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Submission + - Book Review for "jBPM Developer Guide" (

RickJWagner writes: jBPM is a mature, open source BPM solution. This book, written in a developer-centric manner, guides the reader through the framework and exposes many important considerations for production use.

BPM tools are used to define and execute business processes. They usually come with a graphical editor, which is used to drag and drop boxes onto a graph. The boxes represent activities performed by programs, activities performed by humans, and decision points. If this all sounds like 'graphical programming', it isn't. The picture does draw out the desired series of steps, but there's always configuration and maybe some programming involved as well.

Developers new to the scene will probably draw parallels between BPEL and BPM. While they both allow the designer to orchestrate a series of activities, BPEL uses web services exclusively. (BPM doesn't specify, and often uses Java classes to accomplish desired goals.) BPEL offers support for human-activities (from BPEL4People and WS-HumanTask), but BPM has offered human tasks from the early days, so probably is a better choice if you have lots of them.

The book is true to it's title, it's definitely a book for developers. In the early chapters the reader is guided through implementing their own mini-BPM engine. This is an interesting exercise and helps solidify in the reader's mind the core concepts behind jBPM. It also reinforces the notion that jBPM can be used in a lightweight manner-- it's just as easily embeddable in a standalone Java application as it is deployed in a JEE container.

Speaking of JEE containers, jBPM is a JBoss product, so it's natural that it makes use of available infrastructure like Hibernate, poolable data sources, and enterprise beans for enterprise use. These are all optional-- if you want to write a minimal application that sits outside of JBoss, that's fine. But if you have heavyweight needs, heavyweight infrastructure is readily available. The book covers these important options in detail, which will be useful for developers writing real-world applications.

jBPM is popular enough that it's mentioned in quite a few SOA books as an enabling technology for process management. Most of these books provide coverage of the minimal, embedded use of jBPM. This book differs in that it provides good explanations of the 'enterprise' use.

Normally I strongly prefer paper books to electronic versions, but in this case I'd recommend you might consider the eBook. I say that because the book is much more useful if it's used in conjunction with the source code found on the publisher's site. The book shows source code in each example, but it's just a snippet out of context. I found the content much easier to understand when it was viewed next to all the related artifacts, so you can understand how they relate. (By the way, the toolkit used includes Maven and Eclipse. The reader is given adequate instruction in the front part of the book on setting these up.)

There's not much fluff in the book. It runs about 350 pages. Heavy Developer-type stuff starts after about 40 pages and never really gets lighter after that. Screen shots and diagrams are given where necessary, but mostly it's code and text. Sometimes books are criticized for being light on technical content and overstuffed with pictures and basic diagrams. This criticism does not apply in this case.

A big part of jBPM development is in data handling-- how do you get data into your process instance, and how do you get data out? The author explains this well, and it is a necessary discussion.

You might wonder why you should be interested in this book, which covers jBPM 3.2.6. After all, jBPM 5 was just released. What about jBPM 4? I believe this book will be relevant for quite a while yet, as jBPM 4 is not going to be included in JBoss's support cycle. They'll stay with jBPM 3 (the current supported standard) and will eventually move on to jBPM 5 (after it's gone through the 'community trial by fire' on it's way to productization.) jBPM 5 is going to be a big change from the current landscape-- it's converging with the rules engine Drools. For these reasons, I expect there will be a lot of jBPM 3 development done for a while yet.

So, who would I recommend this book for? I'd say it's a good book for anyone supporting a jBPM 3 deployment, or anyone considering developing a process-centric application. jBPM is a good product, and this book can help a reasonably skilled Java developer get off the ground. I would not recommend the book for someone just out trolling for a technology book to pick up, or an analyst charged with developing the graphical process depictions. As the title says, this is a book for developers.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.

The book can be found here:

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Book Review for "jBPM Developer Guide"

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