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Retooled K2.net Targets Developers and Business Users

In our January issue, we cover the latest beta of an intriguing, human-centric BPM tool that integrates with core Microsoft technologies like BizTalk Server. Called K2.net, the first beta of this next-generation platform from SourceCode Technology Holdings Inc. out of Redmond, Wash., reached select customers and partners in late December. The beta (codenamed "BlackPearl," and I'll keep the Jack Sparrow jokes to myself, thank you very much) is built on the .NET 3.0 Framework and integrates with SQL Server 2005 and the 2007 Office System.

BlackPearl is good stuff, and honestly deserves more space than we were able to provide it in print. Redmond Developer News senior editor Kathleen Richards dove deeper into the beta and provides more detail:

A major upgrade of the K2.net 2003 Enterprise Workflow Platform, the beta includes a K2.net Studio design environment, Server, Workspace and Service Manager. While all of these components will be revamped, multiple design environments are central to the new platform. BlackPearl allows users to design, build and customize processes in several environments including Microsoft Visio 2007, a browser-based interface, SharePoint Server 2007 and Visual Studio 2005.

Significantly for developers, SourceCode is now a Visual Studio Industry Partner. This gives developers access to a build and design environment within Visual Studio that supports integrated debugging, the VS2005 project system, and full C# and VB.NET language support.

Developers can use pre-built design canvases (from third-parties, too) for process flows, swimlane diagrams, documentation and role-based process modeling, or build their own. The K2.net 2003 design canvases and toolbox will be included with BlackPearl components and wizards in the new platform.

BlackPearl supports .NET 3.0 development technologies such as Windows Workflow Foundation with schedules and rules wizards, a hosted runtime environment and XOML integration. Other new features enable source-controlled process designs, controlled build and development processes (MSBuild), and InfoPath and AJAX-enabled form designs.

The new design environments allow developers to expose data as SmartObjects (for example, a customer and their attributes) or SmartFunctions (business logic, such as calculate total invoices) to business analysts, who can then access and reuse the information without worrying about where it resides on backend systems.

Many BPM products today are designed so that business users can at least get involved in the design process, observes Forrester Research analyst Colin Teubner. "Whether they can build an application is another story, but they can at least get involved in mapping the process before it gets handed off to a developer," he explains. "I think K2.net's older product didn't have as much business user friendly development, so they've added there.

Microsoft relies on third parties as add-ons to its BPM and SOA platforms because these deployments are services-heavy initiatives, and not something "Microsoft can sell in a box," Teubner says. "We constantly see Microsoft pointing people in the direction of K2.net, especially in the area of workflow, when their own products fall short."

Under development for about three years, K2.net BlackPearl is compatible with all processes and applications designed in K2.net 2003, according to SourceCode. K2.net Enterprise Workflow users can download Additional Components for K2.net 2003 that support Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and InfoPath 2007.

General availability of the commercial version of BlackPearl is expected by the end of the first quarter. SourceCode has not disclosed licensing information. According to company, K2.net 2003 licensees with a maintenance agreement will be able to download the BlackPearl platform for free when it becomes available.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/10/2007 at 1:15 PM


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