On the Radar: Camunda

Camunda services GmbH (www.camunda.com) is a Berlin-headquartered company offering commercial consulting and support services for an open-source BPM technology platform called Camunda BPM.


Camunda services GmbH is a Berlin-headquartered company offering commercial consulting and support services for an open-source BPM technology platform called Camunda BPM.

What does it do?

Camunda BPM is a BPM platform that’s principally focused on the capabilities of its runtime engine, with a range of relatively stripped-down design and administrative tools provided alongside. Camunda focuses most of its development effort on the engine itself, and the result is a single, unified, model-execution engine that can interpret CMMN 1.0 (the OMG’s case management model notation) as well as BPMN 2.0 specifications. Camunda is also finalising support for DMN in the engine, and this is planned for release by December 2015.

Camunda BPM is available as open-source code; it also provides a commercially-licensed, supported version of the technology called Camunda BPM Enterprise Edition. The runtime is lightweight: the core engine requires less than 10MB of disk space. It can run in any Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and comes with extended application server integration for Apache Tomcat, JBoss AS 7, WildFly and Glassfish in the open source edition; as well as IBM WebSphere and Oracle WebLogic in the Enterprise Edition. Clustering for horizontal scalability is straightforward as the engine is stateless: multiple instances can share one state server.

Aside from the core engine, Camunda BPM ships with an Eclipse plugin for BPMN model specification called Camunda Modeler, together with a small set of web applications to help customers build and administer process applications running on the Camunda engine. There’s a Javascript-based Tasklist web application that builds on the engine’s REST API to present human tasks to process participants (however most Camunda BPM customers build their own HTML/Javascript application user interfaces); and there’s Cockpit, which is a relatively simple Javascript-based web application that allows administrators to start, stop, fix and monitor running process instances and explore the details of completed instances. There’s the ability for customers and partners to create Cockpit plugins, and there’s an early community marketplace for these.


The main elements of Camunda BPM; Source: Camunda

The main elements of Camunda BPM; Source: Camunda

Admin, a web-based administration tool for managing users and organising them into groups, can be synchronised with a LDAP directory, and the organisational models you specify there can be used to drive work assignment in quite sophisticated ways.

Lastly, there’s Camunda Cycle. This tool enables you to synchronise models from (BPMN 2.0-compliant) third-party tools like Signavio Process Editor with Camunda BPM, and manage model file versions (by connecting to an existing Subversion installation, file system or Git repository).

A separate Camunda open-source project, bpmn.io, delivers a web-based BPMN model editor. It’s available for standalone use, and Camunda also embeds bpmn.io code in its Cockpit and Tasklist web applications to render BPMN models.

Who is it for?

Camunda focuses its sales efforts for the Enterprise Edition of Camunda BPM on five specific industries: financial services/insurance, government/public sector, telecoms, software (where Camunda technology is embedded into other products) and e-commerce. Within organisations in these industries Camunda typically works with and sells its services to IT teams rather than other business groups (eg operations, sales, marketing) in large organisations. Marquee customers include Lufthansa Technik, T-Mobile Austria and FINRA.

Camunda is currently best-established in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland); although it now has a Californian office and has started seeing some success in North America as a result. Its customers typically use the Camunda BPM technology to address core operational processes requiring significant IT involvement related to back-end integration and front-end user interface development work.

Camunda licenses the Enterprise Edition of Camunda BPM to customers using a process-usage based model; customers pay Camunda based on the number of flow nodes executed (which means that customers running more complicated processes pay more than customers running simple processes; and customers running processes at scale pay more than customers running processes at low scale).

Why is it interesting?

In the maturing BPM technology marketplace it’s natural to find open-source technology options: Camunda is one such option out of relatively few (other popular choices are Bonita, jBPM and Activiti). Although Camunda’s BPM technology core was forked from the Activiti codebase in 2013, Alfresco has taken Activiti in the direction of business application provision; whereas Camunda remains primarily focused on the operational technology capabilities of the BPM runtime and IT audiences wanting the ultimate in flexibility and scalability.

In line with this position, Camunda stands firmly against the ‘low-code’ approaches pursued by vendors developing more and more business-friendly tools for designers, developers and administrators. Camunda’s view is that although this kind of approach can reduce time-to-deliver in simple projects, in the real-world situations it encounters, developers always have to ‘break out’ of the canned tools provided to carry out custom coding. Its approach, therefore, is to provide lightweight tools that customers can use to get started, and also that developers can use to train themselves to build more sophisticated applications using the Camunda BPM platform.

Further supporting its stance as a general-purpose provider of high-performance technology (rather than focusing on adding value in particular usage scenarios) Camunda has a very proactive approach when it comes to supporting third-party tooling and through that supporting customers with a wide range of existing process improvement technology investments.

Ibo Prometheus, Signavio Process Editor and Trisotech Business Process Incubator are certified by Camunda as ‘Cycle Ready’, meaning there are seamless two-way integration methods for model exchange available; other popular BPMN modelling tools including BoC ADONIS, Sparx Enterprise Architect, together with tools from iGrafx and Yaoqiang, have been demonstrated to work well with Camunda BPM for both model import and export.

How established is it?

Camunda was founded in 2008 by Jakob Freund, formerly of German worklow and integration technology vendor inubit (subsequently acquired by Bosch Software Innovations); and Bernd Rücker (formerly working as a freelancer with the jBPM open-source BPM project). When jBPM linchpin Tom Baeyens left to start the open-source Activiti project at Alfresco, he invited Camunda to join the development. When Tom left Alfresco at the end of 2012, Camunda decided to fork the Activiti project and start their own open source BPM project.

Camunda is revenue-funded and has no debt. It’s been profitable each year since its founding and has grown organically around 50% each year on average. At the time of writing Camunda has around 40 employees, and there are 60 customers for the Enterprise Edition of Camunda BPM; it’s experienced 90% revenue growth in 2015 so far.

How open is it?

Unsurprisingly Camunda BPM is a very open platform; openness is at the core of Camunda’s proposition. Quite apart from making the product source code available under an open-source license, Camunda BPM supports and promotes open choice for customers in terms of application server infrastructure; database choice for server state management; application user interfaces; and modelling tools.

Who does it partner with?

Camunda doesn’t publicise a partner programme, but it has established consulting and implementation services partnerships with BP3 (working in the US and UK), Opitz Consulting (working in German-speaking countries) and 6point6 (working in the UK). It also works collaboratively with standards-compliant modelling tool vendors like BOC Group, itp-Commerce, Sparx Systems, Trisotech and Yaoqiang.

Are there areas for improvement?

For Camunda to fulfil its growth ambitions in German-speaking countries and beyond, it’s going to need to expand its partner community. The company is not of a size where it can represent itself effectively to support large customers’ development efforts directly, especially considering its fast growth trajectory. Existing partnerships with the likes of BP3 need to be strengthened and replicated.

From a technology point of view, Camunda would benefit from a richer capability in the area of process monitoring and analytics. Right now customers looking at Camunda BPM will find a platform that’s well-suited to supporting the automation of operational processes at scale – but they won’t find a platform that does very much by itself to help customers manage those processes.

In addition, it’s worth reinforcing that Camunda’s current implementation of the CMMN 1.0 specification is purely focused on the execution of CMMN models; Camunda doesn’t currently offer any tools that help people specify CMMN models (as it currently does for BPMN with its Eclipse-based Modeler and bpmn.io project).

What’s next?

Camunda’s business goals mostly spring from its intention to grow internationally from its German-speaking heartland to take strong market positions in North America, the rest of Europe and (eventually) Asia and Latin America. It’s aiming to use a mix of partners and its own resources to grow its business in these territories; partners like BP3 expose it to new prospects in both North America and the UK, for example.

From a product point of view, although Camunda’s principal technology focus remains on the core runtime engine, it has plans to further improve the design experience in its own tools – supporting not only BPMN, but also DMN and CMMN. It also plans to enhance what it can offer customers in the area of process analytics – although it’s clear that it has no ambitions to build yet another business intelligence (BI) tool for customers.

Should I consider it?

If you’re looking for a compact BPM technology platform that you can get started with quickly and cheaply, and – equally importantly – if you have existing IT platform and skills investments in modelling and analysis, application frameworks, integration and reporting that you want to leverage, then you should definitely consider adding Camunda BPM to your business process automation toolkit. It also goes without saying that if you’re looking to avoid proprietary software and prefer open-source technology, you should look closely at what Camunda has to offer.

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