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Community Innovation

About seven years ago we started the conversations that led to Activiti being created as an Apache licensed project. At Alfresco, we felt it was important to be able to use components within our architecture that gave us more options to develop our community and build business opportunities. Business Process Management is one of those critical components of any content management system. As a liberal license, the Apache Public License provided opportunities for others to add and enhance the project and perhaps we may get the capabilities that we alone can not create. An Apache licensed process engine was my idea, but it aligned with what the original founders of Activiti were thinking as well.

Over a period of nearly seven years with the initial hiring of Tom Baeyens and Joram Barrez, Activiti evolved into a robust offering that has challenged significant commercial vendors who are dedicated to the BPM market. Despite our small size at the time, I made sure that they got the resources they needed and gave a pretty free hand in how the project evolved. Over the years, I estimate that Alfresco has invested at least $7 million in the development of pure open source software available to the community. Our plan is to continue and actually accelerate investment in this project.

Clearly, this is a valuable and freely available resource that many have and will find very useful. There were many enterprises using Activiti in critical business processes and incorporating into various software products without necessarily giving back. That’s open source! However, we were getting requests for support and additional features, which allowed us to go beyond using Activiti as a component and provide direct support last year. In order to monetize the investment in Activiti, we provided enterprise support and additional enterprise features, which follows along the lines of other successful open source companies building products around an Apache license, like Cloudera.

In addition, we found Activiti so useful and so critical to our vision of digital transformation that we have made it a critical part of our future architecture. We plan to take Activiti to the next step in the marketplace and to provide features that will provide clear leadership and differentiation in the BPM market. We have a clear plan for Activiti that very much includes our open source community. If anything, we believe that the Activiti project will be more open than ever. We see Alfresco and Activiti as separate, but equal. And increasingly integrated and interoperable without sacrificing the independence of either.

Unfortunately, some of my early friends on the Activiti project have disagreed with our direction and have taken the step of forking the Activiti code. This is disappointing because the work that they have done is very good and has generally been in the spirit of open source. However, the one thing that we could not continue to give them was exclusive control of the project. I truly wish that we could have found a way to work with them within a community framework. The article that they reference in their announce of the fork references that forks just happen in open source. It has happened with Activiti before because it is good and it is valuable.

But we are redoubling our determination to grow Activiti faster, better and more openly. We are hiring more people than ever before and recruiting more partners. We look forward to working with developers of Activiti on a more open and collaborative contribution process. We have no plans to change Activiti’s license or how we develop with open source. We will be more explicit in our roadmap and our leadership in BPM. If you disagree with that roadmap, then let’s work together on it. Our intent is to challenge and change the market the same way that we have with Alfresco with open source.

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  • Niclas Lillman

    I wonder what the disagreement was about? Control?

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