The most interesting keynote at the Intalio User Conference was by Greg Olson, founder of Coghead, a BPM-in-the-cloud service that uses Intalio as the process engine under the covers. Coghead bills itself as a next-generation platform for situational apps, such as built today on Excel, Access, or FileMaker. Instead of professional developers, Coghead targets independent web developers and power users. The platform is 100% web based, a multi-tenant service hosted on the Amazon cloud infrastructure, with simple subscription-based pricing (free for single user). You can define data, forms, and perform the usual set of database operations, so it’s really easy to build a database app in the cloud.
So where is the BPM part? You can customize an insert, update, or delete by defining it as a process flow, as shown here.
The diagram isn’t full BPMN, but you can have conditional branches, loops, do lookups, set values, send email alerts, or perform custom actions. The flow becomes BPEL under the covers, executed on Coghead’s Intalio engine. Instead of process being the centerpiece, mini-processes are used to replace simple database operations. The entire app is Web 2.0, accessible through Google Gadgets or iframe. It’s pretty cool.
All of the data lives in Coghead, so you probably are asking how to integrate this with your real data sources behind the firewall. Coghead provides a “linked application” feature in which a facade on Coghead communicates with a RESTful API on your app behind the firewall, which I believe is based on the Atom Publishing Protocol (APP). Much as we have WSDL-based adapters to business systems today, it is expected that application systems will increasingly offer APP “adapters” for this type of integration, either from the app vendors themselves, middleware providers, or built by individual developers.