Opensource BPMS

Since I read Smith’s and Fingar’s book called Business Process Management: The Third Wave, I was excited. Business Process Management (BPM) is the logical step forward in Enterprise Software Architecture.

BPM enable systems (either pure BPMS or ERP’s with BPM capabilities) provide the means for managers to actually take control of their business. It can make IT systems disappear from the manager’s point of view.

Big software houses like IBM, SAP and Oracle all have BPM on their lineup. But this is only helpful for big companies. What about the rest of us? Small business owners, and medium companies without big IT budgets? Opensource to the rescue!

There are several opensource options for BPM solutions. And yes opensource does not mean free, and most of these solutions are a bit crippled in favor of their commercial siblings. But still a very interesting way to start analyzing this approach to business software.

In this article I’m going to layout just 3 of options. The ones I feel have the most maturity.

  • Activity BPM Platform
  • Bonita BPM
  • Intalio BPMS

Activity BPM Platform

Licensed under the Apache License 2.0, Activiti is an effort by a group of companies (Alfresco and SpringSource to name a few).

Activity BPM Platform has 3 major component areas: Modeling, Runtime and Management.

Activiti provides a web application called Activiti Explorer to manage the execution of processes, and also an API called Activiti REST.

For modeling they provide 2 tools, their Activiti Modeler (part of the Explorer web app) and an eclipse plugin called Activiti Designer. Both allow for the modeling of business processes using BPMN 2.0 standard.

Runtime execution of business processes is done using the Activiti Engine that runs BPMN processes natively (most solutions execute BPEL code).

To try Activiti you just need to get to their website, download the zip file and you have 2 packaged web apps ready to be deployed to an instance of Tomcat.

Bonita Soft

Created by 3 French developers, Bonita BPM is one of the biggest opensource players in this space, with over 2 million downloads.

The solution has 3 components, Studio, Portal and Engine.

The Bonita Studio is an Eclipse based modeling application that allows for the creation of BPMN 2.0 business process models. In addition to the modeling feature their designer can create forms used in human tasks on the processes.

Bonita Engine is an BPEL engine that orchestrates the processes designed in the Studio.

Bonita Portal is an web app that runs on Tomcat and manages the deployed process.

All of the components are downloadable from their site, and the Bonita community also provides a vast number of connectors used to link Bonita BPM to other software, like SugarCRM or Alfresco.

Intalio BPMS

California base company, Intalio provides a community edition of their BPM solution call Intalio BPMS. They claim to be 80% opensource.

Intalio BPMS has 2 components, the Designer (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) and the Server.

Intalio BPMS Designer is an Eclipse based BPMN modeler, but also a Tempo form designer. Tempo is an AJAX form builder base on Tibco General Interface.

The Server is an Tomcat web app that runs and manages the business processes.

Installation of the Intalio components is also very straightforward, just create an account and download the appropriate zip files. The Server is provided in bundle with Tomcat already configured, you just need to run the startup file.


There is no excuse to not try the BPM approach to solving business problems. All of these solutions are mature enough to be use in production on a medium / small company.

Go join the third wave of business solutions!

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