems integrator, E2E Technologies, which is based in Basil, Switzerland, ARIS Bridge could have a profound impact on the actual execution of process models in IT systems.
The ARIS Bridge is designed to bridge the gap between processes and applications—an area of technical expertise that IDS Scheer has typically left to technology vendors and system integrators.
The company has plenty of partners that could fulfill the integration role, including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and BEA Systems, as well as TIBCO, which offers an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), the basis of E2Es technology. Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson sat down with Chris Henn, vice president of Business Development at E2E (and the person who spearheaded the IDS Scheer partnership), to talk about E2Es technology and the implications for process modeling.
What does E2E bring to the table that TIBCO or other EBS vendors do not?
What we bring is the next-generation ESB that is 100 percent based on models. So essentially we do all the integration as well as when an app needs to be integrated following the specifications of a business process. But the way this is currently done still requires a lot of coding, and that coding takes a lot of time, its very hard to maintain, and even worse, it causes that gap between business and IT, because all the process definitions sort of sink down in code somewhere and your process is coded somewhere, but that may not be documented very well.
What we deliver by using a model-based approach is we increase transparency down to the existing IT, down from the processes at the top end through all the orchestration and service aggregation that you need to do, based on your existing IT structure. It fits very well with the process modeling capacity of ARIS. Thats why weve been working for the past 18 months to bring together the ARIS Bridge, really closing that gap between business and IT.
How, technologically, are you able to provide model-driven integration?
What we deliver functionally is an ESB… However, the way we do that is we have developed a UML (Unified Modeling Language) virtual machine. What that means is as you would design any software development, you would start out with UML, generate some code, program some by hand. We dont do that at all. We take the models and we execute them. So very much like [as when] you start out with Java, you compile your Java or Java bytecodes, and thats being executed by a Java Virtual Machine, that is the way Java works—we do the same thing with graphical models. Its just weve increased the level of abstraction so the graphical input that is used to design software—that is what our run-time executes directly.
Is E2E an execution engine rather than an integration device?
We are integration, but we include that as part of our ESB, which is traditionally based on Java. Underneath it is an execution engine. We provide our own virtual machine and we have the ESB.
Ive been waiting for IDS Scheer to announce an execution engine for what seems like years now. Is this it?
This is a first step toward [an execution engine]. Thats the very best way we can say that. [The ARIS Bridge] is clearly the biggest value-add to a business process management process-design execution. The company that figures out how to bring these two pieces together is a winner, right? But doing this is difficult. You have to do it a classic way, programming. With this new approach, which is purely model-driven, it combines execution with process design.
I wouldnt say we were finished. This is the first level of collaboration we are doing. We have many other ideas on how we can go further. But its a very significant technology breakthrough because it is the only entirely model-driven integration platform.
What are some of the ideas you are working on?
Certainly what we are doing now is we are deploying that into the market. We are just in the process of signing the technology partnership agreement—we just a couple of weeks ago signed the letter of intent. The most important point now is we have a first customer, which we are going to announce in a couple of weeks. Its a large organization thats using that process in a very promising way.
The next immediate goals are to successfully work together at the sales, marketing and delivery levels, including [with] partners who will do the implementation. Then over time, as we learn, we will improve the integration
Do you work with any other BPM vendors?
Not at this time, no.
Are you a startup company?
No, we have existed for 10 years. We are systems integrators that developed this concept for ourselves initially and decided in 2005 it was mature enough to take to market. But we still consider this a startup since it still feels like the first day every single time. [laughs]
How did you hook up with IDS Scheer?
There is the official and the unofficial story.
Ill take the unofficial.
The official story is its a really fantastic fit. Were both fully based on standards, and it wasnt very costly to develop the first proof of concept. But the private story is that one of my best friends was working at IDS Scheer and once we had a dream, and you know, one thing leads to another. As anywhere people are involved in this business. Some people have ideas, and if they can convince their colleagues then eventually somethings coming out of it. Now this is way beyond the colleague stage—its up in the CEO level of business, engaging both companies in the full extent. This is really exciting.
One of the things about ARIS that makes it attractive to partners like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, BEA and IBM is that its basically an agnostic platform for process modeling. With the addition of an execution and integration engine, does that agnostic quality go away?
The large platform vendors provide integration infrastructures to integrate their own products technically, but they will not necessarily provide you with tools to integrate with third-party applications because its simply outside their knowledge domain. Now, our specialty is to integrate with third-party applications, so we would complement an Oracle or an SAP. We would not get involved with integrating SAP with SAP, but integrating IDS Scheer with something else.