Thursday, June 14, 2007

Metastorm BPM 7.5 review

It's been around a while so it's about time I wrote down my thoughts. If you want to see the official line take a look at the Metastorm Press Release, I'm just going to talk about things that interest me, which in general means the core product and any .NET integration pieces.

One of the main reasons I wasn't particularly keen on version 7.0 was the requirement to disable DEP before installing. Although this was rectified in the first service release, installing still required disabling DEP, installing 7.0, re-enabling DEP then installing the service release. Thankfully this has all been fixed in 7.5 and I presume 7.5 can be installed straight over 6.6, although I haven't tried this yet.

I've been running with 7.5 web client against some 6.6 engines to get a feel for it. Although this isn't supported and it does seem to have a few issues, it's pretty useful for testing out the various client-side hacks we've employed in the past. There's not been any major innovation in the web client but it has had a few minor tweaks and I'm very much of the opinion that small things matter. The things I like are

  • the ability to kick off an action without opening the folder, this is a quite a productivity boost.
  • fixed headers on a grid. I'm sure it took an afternoon to implement but it will please many many people.
  • the error message when a required field has not been populated tells you the name of the field. Again, a minor change but shows someone is paying attention to the details

You can also add links from the web client to other sites. It's seem a bit of a random feature but I'm sure some people will love it.

The Designer on the other hand seems somewhat unloved, which is understandable given Metastorm have started on a complete rewrite of it. There aren't really any new features to speak of (except the .NET event delegation which I'll talk about shortly). There are some serious performance issues when using it, it seems to flicker constantly when moving around and adding fields to a form takes forever. I've had it crash a few times but I'm not sure it's any less stable than previous versions. The pointless dialog count is about the same, although I did find a new one when it couldn't locate the ELB file in the database so it asked if it should look for an XEL instead. Yes of course you should, do you really need to ask???

So onto the .NET integration. Initially I thought this was pretty poor but upon closer examination it is actually reasonably good. Tell the Designer you want to delegate your map events to a .NET assembly then go into Visual Studio and create an assembly for the map via a wizard. I thought this was the end of it, which left me wondering what would happen when I updated the procedure. It turns out there is some integration with Visual Studio but the installer didn't activate the add-in. Once I had that running, I was able to synchronise the procedure and assembly and deploy it.

There's a few problems with this integration though

  • not all events are covered. When button pressed and when the user selects a row in a grid are the obvious ones, but calculated fields and basically all places where e-Work formulae are used need to be available.
  • deploying the assembly requires stopping and starting the engine. Oddly, Metastorm have worked around this by stopping and starting the engine for you from Visual Studio rather than going down the more obvious route of using shadow copies. This is fine for a development machine but deployment to a production machine would be much easier without this requirement. ASP.NET has been doing it for years...
  • I think the Process Orchestrator requires a separate license purchase. Really this should be part of the main product and until it is, I don't think we'll be interested in using it.


Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

I have open metastorm positions. Please contact me at

These are architect type positions and are urgent, need-to-be-filled-ASAP.

Experience with MBPM (ework) a must.