Orchestrating Your API-Enabled Assets On IBM i
February 11, 2015 Alex Woodie
OK, so you’ve API-enabled your IBM i applications and joined the ranks of modern applications. You are definitely going to benefit from simplified integration for both data and application. But now there’s a bunch of SOAP and REST calls flying all around, and it’s getting hard to keep track of them. That’s an area that CM First Group is hoping to address with a new business process management (BPM) tool imported from Europe.
CM First is now reselling the Axon.ivy BPM Suite, a business process modeling and management tool originally developed by its business partner, AXON IVY of Germany. The software is designed to help customers optimize the flow and execution of increasingly complex and long-running business processes that touch many different backend business applications, including homegrown RPG-based systems, ERP systems from SAP and Oracle, and new business apps residing in the cloud.
CM First plans to sell Axon.ivy to its US base of customers, which are predominantly users of the CA 2E and CA Plex model-driven development tools from CA. The BPM suite–which contains visualization and design tools as well as a Java-based runtime–can help streamline processes developed in any language, including those written in 2E, Plex, RPG, COBOL, Java, and C++. It can also manage the flow of data and business processes involving cloud-based apps that expose REST-based APIs, such as Salesforce and Zendesk.
As CM First’s CTO John Rhodes explains, the Axon.ivy software will be a great addition to organizations that have already API-enabled their applications as part of an application modernization strategy.
“Service-enabling your application is a necessary first step, and tools like CA 2E and CA Plex have had that capability added over the past few years,” Rhodes tells IT Jungle. “That’s a necessary step. But then the next question is: How do you orchestrate your services into long running processes? Service-orchestration is something that’s somewhat new and people are starting to benefit from, and that’s what a tool like Axon.ivy adds.”
Service-enabling IBM i applications is shaping up to be a hot development trend in 2015, and CM First is hoping to ride this trend with Axon.ivy. IBM just added support for RESTful Web services to the IBM i OS in late 2014, adding to the already-supported SOAP standard for Web services. The IT industry has largely standardized on REST, which is favored by most modern software as a service (SaaS) firms.
“I think BPM is a great way to modernize a portfolio of applications without having to rewrite code, which is invasive and risky,” Rhodes says. “With BPM you can leave the code in place and access the code through Web services, through APIs, and still produce a Web and mobile front-end.”
CM First–which also sells Web- and mobile-enablement tools for 2E and Plex customers–discovered the BPM suite while working with AXON IVY on an application modernization project in Europe. The software has proven its capability to integrate with IBM i applications and processes through Soreco, a Swiss subsidiary of AXON that modernized an IBM i- based human resources application, and used the Axon.ivy BPM software to manage business process orchestration. Soreco has about 1,500 customers, the majority of which use IBM i as the backend database.
Banking and insurance companies have been early adopters of the Axon.ivy BMP software, Rhodes says. But companies in every industry will eventually benefit from the heightened visibility and orchestration of business services that are increasingly accessed via API.
“Often a workflow spans more than one app,” Rhodes says. “It may go from handwritten RPG code to SAP to Oracle financials, and the workflow actually spans the entire suite of software, and there’s where the BPM software comes in. It lets you do a workflow across the entire business, especially if you have long-running processes that span different organizations or different groups in an organization.”
There is some aspect of business process discovery in the Axon.ivy tool suite, but that’s not really its specialty. Discovering business processes would be more of a services engagement, Rhodes says. (There are other business process discovery tools available for the IBM i platform, too.)
“Once the business process are discovered, they can be automated and improved on, optimized using AXON IVY, to produce a more efficient process that meets the needs of business,” Rhodes says. “It also helps to monitor the process as it executes and determines where the bottlenecks are. So if you have a loan application and it’s taking a week to process, this software can help you to find out how to shrink that down to a couple of days to save money and time.”
The software adheres to BPMN 2.0, the latest iteration of the Business Process Model and Notation standard. Pricing will be in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. For more information see www.cmfirstgroup.com.