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Overview

Red Hat Process Automation

Introduction

Businesses are looking for new ways to engage with their customers, partners, and suppliers, and respond to changing market needs. Business applications that automate operations and interact with internal and external enterprise systems are at the forefront of this effort, and new approaches to application development and integration have become critical to business success. One such approach recognizes that much of a business’s expertise regarding market and operational needs can be found outside of the IT software development organization. Accordingly, many businesses are looking to more directly involve business users in the creation of new applications. Inclusion of business users in the application development process presents challenges, however, and new tools are required that equally support business and IT.

Red Hat® Process Automation addresses this need through an integrated set of products that include:

  • Developer tools and runtimes.
  • Business-focused tools for process and decision management.
  • Automated DevOps pipelines.

Together, these technologies enable business and IT teams to collaborate and develop applications that automate operations that can be easily adapted as market needs change.

The challenge

Modern application development projects present many technological and organizational challenges. Applications must automate critical business processes and decisions while operating in a modern cloud environment and connecting to a wide range of external and internal systems and datastores. Creating these applications requires a radical change in how software is built—moving away from traditional, IT-led software development to a process that lets developers and business experts contribute directly to application logic.

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Figure 1. Transition to business-focused software development

In this approach, business experts contribute their knowledge using models of business processes and decisions created with technologies, such as business process management (BPM), business rules, robotic process automation (RPA), resource optimization, and intelligent analytics. New application development platforms are required to serve the needs of business experts and IT developers. Such platforms enable the creation of business models alongside program code, and they support continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines that deploy both into scalable, security-focused, microservices-based applications.

Red Hat’s approach

The Red Hat Middleware portfolio includes Red Hat Process Automation, a curated set of products for developing containerized microservices and applications that automate business operations. It includes:

  • Red Hat Application Runtimes.
  • Red Hat Process Automation Manager.
  • Red Hat Decision Manager.
  • Red Hat OpenShift® (optional).

Red Hat Application Runtimes provides IT developers with the open and collaborative tools needed to accelerate the development and delivery of business solutions. It delivers comprehensive frameworks, runtimes, and programming languages for developers, architects, and IT leaders with cloud-native application development needs. The product offers features that support highly distributed cloud environments such as microservices, with in-memory caching for fast data access, and messaging for quick data transfer supporting existing applications. It can run on-premise, in the cloud, or within a container platform, such as Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

Red Hat Process Automation Manager provides tools and runtimes that enable business users to develop applications that automate business decisions and processes. It supports standard notations for describing models of business processes and decisions, which can be deployed as executable automated services. Such services can be modified by changing the underlying models, allowing business users to adapt services to changing requirements without needing IT support to update application code.

Red Hat Process Automation Manager includes BPM, business rules management (BRM), complex event processing (CEP), and resource optimization technologies, and is compliant with industry standards like business process model and notation 2.0 (BPMN 2.0) and decision model and notation 1.2 (DMN 1.2) for process and decision management. It also includes a user experience platform to create engaging user interfaces for process and decision services with minimal coding.

Red Hat Decision Manager is included for use in applications that automate business decisions but do not require full process management capabilities. It includes the business rules, CEP, and optimization capabilities from Red Hat Process Automation Manager, but without the process management or user experience features. Red Hat Decision Manager provides a lightweight and optimized platform ideally suited for developing and deploying automated decision services.

Red Hat OpenShift is a container application platform for the deployment and management of cloud-native applications, built on the popular Kubernetes open source project. It lets users easily and quickly build and deploy microservices applications in nearly any infrastructure, public or private. Red Hat OpenShift provides development and operations teams with a common platform and set of tools that support a DevOps approach to application development, with a CI/CD pipeline that provides a common, continuous application development and maintenance workflow.

 

Key capabilities

Process modeling

Red Hat Process Automation includes easy-to-use tools for creating models of business processes using the BPMN 2.0 standard. These models include the steps within a process, as well as decisions taken along the way. The process designer lets users easily see all the different paths and options a process can follow, depending on decisions made across its execution.

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Figure 2. BPMN 2.0 process model created with Red Hat Process Automation

Red Hat Process Automation goes beyond the BPMN standard to support dynamic case management, a less structured approach to business processes suitable for use cases too complex to lay out all possible process paths in advance. In these scenarios, the modeling tools let users describe typical steps taken, with the actual paths determined at runtime depending on the content of each case.

Decision modeling

Red Hat Process Automation includes easy-to-use tools for creating models of operational decisions using the DMN 1.2 standard. These models describe the inputs, outputs, and rules governing how a decision is made in a standard graphical format. Full support is provided for DMN decision tables and the Friendly Enough Expression Language (FEEL), allowing for even the most complex decision logic to be accurately modeled.

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Figure 3. A DMN decision model created with Red Hat Process Automation

In addition to DMN support, Red Hat Process Automation offers several alternative mechanisms for modeling business decisions, including:

  • Decision tables, which provide an easy-to-use, spreadsheet-like mechanism for defining the business rules that govern a decision.
  • A guided rule editor, which provides a powerful approach for modeling more complex decisions via a high-level rule language.
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Figure 4. Red Hat Process Automation decision table editor

Runtime evaluation of decision models is performed by Drools 7, a highly scalable, forward- and backward-chaining inference engine capable of efficiently processing massive rulesets and datasets. The jBPM 7 business process management engine automates process and case models, and can efficiently support many thousands of process and case instances.

Data modeling and forms

To enable process and decision models to be included in an application, Red Hat Process Automation provides tools for users to define additional artifacts needed for execution, including data items and the user interface for manual steps. Several scripting languages are also provided.

A data modeling tool provides a simple drag-and-drop mechanism for defining the data items accessed by a process. These items could be as simple as a single variable—such as the price of a product—or as complex as an entire document, such as an insurance application.

Two tools are available for user interface design:

  • For simple HTML forms, a form builder provides a quick way to lay out form content, input fields, and basic validation.
  • For more complex user interaction, including on mobile devices, Red Hat Process Automation offers the application manager, a component developed in collaboration with Entando, a Red Hat Premier Partner, for quickly constructing engaging user interfaces with minimal coding. Users can create complex, multipart forms that automatically retrieve task lists, data values, documents, and other process information, and then generate visually rich graphs and charts.

Dashboards

Red Hat Process Automation includes facilities for users to create sophisticated dashboards for the display of business data. Dashboards can contain indicators that are connected to data sources in disparate systems. With customization, business users can easily create a view of key performance indicators (KPIs) needed for agile decision making.

Conclusion

Modern digital businesses need engaging and flexible customer-facing applications, and Red Hat Process Automation provides the capabilities needed by IT developers and business users to jointly develop and deploy these cloud-native business applications. It includes tools and runtimes for developers and business experts that they can use to create and deploy applications and microservices. With the use of OpenShift Container Platform, the toolset enables a DevOps approach to application development and provides a full CI/CD pipeline to ensure proper governance of the development life cycle.

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Figure 5. Collaborative application development with Red Hat Process Automation

If you are undertaking a digital transformation project, Red Hat can help with an extensive global partner network that can help you support business automation projects. Red Hat partners are certified in process automation, as well as BPM approaches, business rules implementation, and system integration. To learn more, contact Red Hat or find a partner at redhat.com/partners.