First Look: OpenText MBPM 9.7
Getting Meta with MBPM 9.7
By James Cox, Principal BPM Consultant
In a previous blog, we talked about one of OpenText’s legacy BPM applications, Case360. Today, we’re going to look at another of OpenText’s legacy BPM products, MBPM, formerly known as Metastorm BPM. While MBPM still receives regular releases, the Smart UI interface is the only stand-out, new feature that’s been added to the application. The remaining updates have been bug fixes, adding support for the latest operating systems/database technologies, and updating the third-party components used by MBPM. This left a customer running 9.5 with little incentive to update to 9.6.
However, all of that is changing with the 9.7 release.
9.7 should be available for download in the third quarter of 2021 and promises to have some of the most useful/impactful features released to date. Let’s look at some of those features in more detail.
Smart UI Enhancements
For those of you that haven’t updated to 9.6, OpenText added a new portal interface called Smart UI. This interface replaced the Silverlight-based ASSURE WorkCenter interface used by ASSURE solutions. Smart UI allows users to build a multi-card workspace with access to the To-Do, Watch, Blank Forms, and Admin lists. The original MBPM portal displays each of these lists on separate tabs/pages.
With the 9.7 release, users will be able to open lists and forms in multiple cards on the same or different tabs. The results displayed in each of these cards can also now be sorted, and the items within these lists (forms, links, etc.) can be saved as a ‘favorite’ for easier access. The sort and filters applied to each list is preserved between browser sessions. Pagination has been added to lists, which should improve the performance. This release will also allow users to add SSRS reports to their workspace.
The 9.7 release will be fully 508 and WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. If you develop application interfaces or websites used by the US Federal Government or any of their contractors, then you know that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first law to require equal access for people with disabilities by removing architectural, employment, and transportation barriers. Section 501 and 503 of the law prohibit federal agencies from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
Section 504 prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance and set the stage for the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has been amended over the years to ensure websites and digital assets be accessible to persons of all abilities. WCAG is a set of standards that define website accessibility. In recent years, legal firms used satellite mapping services to identify hotels and other buildings that were not ADA compliant. It’s just a matter of time before the ADA is amended to include websites. Once that occurs, technologies such as web-crawlers could be used to identify web sites that do not meet WCAG compliance. Bottom line, a website that is not accessible increases the legal exposure to an accessibility lawsuit.
64 Bit Support
Like previous releases, 9.7 contains 3rd party and OpenText platform updates. The big difference with 9.7 is that these updates are to support 64-bit.
Which brings us to the biggest feature in the 9.7 release: no more 32-bit engine as a singleton service. To get MBPM closer to supporting multiple services in the cloud and towards a SaaS/PaaS/LaaS type of offering, 9.7 will introduce a 64-bit engine that is hosted in Microsoft IIS. This has a number of impacts:
Previous versions of MBPM would not allow more than one engine to be installed on the same server. Customers will now be able to consolidate servers by hosting development, integration, QA, and training environments on the same server, thus reducing complexity and costs.
32-bit applications are restricted to 4 GB of memory. The new 64-bit engine will eliminate this limitation.
Performance: 64-bit applications can expect between 2-20% performance gain from mere recompilation.
The 9.7 engine leverages IIS recycling. This allows the active engine process to be recycled seamlessly. In addition, IIS permits recycling to be scheduled on a regular basis or triggered once a certain limit is reached (e.g. memory usage, number of requests processed etc.). When the engine was restarted in previous versions, users would be denied access to the application unless multiple engines were running in an environment.
The initial installation will be simplified. There will be no need for special DCOM permissions, COM+ registration, or COM+ role assignments.
Product patches will be easier to apply with this architecture.
Separate, federated authentication and ECL components will no longer be required since they both will be co-hosted in the MBPM engine’s IIS application
The 9.7 engine now incorporates a performance counters capability which allows administrators to monitor application and system performance in real-time.[EB1] To ease the configuration of these performance counters, this release will also include the MBPM Process Engine Performance Counters Suite:
Comes with a utility to install/uninstall performance counters,
Provides the ability to define different types of performance counters: current status counters, aggregate counters, and average time taken counters,
These provide visibility for different types of MBPM requests, such as login, logout, starting an action, getting an attachment, refill requests, etc.,
Additional details can be recorded for attachments and system actions (flagged, timed, conditionals and rendezvous),
System administrators and MBPM solution developers will be able to add custom counters via XML files.
Considerations with Existing MBPM Solutions when upgrading to 9.7
While 9.7 will include these new and useful features, there are some potential challenges with the release which could force customers to update some of their existing MBPM solutions and supporting components during the upgrade.
For example, since the engine is 64-bit, 3rd party assemblies need to be built as ‘All platform’ or 64 bit. 32-bit assemblies will no longer work. 3rd party DLL’s and COM inproc servers will also have to be 64-bit. During a potential upgrade, you should check the .DLL’s in the following directories and make updates as needed:
Program Files (x86)\Metastorm\BPM\Designer\CustomLib
Program Files (x86)\Metastorm\BPM\Deployment\CustomLib
Program Files (x86)\Metastorm\BPM\Engine\dotnetbin
If you plan on running multiple environments from the same server, and you store custom configuration details in the Windows Registry, the following considerations should be made:
Move the configuration details to the web.config file.
Update the MBPM solutions that read these configuration details so that they get them from the web.config file.
Lastly, V7.x % language backwards compatibility no longer works. This could affect MBPM solutions that were migrated from v7 using one of the out of the box, OpenText migration utilities.
Is it Time for you to Upgrade?
With OpenText’s near-term release of MBPM v9.7, it may be time for you to consider if your organization can benefit from these new, impactful enhancements. ClearCadence will continue to monitor the momentum of this latest release and will keep our customers abreast of future releases. If you decide that 9.7 is the right fit for your company and now is the right time to consider an upgrade, proper planning and paying attention to the key considerations will be essential for a successful effort.
James Cox is a Principal BPM Consultant at ClearCadence, specializing in MBPM-based applications and solutions for Business Process Management.
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