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
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
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
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.