DevOps and Microservices Inject Flexibility into Business Process Management

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Business today is more dynamic than ever before. As organizations begin to realize how pervasively businesses rely on software, a steady stream of updates to applications is key to attaining and maintaining competitive advantage. The sooner reliable software updates are deployed, the faster the business can evolve and adapt.

At the CamundaCon 2019 conference, one of the dominant themes that emerged over the two-day event is how much organizations are now combining microservices with best DevOps practices and business process management (BPM) software, to achieve that goal.

For example, leading insurer AXA employed DevOps processes to replace a custom process engine running a JBoss application server, with an instance of the Camunda BPM platform running on top of a Tomcat application server and a Cassandra database deployed on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud.
Expected to become a global standard for the insurer, this approach has made it possible for AXA to modify and create business processes in a more agile manner, says Niko Vogel, Product Owner and IT Manager IT for BPM at AXA.

“We’ve now got business people down working together with DevOps teams,” says Vogel.

Lufthansa Technik is moving down a similar path. The provider of services to airlines embraced DevOps and microservices to make their Java developers more productive.

“We wanted to separate our business logic from the rest of the application,” says Johannes Hansen, Senior Director for Process Automation and Technology Platform at Lufthansa Technik.

Deutsche Telekom has gone even further. The telecommunications carrier now classifies three distinct data, business process and domain-specific classes of microservices, as part of an effort to simplify managing them, says Friedbert Samland, Project Manager for IT Application at Deutsche Telekom.

The hardest part of making the transition to DevOps and microservices isn’t necessarily the technology as much as it is changing the culture of the IT team, noted Samland.

“The first and most important thing is changing the minds of people,” says Samland.

Sandy Kemsley, BPM Industry Analyst and Architect for Kemsley Design Ltd. told conference attendees that microservices often trace their lineage back to service-oriented architecture (SOA) and represent the only way to dynamically scale applications up and down.

Organizations need to embrace microservices as the means to break up monolithic applications that have proven themselves to be too inflexible for the businesses to adjust to rapidly changing business conditions, adds Kemsley.

“Monolithic architecture is the enemy of agility and scalability,” says Kemsley. “Microservices are SOA done right.”

While there may still be routine business processes that can be addressed by a packaged application, organizations that want to innovate need more control over their business processes. That requires embracing a DevOps culture that enables the organizations to customize business processes in a way that enables them to truly differentiate themselves.

It may take some time for organizations to master DevOps and microservices. However, as more organizations start to appreciate the difference between thriving in the age of digital business versus merely hoping to survive, a lot of them are clearly starting to realize just how much of their future success will depend on their ability to quickly and elegantly adopt best DevOps practices in combination with a modern BPM platform.

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