Jan Kettenis

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Oracle BPEL & BPM 12c Set Flow Instance Title

Mon, 2015-06-22 08:44
In this article I describe how to set the instance title for a composite in Oracle BPEL or BPM 12c.

Sometimes little, annoying things that are fixed with a new release can give great joy. With 11g you could set the composite instance title using the (advanced) XPath function setCompositeInstanceTitle(). This helps to find or identify instances in Enterprise Manager. However, for high volume composites you may want to configure in-memory-optimization as well by adding the following properties to the BPEL process in the composite.xml:


The problem is that when you configure in-memory-optimization, that setCompositeInstanceTitle() fails because there is a relation with auditing.

In 12c the composite instance does no longer have such a prominent role in the SOA/BPM Suite. Instead the flow instance now has that role. And with that setCompositeInstanceTitle() has been deprecated, and setFlowInstanceTitle() should be used instead:


You can set the flow instance title by adding a script activity right after the Receive with assign to some dummy string variable, using the setFlowInstanceTitle() as show above. To make it work I had to wrap the string variable in a string function.

Unlike the setCompositeInstanceTitle(), with the setFlowInstanceTitle() you can configure in-memory-optimization and still display the title in Enterprise Manager:


Setting the title for a BPM flow instance can be done using the same XPath function and use it in an assignment to some dummy variable in the start event.

Oracle and Adaptive Case Management: Part 2

Tue, 2015-06-16 15:24

This posting is the second of a series about Oracle Adaptive Case Management. The first one can be found here. I discuss the different options to define an activity, and the setting you can use to configure when and how activities are started.

There are two ways to implement an activity in ACM. The first one is by creating a Human Task and then "promote" it (as it is called) to an activity. The other way is to create a business process and promote that as an activity. As far as I know there are also plans to use a BPEL process to implement an activity, but that option is not there yet.

When using a Human Task the limitations of it (obviously) are that of a human task, meaning that the means to do some to do some pre- or post-processing for the activity are very limited. There are only a few hooks for Java call outs and XPath expressions, but as processing of that happens on the Human Workflow Engine this won't show up in Enterprise Manager, and error handling will be hard if not impossible. So, when you for example need to call a service before or after a human task (like sending a notification email) you better use a process.


So unless you are sure that such pre- or post-processing will be not necessary, the safest option is to use a process with a human task instead. That will give you all the freedom you have with a BPMN process. The disadvantage is that you will not be able to expose the UI of the task on the Case tab in workspace. However, as for any case management application of a reasonable size you probably will have one or more human activities in a process anyway, and as from a user experience perspective it probably is confusing to have tasks on Task tab, and some of them also on the Case tab, I don't expect this to be a practical issue in most cases. Meaning that in practice you probably handle all tasks from the Task tab only and on the Case tab show only some overview screen.

In ACM activities can be Manually Activated or Automatically Activated. Furthermore you can specify if an activity is Required, Repeated, and/or Conditionally available.


The difference between manually and automatically activated is that in the first case the user explicitly starts an activity by choosing it from a list of available activities. Automatically activitated activites are for example used for some case pre- and post-processing, and for activities that always have to start at some point, and (optionally) given some specific conditions (like some milestone being reached or some other activity being completed). An example is that once a claim has been entered, it has to be reviewed before anything else can happen.

Required activities should be completed before a stage is completed. Be careful though, as nothing is preventing you from closing the stage even though a required activity has not yet finished. If the user has the proper rights, he/she can complete an activity event even when no actual work has been done. There is no option to prevent that. However, in case of an automatically activated activity you can use business rules to reschedule it. For example, if the Review Complaint activity is required, and by that the complaint must have been given a specific status by the Complaints Manager you can use a rule to reactivate the activity if the user tries to close it without having set the status.

Repeatable activities can be started by the user more than once. There is no point in checking automatically activated activities as being repeatable. An example of a repeatable activity can be one where the Complaints Manager invites some Expert to provide input for a complaint, and he/she may need to be able to involve any amount of experts.

Conditionally available activities are triggered by some rule. Both manually as well as automatically activated activities can be conditional. If automatically activated, the activity will start as soon as the rule conditions are satisfied. In case of manually activated activities the rule conditions will determine whether or not the user can choose to from the list of available activities.

Oracle and Adaptive Case Management: Part 1

Tue, 2015-06-02 15:14
In this blog posting I address four key concepts that are used in Oracle Adaptive Case Management, or ACM for short. This article is the first in a series on ACM.

Recently I was involved in an Oracle Adaptive Case Management (ACM) project. Although some people involved knew about case management in general, it turned out that not everyone immediately understood how case management works with Oracle ACM. As you may be one of them, I will walk you through some of the concepts, using a format that differs from what I have seen so far, and seemed to work well for my audience.

I will not discuss the more general concept of case management. There are sufficient other references that probably do a better job than I could (for example Case Management Model and Notation, or CMMN for short, as defined by the Object Management Group ). For this article I will restrict myself to explaining that, unlike a "normal" BPMN process, case management supports a much more flexible "flow" of a process, for example supporting paths (flows) that were not thought of before, activity types that were not identified before, as well as stakeholders that were not known yet during the initial design. The "A" of Adaptive in ACM refers to the fact that some of this behavior can be configured run-time (after the system is out of development).

A typical example used in the context of case management is a complaints management process. Depending on the nature of the complaint, such a process can go back and forth a couple of times when more information about the complaint becomes available, coming from the filer or after consultations of experts that were not yet recognized.

Case Life Cycle
The first concept to discuss is that of a Case Life Cycle. A case can have the state open, suspended and closed. Unlike a BPMN process, after being closed a case can be reopened again (if required).


Mile StonesThe second concept is that of Milestones. In real life, you probably are used to defining 1 single milestone for every phase or "stage" (as it is called in CMMN) of a case, marking a significant result reached at the end of the it. With case management there may be milestones that are not always applicable, and therefore one should be able to skip them, or even close them halfway. It may also be necessary to revoke a previously reached milestone.

For Oracle ACM it therefore typically works best to identify the beginning and end of a stage as a milestone. So instead of defining 1 milestone "Complaint Evaulated" you define 2 milestones "Complaint Evaluation Started" and "Complaint Evaluation Ended". With Oracle ACM one can flag a milestone as being reached at any point during the stage.

Especially unpredictable behavior concerning the way milestones are reaches, it something that is very hard to model in BPMN.


Activities
As a third concept there are the Activities to discuss. From the perspective of the case, an activity is an atomic step that happens within a stage (in CMMN this is called a "task"). Normally, during its execution the case manager is not interested in the way the activity is executed, only in the result. Think for example about the consultation of an external expert: the only thing the complaints manager should be interested in, is the expert's report.


Within a stage an activity can be mandatory (Activity 1), for example the Initial Complaints Assessment, or optional (Activity 5), for example Request Info from Filer. Some activities may happen more than once within a stage (Activity 4), for example Request Expert Input. An activity may also apply to more than one stage (Activity 3), for example Update Complaints Manager. Activities may be sequential (Activity 1 and 2) or parallel (Activity 3 is parallel with 1 and 2). There can also be ad-hoc activities, like for example notifying some external party that turns out to be a stakeholder of the complaint.

As I will explain in the next article, an activity can be anything from a simple human task to perform, to a complete and even complex business process of its own.

Stakeholders
The fourth and last concept that I would like to discuss in this article, is that of Stakeholders. In real life a stakeholder is anyone that has some interest in the case, but may not always be involved as a case worker (someone doing something for the case) or case reviewer.

In Oracle ACM however, you are only interested in stakeholders that are case workers or case reviewers (very similar to the CMMN notion of case workers, except for that CMMN does not recognize case reviewers). As I will explain later, with Oracle ACM there can still be people that play a part in case while not being defined as a stakeholder.

Oracle BPM / SOA Instance Migration Script Issues

Fri, 2015-04-17 11:29
In this blog posting I explain some changes you need to apply to get instance migration to work for the Oracle BPM 11g Suite.

While figuring out a couple things about instance migrations I have been doing a few Bundle Patch installations lately. Up to 11.1.1.7.0 + BP4 I had issues with migration even after applying patch 18025048. I just applied BP7 and installed the latest 11.1.1.7.0 SOA and BPM plugins for JDeveloper (those indicated in the readme), and I finally got rid of most but still not all java.lang.reflect.InvocationTargetException exceptions that I saw before in the migration feasibility report.

And the I have the annoying error below back again when trying to run the report from JDeveloper:

java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: oracle/soa/management/util/CompositeInstanceFilter
    at java.lang.Class.getDeclaredMethods0(Native Method)


Might as well write it down what I did to the issue, so that next time I don't have to try to remember what it was.

Up to BP4 I used the ant-composite-instance-migration.xml, as unlike the documentation suggests there was no /jdeveloper/bin/ant-bpm-migration.xml script. But at least since BP7 there is. However both do not work out-of-the-box (as was the case for all previous versions of the ant-composite-instance-migration.xml that I used). The problem being that some of the library paths are incorrect.

In the ant-composite-instance-migration.xml, instead of the next line:


It should read:


When using the ant-composite-instance-migration.xml it still complained about the composite not being compatible, while according to the documentation it should (there is no non-durable BPEL nor Mediators involved, and I try to migrate to a new revision of exactly the same code). So I thought I try my luck with the ant-bpm-migration.xml script instead.

Initially that gives another error:

java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: oracle/jrf/PortabilityLayerException
    at oracle.soa.management.internal.ejb.EJBLocatorImpl.lookupBean(EJBLocatorImpl.java:817)


The issue here is that instead of the next lines:


It should have read:


Unfortunately it still reported the composite not to be compatible. But that I will address in some next topic (I hope).

The Secret Feature of Bucketsets in Oracle Business Rules

Thu, 2015-03-19 13:42
In Oracle Business Rules one can use so-called "Bucketsets". I never liked the term as it is not in the dictionary (did you mean bucketseat?), and never understood what is wrong with "list of values" (LoV) as that is what it is.

See for example the following bucketset that defines a list of values to be used for some status field:


Anyway, bucketsets are typically used in decision tables to define the set of values to be used in conditions. Unfortunately you cannot use them to define the set of values to be used in actions. At least, that is what the UI seems to suggest, as bucketsets do not appear in the values you can choose from.


But don't get fooled, you are being misguided, as it works after all. Just type it in as [bucketset_name].[value_name] and be surprised that it works!


Funny enough this is not the case for IF-THEN rules.


 Let's call it room for improvement.

OBPM versus BPEL, That's the Question

Sun, 2014-12-07 12:20
Recently I was pointed to the so-called Oracle Learning Streams http://education.oracle.com/streams which provide short presentations on all kind of topics.

While ironing my clothes on a Sunday afternoon, I watched one with the title "Leveraging OBPM vs BPEL" by David Mills. An excellent story where he explains in less than 13 minutes the high-level difference using a practical example.

One reason why I like about this stream is that it is in line with what I preach for years already. Otherwise I would have told you it sucked, obviously.

The main point David makes is that you should use the right tool for the right job. OBPM aims at orchestrating business functions, whereas BPEL aims at orchestrating system functions. The example used is an orchestration of system functions to compose an Update Customer Profile service, which then can be used in a business process, orchestrating business functions where one person is involved to approve some update, while someone else needs to be informed about that. Watch, and you'll see!

For understandable reasons the presentation does not touch the (technical) details. Without any intention to explain those, one should think about differences in the language itself (for example in BPEL you cannot create loops while in BPMN that quite normal to do), and also in the area of configuration and tuning (for example in case of BPEL there are more threads to tune, and you can do in-memory optimization, etc.).

Maybe I find some time to give you a more detailed insight in those more detailed differences. Would help if you would express your interest by leaving a comment!

Why You Should Create BPM Suite Business Object Using element (and not complexType)

Wed, 2014-11-19 12:16
In this article I describe why you always should base your business object based upon an element, instead of a complexType.

With the Oracle BPM Suite your process data consists of project or process variables. Whenever the variable is based on a component, that component is either defined by some external composite (like a service), or is defined by the BPM composite itself, in which case it will be a Business Object. That Business Object is created directly or is based upon an external schema. Still with me?

When using an external schema you should define the business object based upon an element instead of a complexType. Both will be possible, but when you define it based upon a complexType, you will find that any variable using it, cannot be used in (XSLT) transformations nor can be used as input to Business Rules.

As an example, see the following schema:


The customer variable (that is based on an element) can be used in an XSLT transformation, whereas the order variable cannot:

The reason being that XSLT works on elements, and not complexTypes.

For a similar reason, the customer variable can be used as input to a Business Rule but the order variable cannot:

Of course, if you are a BPEL developer, you probably would already know, as there you can only create variables based on elements ;-)

Did You Know that You Can Buy OUM?

Thu, 2014-11-13 09:18
The Oracle Unified Method (OUM) Customer Program has been changed in that, next to the already existing option to get it by involving Oracle Consulting, you now also can buy it if (for some reason) you don't want to involve Consulting.

Next to that there also is the option to purchase a subscription (initial for 3 years, after which it can be renewed annually) allowing to download updates for OUM.

OUM aims at supporting the entire Enterprise IT lifecycle, including the Cloud.

Work-around Instance Migration Limits of BPM Suite 11g

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:46
The following describes a work-around for 2 situations for which instance patching and migration is not supported, being changing the level of an activity, and removal of an embedded sub-process. In short this work-around consists of re-implementation of the activities to move, and emptying the reusable sub-process.

There are a couple of restrictions for the Oracle BPM Suite that can make that process instances cannot be patched (deployment using same revision number) or migrated (deployment using new revision number, and then move from old to new revision). Two of them are that you cannot change the scope of an activity (like moving it in our out of an embedded sub-process) or removal of an embedded sub-process. For both situations there is a work-around, that I can demonstrate with one case.

More information about instance patching and migration can be found here for BPM 11g (11.1.1.7) and here for BPM 12c (12.1.3).
The Work-Around
Suppose you have a process (A) like this:





And you want to change it to this (in real life you may want to move the activity inside to a totally different location, or even remove the embedded sub-process altogether) to this model (D):
As migration of running instances is not supported:
  1. Because of changing the scope of the activity, and
  2. Because of removal of the embedded sub-process
you will get an error like this when trying to do so:

 However, what you can do, is change the model like this (C):

The trick is that the Say Goodbye activity has not been moved outside, but re-implemented. In this case I created a new activity with the same name, and reused the existing task definition. So I only had to redo the data mappings.

You won't win any prize for most beautiful process model with this but it works. In practice you want to collapse the embedded sub-process and rename it to something like "Empty".
The Proof of the PuddingTo make sure it actually works for running processes I used an extra step between (A) and (C), being this model (B):
 First I started with the first model, created 2 instances with one in Say Hello, and the other in Say Goodbye. I then deployed the last model with "Keep running instances" checked (instance patching). The result was that both instances were automatically migrated (i.e. just kept on running).

Then I created a start situation of 3 instances, each of them being in a different activity. The most interesting is the one in Say Goodbye in the re-usable sub-process, as in this case the token is in an activity that is going to be removed.
 In line with the documentation, when deploying model (C) all instances were put I status Pending Migration. Using Alter Flow I was able to migrate the instances in the first and last activity as-is. After that I could successfully complete them.

The interesting one though, is in the second activity:

I was able to migrate that with Alter Flow by moving the token from the embedded sub-process (not the activity inside the embedded sub-process!) to the last activity:

The engine never knew what hit it ;-)

Browsing the Meta Data Services Repository of the Oracle SOA/BPM Suite 11g

Mon, 2013-11-25 13:09
In this article I explain a handy way to browse the MDS on the SOA/BPM server from JDeveloper, as well as how to download its content using Enterprise Manager, and finally an (as far as I know) undocumented feature to look up artifacts using a browser.

This article has been updated on November 26 to include the option regarding downloading the MDS content.

The Meta Data Services (or MDS for short) of Oracle's SOA/BPM Suite is used to manage various types of artifacts like:
  • Process models created with Process Composer,
  • Abstract WSDL's and XSD's,
  • Domain Value Map's (DVM), and even
  • Artifacts  of deployed composites.
Browsing the MDS from JDeveloperTo find out what actually is deployed in the MDS you can setup an MDS connection within JDeveloper to the server. Such a connection can be handy, for example to verify if replacements of variables in the MDS artifacts are properly done when deploying. Using this connection you can open those artifacts in JDeveloper and check the source.

To create an MDS connection go to the Resource Palette -> New Connection -> SOA-MDS. This will pop-up a tab from which you can create a database connection to the MDS for example the dev_mds schema. Having created the database connection you have to choose the partition to use for the SOA-MDS connection. To be able to check-out processes created whith Composer from the MDS or to save them in the MDS, you create a SOA-MDS that uses the obpm partition. As the name already suggests, this is in BPM-specific partition. To browse the other artifacts I mention above, you use the soa-infra partion, which is shared by both SOA and BPM.

In the figure below you can see two types of connections, above to the soa-infra and below to the obpm partition. In the (soa-infra) apps you can find the reusable artifacts that you have deployed explicitly (like abstract WSDL's, XSD's, EDL's).

What you also see is a deployed-composites folder that shows all composites that have been deployed. When expanding a composite, you will find that all artifacts are shown. This is a much easier way to verify that you do not deploy too many artifacts to the server then by introspecting the SAR file, I would say. Except for .bpmn files (that at the time of writing are not yet recognized by this MDS  browser) you can open all plain text files in JDeveloper.


Downloading the MDS from Enterprise ManagerNow let's assume that you have not been given access to the MDS's DB schema on the environment (perhaps because it is Production), but you do have access to the Enterprise Manager. For this situation my dear colleague Subhashini Gumpula pointed me to the possibility to download the content from the MDS as follows:

soa-infra -> Adminstration -> MDS Configuration  -> and then on the right side of the screen: Export.


This will download a soa-infra_metadata.zip file with its content!
Looking up Artifacts in the MDS Using a BrowserNow let's assume that you also have not been given access to Enterprise Manager on the environment, but you can access using the HTTP protocol. Thanks to my dear colleague Luc Gorrisen I recently learned that you can browse it using part of the URL of the composite, as follows:

http://[server]:[port]/soa-infra/services/[partition]/[composite_name]/apps/[artifact_folder]

For example, to look up the abstract WSDL of some ApplicationService that is used by some StudentRegistration business process, I can use the following URL.

http://capebpm-vm:7001/soa-infra/services/default/StudentRegistration/apps/ApplicationService/1/ApplicationServiceStorage.wsdl

Mind you, this is not restricted to only the WSDL's it is using.

Ain't that cool?!

How to Make File-Based MDS in JDeveloper Work for both Windows and Linux

Wed, 2013-11-20 10:52
In this article I explain how you  can modify the JDeveloper adf-config.xml file to make it work for both Windows, as well as Linux.

If in a JDeveloper application you point to artifacts in a file based MDS residing in a Windows folder for example "d:\projects\MDS", then JDeveloper will create an new entry in the adf-config.xml file (that you can find in Application Resources -> Descriptors -> ADF META-INF) pointing to the absolute location of that folder:



The problem with this is that if you have other colleagues that use Linux instead of Window, it's not possible to make it work for both by defining some relative location (as you could do with ant), like "../../projects/MDS", so now what?

As in most cases, the solution is so simple that I successfully missed it many times: use an environment variable! What worked was creating an environment variable with name MDS_HOME, and after that I could use it like this:

Problem solved! Such an evironment variable you can create in Windows as well as Linux.

I have not yet fully tested if this works for everything, like deploying with ant, but if it doesn't I expect you can easily fix that by modifying the ant-sca-compile.xml file in your JDeveloper installation folder by adding a property "mds_home" in there as well.

Customizing (or rather Hacking) Oracle BPM 11g Business Exceptions

Wed, 2013-11-20 02:05
In this article I explain how you can add custom attributes to Oracle BPM 11g business exceptions. Mind that this is not officially supported.

One of the fun things of giving a training like the Advanced BPM Suite 11g course that I'm running now, is that students ask questions to which you don't know the answer. But hey, you are the teacher, and that won't do, so off you go!

One question asked yesterday was if it is possible to have more attributes on a business exception than just "errorInfo". First question should be: "why do you want that?". Well, let's assume that you at some higher level you want to have access to context information that is only available where the exception is thrown, like a local variable. Of course you can concatenate all info in one long semi-colon separated string or something, but then you probably have to have other logic to transfer that back into something readable.

If you look closely at the definition of a business exception, you will notice that it uses a generated WSDL and XSD. What I did was adding an extra element "name" to the XSD of a business exception with name FailProcess (created for the previous blog article) as follows:


I then restarted JDeveloper to see what would happen, and not totally to my surprise: nothing! As in: it works! I also tried it run-time, and no problem there either, as you can see in the following figure:


One warning though. As the generated XSD clearly states, it should not be altered manually, and any change may be overwritten. It obviously is not a supported hack I show you here, and you should expect that any change of the business exception via the UI will break your code. Therefore let's hope that changes like this in some next version are supported by JDeveloper as well.

Why you may consider NOT using the Terminate End Event in Oracle BPM Suite

Tue, 2013-11-19 10:47
In this article I explain why you should try to avoid using the Terminate End Event in Oracle BPM 11g.

According to the BPMN specification, the Terminate End Event is supposed to terminate a process instance at the level at which it is raised, including any ongoing activity for sub-processes. But is should not terminate any higher level (parent) process.

With OBPM 11g it works differently (at least up to PS6), as raising a Terminate End Event will actually terminate the composite's instance. Except for human tasks, because as clearly stated in the documentation: "Human tasks are independent from BPMN processes. If you terminate a BPMN process while it runs a user task, the associated human tasks keeps running independently". The reason is that the human workflow engine runs separately from the BPM engine.

In the process below this will result in the situation that the Review Data task will still show in Workspace, while the associated process instance is already terminated. That was not the original intention of this model.


This flow shows what actually happens:


Conclusion: before considering using the Terminate End Event be well aware of its behavior. Consider alternate types of modeling, like raising a business exception that is caught by the parent process, which then uses an Update Task activity to withdraw all human tasks before actually ending. In this way you can prevent any human doing accidentally doing work for nothing.

Such a model would look like this:


Exceptions, Business as Usual?

Mon, 2013-09-02 14:47
In this article I describe some aspects considering using BPMN exceptions to handle business exceptions. The conclusion is that you should carefully consider if doing so is appropriate, or that using a combination of a gateway and End event would be a better option.

Bruce Silver writes in his book BPM Method & Style that he used to use BPMN Exception end events only for technical exceptions. For business exceptions he used to use a combination of a gateway and an end state test.

When I first read that I found that to be a peculiar remark, as - coming from a Oracle BPM 10g direction - I used them for business exceptions all the time! Moreover, as most technical exceptions could be caught and managed in BPL (the 10g, Java-like scripting language) I even adviced people to to use Exceptions for technical exceptions only if unavoidable with the argument that the business audience is not interested in technical exceptions, and that therefore they should be left out of the model if possible. After all, wouldn't you agree that the first model (in which exceptions are used for business exceptions) looks simpler that the second one (which is more the gateway/end-state type of solution)?


Using BPMN Error end event
Using gateways
The model presented is inspired by a business process model with a similar complexity, but then bigger. From a functional point of view both models do the same. Examples like this may explain why later on Bruce Silver changed his mind based on feedback from his students.

With Oracle BPM 10g it was easy to write some generic (technical) business exception handling process with a retry option (using the BACK action). With this retry you could simply return to the happy path even when an Exception end event had occurred.

The first time I started to have second thoughts about using Exceptions for business exceptions was when I found that with 11g this back functionality is no longer possible (although it is supposed to come back in 12c in some way or another).

The second second thoughts came when I realized that throwing an Exception and catch that in an Event Sub-process, also has some other peculiarities, as I will explain using the model below:



In this sample model there is an Event Sub-process with a non-interrupting Get Status Message start event, and a Return Status Message end event. This exposes a getStatus services operation that can be called by some 3rd party to find out where the process is, and for that returns a status that is set by the Set Rejected Status and Set Reconsidering Status Script activities. When the Rejected Error event is thrown this is caught by the Event Sub-process with the Rejection Error start event. An Event Sub-process that starts with an Error start event, is interrupting by definition.

Patterns like this (where some operation or service is exposed to interact with a running instance) are very common in my practice. As a matter of fact, as far as I recall more than half of the models I created have a similar Event Sub-process, either to get or to set some process data on the run.

The issue that I found is that when the order is rejected without the option to reconsider - meaning that the Rejected Error event is thrown, the normal flow of the process is aborted (because of the interrupting nature of Error events). As a result, when the process is in the Confirm activity, and the getStatus operation is called, it won't react because that operation it is tied to the normal flow, which is no longer active. In contrast, when the process is in the Reconsider this is not a problem.

It is unclear to me what the BPMN specifications say about this. I can imagine that this behavior is in line with the specifications, or that the specifications are not explicit about what that behavior should be. In any case, this is how it works with 11g, which made me realize that throwing Error end events in case of business exceptions has some drawbacks that might make that modeling by using a gateway plus end state is not so peculiar after all.

OUM approved by Open Group as an Architectural Method

Fri, 2013-08-02 10:04
A bit late perhaps to write about it, but as of the middle of July the Oracle Unified Method (OUM) has been approved by the Open Group (responsible for TOGAF) as an accepted architectural method!

I case you did not already do so, you might be interested to know that OUM blends an architectural method with a project delivery method based on the Unified Process. It is therefore reasonable to state that OUM is your "One Stop Development Method" (OSDM). Can I claim this acronym somewhere?

Handling Service Calls from Oracle BPM

Fri, 2013-05-17 03:52
In this posting I explain why in Oracle BPM Suite 11g you should consider using reusable subprocesses to handle service calls. The example is based on a synchronous service, but the same holds for asynchronous and fire & forget services.

If you have never experienced during process design with BPMN that the final process model became twice, if not three times more complex than you thought it would be, than you haven't been doing process design for real. You might for example have experienced how, what initially looked like a simple service call, finally exploded in your face. Let me tell you how it did in mine. I made up the example I'm using, but it is not far from reality.

It all started with a simple call to a synchronous service to store an order using some Insert and Update Order Service, or Upsert Order for short. The initial process model looked as simple as this.



This process is kicked off as a service with some initial customer data, after which a SalesRep enters an order that then gets stored using the Upsert Order service. But then I found that to use this service, I had to instantiate some custom request header. So I had to add a Script activity, as you cannot do that in the Service activity itself. The result was this:


But now I was exposing technical aspects in a business process, so to prevent the business audience to get distracted from that, I hid the complexity inside an embedded Store Order subprocess, like this:



And inside the embedded subprocess like this:

 
So far so good. But then I found that I also had to create a message id, log the request and response message, and catch exceptions to forward them to a generic exception handling process because the business might be involved to solve data issues. So before I knew it, my embedded subprocess looked something like this:


Hurray for the embedded subprocess, which hid all this complexity! But then I had to call the same Upsert Order service a second time, requiring me to do all the wiring again. Arghh!! Which brought me to the "brilliant" idea of pushing all this logic to a reusable subprocess, like this:


So in the business process itself, I only have to map the (context-specific) request and response messages to and from, what now has become the generic, and reusable wiring of the service call, like this:


Now you might ask yourself why we did not do the service wiring in PBEL. After all, implementing logic regarding service calls (like exception handling, more complex data transformations) is easier in BPEL. But not every BPM developer is also good in BPEL, making BPMN the better choice from a development process point of view. However, the next evolution could be to create some even more generic Service Request/Response Handler that is capable of calling any synchronous service, taking an anyType input and output argument.

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