The digitization of business processes has become a key challenge for organisations and enterprises. From the development perspective, essentially two things are needed for a modern application design:
a process description – created using the BPMN 2.0 standard
a runtime environment – to execute and persist business data in a secure way
With the Imixs Process Manager we are now releasing a new platform that combines the design and the execution of business processes in a highly scalable and easy to use environment. Organisations can start quickly and develop and test their own business process. And of course the open source platform can be customized and extended to be used for development as well as for production.
The Imixs Process Manager comes with a Docker profile that can be started within seconds in a containerised environment like Kubernetes.
A business process is designed with the help of the Imixs-BPMN modeller tool. New models are uploaded and executed directly within the Imixs Process Manager.
With the new build-in custom form generator, the Imixs Process Manager allows the definition of custom forms directly in a BPMN 2.0 model without writing one line of code. New forms are defined by a XML template which brings much more flexibility into the process design.
With the new release v5.2.0, the open source workflow engine Imixs-Workflow now supports the asynchronous execution of BPMN events.
This feature is a big step forward especially in a microservice architecture. The new so called AsyncEvents make it much more easier to decouple a Rest API call from the processing life cycle of the workflow engine. In this way the request-response pattern shows better performance and allows a very clear design of complex business processes.
The AsyncEvents were already part of the Imixs-Microservice project in a pre-release and become now a core feature of the Imixs-Workflow engine. Especially in more complex architectures, the use of the so-called SAGA Pattern is an important building block. With asynchronous events Imixs-Workflow is now supporting this design pattern as a core feature. Read also our blog about building powerful microservice solutions with the SAGA Pattern.
In my last blog I explained the core concepts behind the Microservice Saga Pattern. In this blog I will address the problem from a more practical perspective by demonstrating how Imixs-Workflow can be used as a Saga Orchestrator within a Microservice architecture. First, I would like to give a brief review of the main concepts of the saga pattern. Later I show some implementation examples.
Everyone is talking about cloud technologies and of course every modern project relies on a microservice architecture. A variety of technologies and methods contribute to the success of this architecture pattern. But what does cloud native actually mean for the business world? How do companies and organizations implement business processes successfully beyond the big technology promises?
The basic idea of a microservice architecture is to break down the technical requirements of a software system into the smallest possible and therefore manageable services. The advantage: services created in this way can be developed independently of each other with different technologies by different teams. At the same time, we see new methods and technologies to connect, monitor and scale these services.
But just looking at the technology does’t mean that software can be developed faster and better. I would therefore like to compare some of these methods and technologies from the microservice architecture with the requirements for the development of business applications.
The new version of the open source project Imixs-Workflow provides an improved OCR integration and supports much more document formats.
With the upcoming release of Imixs-Archive v2.1.2, which is part of the Imixs-Workflow ecosystem, nearly all kinds of documents can now be analyzed on demand. The Optical character recognition (OCR) is based on the latest version of the Apache Tika project. The Imixs-Archive service detects and extracts metadata and text from all common file types (such as Word, PPT, XLS, JPG and PDF). All of these file types are parsed through an integrated microservice, making the data useful for fulltext search, content analysis, translation, and machine learning.
Even a snapshot taken with your smartphone from an invoice or a contract document can now be transferred to the Imixs workflow system in seconds. This makes the digitization of business processes even faster and easier.
With the integrated Workflow Management Suite Imixs-Office-Workflow your team can collaborate fast, clear and in a structured way.
Imixs-Workflow provides a modern microservice architecture. This means that you can integrate this solution into any container-based infrastructure such as Kubernetes. The Imixs workflow project already provides production ready Docker images.
With Imixs-Cloud we started a new open infrastructure project, providing a lightweight kubernetes cluster for small and medium-sized organizations. This projects goal is to build, run and maintain business applications in a production ready and self managed kubernetes cluster. The main objectives of Imixs-Cloud are simplicity, transparency and operational readiness.
The runtime environment is based on Kubernetes and provides an easy way to setup and maintain a medium-sized kubernetes cluster environment hosted on virtual servers or bare metal. The project is open source and constantly under development. You can join the project on Github.
The project contains information how to setup a kubernetes cluster on bare metal servers or cloud servers.
We are currently creating a completely new modelling opportunity within the Imixs workflow project. This new web based modelling approach is build on top of the impressive open source project bpmn.io.
BPMN Models created in Eclipse with the existing powerful Imixs-BPMN Modeller can be viewed and modeled directly in the web based modeler and vice versa.
The new project Imixs-BPMN.io is hosted on Github. The goal is to transfer more and more functionality from the Eclipse Platform to the web-based solution. We are only at the beginning and are grateful for any kind of support. We invite you to join the project!
With the next upcoming version of Imixs-Worklfow 5.1.10 we will introduce the new Multi-Model Support. With this function, a long-running business process can easily be distributed into separate model files without having to split up a running process instance or create a new sub-process. This will make modeling much easier and clearer.
In difference to the the already existing feature of the Split Events, the model version can be changed within a running process instance by simply adding a link-event:
The outgoing event describes the new model version in the workflow result definition:
The Imixs-Workflow engine will execute the new event immediately within the new model and automatically assigns the already running process instance. The consistency of the process will be guarantied by the Imixs-Workflow Kernel.
This modeling approach is particularly interesting for long-running, complex business processes with multi-stage approval procedures because it significantly increases the maintainability and overview in such models.
The Imixs-Workflow engine has a build-in metric service which is based on lates vdrsion of Eclipse Microprofile 3.2. This metric service can be used to monitor the Imixs-Workflow engine and its running processes. The Imixs Metric Service provides fine-grained metrics to monitor individual business processes or even individual process steps within a specific workflow.
The Data format is based on the common Prometheus format and can be analyzed in real-time with different kind of Tools.
To setup the imixs-metrics you just need to enable the metric service by a environment variable:
The Imixs-Workflow engine will start automatically collecting all relevant metrics during document updates or the processing life-cycle of a custom business process.
The Metrics are available on the metrics api endpoint of the application server. For Wildfly this endpoint is for example:
Next you can start a Prometheus Server to collect the metrics by using the following prometheus.yml file:
scrape_interval: 15s # By default, scrape targets every 15 seconds.
# Attach these labels to any time series or alerts when communicating with
# external systems (federation, remote storage, Alertmanager).
# Imixs-Microservice - payara metrics
- job_name: 'imixs'
- targets: ['imixs-workflow:8080']
# Imixs-Microservice - wildfyl metrics
#- job_name: 'imixs'
# scrape_interval: 5s
# metrics_path: /metrics
# - targets: ['imixs-workflow:9990']
Note: that for wildfly the metrics_path and target port differs from the payara config!
This will collect metrics from the service endpoint ‘http://imixs-workflow:8080/’. Prometheus will scrape the metrics every 15 seconds and stores the result into its own database.
From the Prometheus Dashboard you can test the data within your web browser:
Monitoring Metrics with Grafana
To monitor you workflow you can easily connect your Prometheus server with a Grafana Instance. This allows you to visualize your metrics in an individual and more detailed dashboard.
There are a huge amount of functions available in Grafana to analyze and monitor data. You can also activate individual alerts to notify your process owner about the load of your business processes.