Alfresco is doing strong investment in workflow and BPM : Apache-licensed Activiti open source project

May 17, 2010


Interesting news from Alfresco today, which has launched the “Activiti” BPM (Business Process Management) project and hired 2 GURUs of the Red Hat’s jBPM team (Tom Baeyens, founder and architect of the JBoss jBPM project, and fellow architect Joram Barrez) to create it.

Activiti will be an independently-run and branded open source project (Apache-licensed), and will work independently of the Alfresco open source ECM system.

This Activiti BPM suite is a very good news for Alfresco (customers were waiting for strong workflow capabilities !) but for all competitors as well (it’s open source) !

Today a lots of blog post have been published on this annoucement. I will try to summarize some of them hereafter, and understand the impact and perspective from the Alfresco point of view:


What is the purpose of this new project and Alfresco motivations ?

Activiti emerged from Alfresco’s desire to have an Apache-licensed BPM engine. Although the previous jBPM engine (embedded in Alfresco) was working well, it seems that it’s LGPL license was preventing Alfresco from being OEM into larger software companies…

So basically, Alfresco’s motivation is to have a more liberally-licensed default process engine, although they will continue to support jBPM.

The Activiti project is led by Alfresco and includes SpringSource, Signavio and Camunda. But it is an independently-run and branded open source project and it will work independently of the Alfresco open source ECM system.

Activiti will be liberally licensed under Apache License 2.0 to encourage widespread usage and adoption of the Activiti BPM engine and BPMN 2.0, which is being finalized as standard by OMG.

Design and Packaging of Activiti:

Activiti will be built from the ground up to be a light-weight, embeddable BPM engine, but also designed to operate in scalable Cloud environments.

The Activiti Engine, which is the underlying process execution engine, is packaged as a JAR file with small classes that can be embedded within other applications, such as is done in Alfresco for content management workflows. It can be easily deployed in the cloud, allowing for cross-enterprise processes.

By answering these questions, Activiti is addressing the requirements of BPM for new applications (not only Alfresco). Applications that wouldn’t have even considered a large scale, stand alone workflow server because of cost and complexity will now be able to freely embed a business process engine.

Integration with Alfresco ?

Activiti will become Alfresco’s default business process engine (current jBPM engine will still be supported, but this is clearly not the target anymore).

Alfresco will build a business around Activiti only for content-centric applications by tightly integrating it with their ECM, leaving other applications of BPM to other companies.

It will be very interesting to see the extent of the content-process integration in Alfresco, and if it includes triggering of process events based on document state changes as well as links from processes into the content repository.

Alfresco roadmap and support:

Alfresco will now do major investment in Activiti (and BPMN 2.0 standard) but will continue to support jBPM (as well as other business process engines currently integrated with its ECM software).

Alfresco will also offer support, maintenance and indemnity for the Activiti suite alongside the Alfresco Enterprise Edition.

So support will be provided for Activiti when it is used in conjunction with the Alfresco engine.


Current status of the project:

Alpha 1 release has been announced today with a planned November GA date (or end of the year).

(Alpha is available now at the Activiti web site,

Alfresco is looking to incorporate Activiti into its suite in a release at the end of 2010. The target release is 3.4 E (project “swift”).
Some early features will be included in 3.3 E (through Share interface), in May 2010.


What are the features provided by Activiti ?

Activiti is not only a BPM engine. There is a complete suite which includes a modeler, a process engine, an end-user application for participating in processes, and an administration console.

The first alpha release includes:
– Activiti Engine: A simple JAR file containing the Process Virtual Machine and BPMN process language implementation;
– Activiti Probe: A system administration console to control and operate the Activiti Engine;
– Activiti Explorer: A simple end-user application for managing task lists and executing process tasks;
– Activiti Modeler: A browser-based and Ajax-enabled BPMN 2.0 process modeling tool designed for business analysts.

For more information:

Some screenshots:

Alfresco announcement:

John Newton’s Blog:

The 451 Group analysis:

Open Source BPM with Alfresco’s Activiti (Blog):