Project description

The Exotica project at the IBM Almaden Research Center was focused on workflow systems and advanced transaction management. Our goals were to bring together industrial trends and research issues in these areas. Exotica was a collaborative effort involving IBMers at Almaden, Boeblingen, Hursley and Vienna. It was partly funded by IBM's Networking Software Division and Software Solutions Division. Work in Exotica was done in the context of IBM's workflow product FlowMark and IBM's messaging and queueing product MQSeries. In particular, the usage of MQSeries by FlowMark and enhancements to FlowMark's availability and scalability characteristics were explored. Replication of database states maintained by FlowMark was one of the design options that we investigated to improve availability. We also showed how some of the advanced transaction models like sagas and flexible transactions can be supported on top of FlowMark. In the mobile computing area, we did initial design and prototyping work for supporting disconnected FlowMark clients.

Even though the Exotica project was done in the context of FlowMark, our work has general applicability since FlowMark's architecture closely resembles the reference model proposed as a standard by the Workflow Management Coalition.

We also worked on establishing more synergy between Lotus Notes/Domino and FlowMark. Workflow management applications are of two types: process-centric structured applications as supported by IBM's FlowMark and document-centric applications as supported by Lotus Notes. The functionality of FlowMark and Notes are complementary in nature. Notes is strong with regard to support for events, routing of compound documents, integration with desktop applications, and mobile computing. FlowMark is strong in supporting process modelling, and concepts like process instances with audit trails and rich organizational models with role resolution. Notes also lacks transactional features and forward recovery with logs (this is currently being fixed by the Dominotes project at IBM Almaden Research Center). FlowMark, through its use of ObjectStore as the repository for its data, supports and exploits those concepts. Scalability and availability could be further improved in both systems. The objective of the last piece of research and prototyping work in Exotica was to "merge" and extend the two workflow systems resulting in the richest workflow manager in the industry, capable of managing a wide range of applications. In doing so, we also attempted to introduce more object orientation in FlowMark.

The Exotica project was ended in early 1997. But some of the project members continue to be interested in the workflow area.

Publications and presentations

Several papers were written on the work done in the project. Slides from some presentations, including a workflow tutorial are also available.


Project founder and leader: C. Mohan (IBM Internal Home Page)

Project members: Divyakant Agrawal, Gustavo Alonso, Amr El Abbadi, Roger Guenthoer, Mohan Kamath, Berthold Reinwald (IBM Internal Home Page)


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Last updated on 14 January 1998. C. Mohan,
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