The Digitalist Team
July 12, 2021

Camunda – Free solutions for large enterprise projects?

Camunda Platform is increasingly popular all over the world. It is being talked about not only because of its introduction of innovative workflow solutions, but also in relation to replacing major pre-existing systems – because Camunda is open source, it can solve virtually free of charge what the bigger companies will only do for a considerable fee. In this blog, we will look at the truth of this statement – is it worth replacing a core process in a big company with a community-based solution? Or should you buy the Enterprise version, which is far from cheap, even though it's also from Camunda?

There is no doubt that Camunda's products can help meet the needs of large companies, and that its services are capable of competing with the big fish on the BPM market. The question is whether Camunda's Community Edition can hold its own alongside the Enterprise Edition.

On Camunda's website, you can find a clear table (https://camunda.com/enterprise/) outlining the differences between the two versions. However, the individual products, functions and services are only indicated by their name. To help you decide between the two editions, it is worth examining closely the functionality of individual products and their possible usage areas, and breaking these down into more detailed groupings.


Running processes

BPMN Engine and DMN Engine, which enable programmed management of processes, are both included in the free version. BPMN Engine carries out the lion's share of the work: managing activities, initiating jobs, monitoring timers, triggering events, and many more tasks besides. The DMN Engine has a role in modeling and evaluating business rule tasks (simplified decision tables that assign outputs to different input conditions) that exist in the standard BPMN.

Process modeling

With the free Modeler application, you can model your processes in a graphical interface. The process definitions generated here are read by the process engine. Each definition is an XML file that consists of two layers: a BPMN 2.0-compliant process definition + Camunda-specific additions.

Cockpit (Technical Operations)

The Cockpit is essentially Camunda's dashboard, the technical operator interface. It is available in both the Community and Enterprise versions. You can view your installed, running, paused, ongoing and failed processes, and intervene in various ways in their running to adjust their course or fix an error. Key features: view current status of processes, pause, resume, stop, restart, detect failed jobs and initiate retries, view process audit trail (history).

Camunda Cockpit heatmap (source: camunda.com)

Cawemo (Collaboration Platform)

Cawemo (https://camunda.com/products/camunda-platform/cawemo/) is available in both the Enterprise and free editions. It is a collaborative modeling tool available on a web interface that enables multiple people to model processes together. The simplest way to interpret this process modeling is as something like ‘Google Docs’. It is possible to create, edit, group, version processes, take notes on processes and open conversation streams.

Additional features of the paid version: importing processes from the modeler and engine, visual comparison of versions.

Optimize (Reporting, Alerting, Analytics)

The paid feature Optimize (https://docs.camunda.org/optimize/latest) provides reporting, monitoring, and alerting capabilities. This is a Big Data solution that enables you to extract information about your processes, which you can then use to make business decisions and optimize each process.

The reports can be configured in detail and examined from a number of different perspectives. Among other things, you can get answers to the following types of issues: which user task was executed, how often an incident occurred, what proportion of execution processes were crawled during a process, the minimum/average/maximum execution times in a given time interval for process steps/processes, and the identification of notably slow parts of the process.

For example, based on the results of reports related to alerting, notifications can be sent to specific email addresses. One possible configuration: run a report every ten minutes to determine what percentage of processes running on that day experienced an error. If this number exceeds a threshold, the device sends a notification email.

Support and SLA

Support and related SLAs are only provided by Camunda for the Enterprise Edition. This feature could be significant for critical core features in a large enterprise environment. It is possible to receive an error report by phone or JIRA. You should also note that a new version of the Community edition is released every six months. The engine is the same as the paid version at the time of release. However, with the paid version there may also be mid-term versions that include bug fixes.


Source: Camunda.com

Which version should you choose?

The BPMN Engine, DMN Engine and Camunda Modeler products can be used in their full functionality for the free version. Essentially, these features mean that even if you only have the free version, you can still tackle a more serious and complex project. Because the engine is the same between the two versions, there is no real difference in terms of performance, scalability and availability.

It is true that the Enterprise edition has more supportive functions for Cawemo. However, for us the lack of these functions has not yet caused any issues across a collaborative team of 10-15 people.

Some of the reporting and alerting functions provided by Optimize can also be implemented individually. You can do this by storing the state of the engine in the Camunda database: process definitions, processes, states, process data, etc. You can write different queries and develop logics and alerting functions that process their results. It is not worth trying to replace the full Optimize functionality in-house. At the same time, if you need a well-defined, finite number of reports, you can easily implement them. However, if you require complex statements that are dynamically compiled on the interface by the person requesting the report, you may want to opt for the paid version.

One of the most important functionalities of the Cockpit is that you can detect processes where errors have occured or jobs were unsuccessful. This could be a temporary error outside of your application (e.g. a requested REST service is not available) or a programming error in the source code of your application. Once the error has been cleared/resolved, you can initiate a retry via the Cockpit. This function is included in the free version.

If required for reporting-type enterprise functions, then, as already mentioned in relation to Optimize, you have the ability to solve these custom queries and reports with custom development. In addition, if you want to see these reports in the Camunda Cockpit itself, you have the option to develop your own Cockpit plugins in order to expand its functionality.

Some of the additional action-like Enterprise Cockpit features are ones that I personally don’t believe you would actually use in most applications, and could even cause the application to fail. When deploying and un-deploying BPMN processes or restarting processes, for example. Here, the problem stems from the fact that the process engine is usually controlled through an application, the processes are included there, they have their own characteristics and they are also accounted for there and may have data external to the process engine. No matter how you deploy a new process in Cockpit, if for instance it is not possible to start it in the interface of a web application, or if it is a process that doesn't have UI interaction, the logic associated with it is not developed in your server application. In the event of a reboot, there may be a problem with some tasks not being designed to run multiple times, or simply not being run multiple times in business setting. In general, the connection to the application and the possible effects of an operation need to be considered for each intervention, regardless of whether it is a free or Enterprise feature.

In addition, as we said above, it is a question of how important SLA and support are to the customer in terms of operational security, legal protection and other aspects. Because, of course, you can't overlook the cost of the Enterprise version, which is a multi-million-forint commitment on an annual basis, but still cheaper than its big competitors – for this reason it's definitely worth considering as an alternative to replace a more expensive solution.

On the other hand, given the above, there is no real question about whether you should start using Community even in the implementation of enterprise-level projects, as it can do everything that is needed from a BPMN engine. At a smaller level, for small and medium-sized companies, we cannot imagine a better solution at the moment.

Finally, we ask the question: has the Community Edition become too good? Or are there too few extra features in the Enterprise? Perhaps SLA-based security is worth that much to companies? What do you think? Write in the comments on our social portals or write to us at camunda@nitrowise.com. And if you have professional questions or would like to discuss the details of any potential projects, we are here to help!

No items found.
July 12, 2021

Camunda – Free solutions for large enterprise projects?

Camunda Platform is increasingly popular all over the world. It is being talked about not only because of its introduction of innovative workflow solutions, but also in relation to replacing major pre-existing systems – because Camunda is open source, it can solve virtually free of charge what the bigger companies will only do for a considerable fee. In this blog, we will look at the truth of this statement – is it worth replacing a core process in a big company with a community-based solution? Or should you buy the Enterprise version, which is far from cheap, even though it's also from Camunda?

There is no doubt that Camunda's products can help meet the needs of large companies, and that its services are capable of competing with the big fish on the BPM market. The question is whether Camunda's Community Edition can hold its own alongside the Enterprise Edition.

On Camunda's website, you can find a clear table (https://camunda.com/enterprise/) outlining the differences between the two versions. However, the individual products, functions and services are only indicated by their name. To help you decide between the two editions, it is worth examining closely the functionality of individual products and their possible usage areas, and breaking these down into more detailed groupings.


Running processes

BPMN Engine and DMN Engine, which enable programmed management of processes, are both included in the free version. BPMN Engine carries out the lion's share of the work: managing activities, initiating jobs, monitoring timers, triggering events, and many more tasks besides. The DMN Engine has a role in modeling and evaluating business rule tasks (simplified decision tables that assign outputs to different input conditions) that exist in the standard BPMN.

Process modeling

With the free Modeler application, you can model your processes in a graphical interface. The process definitions generated here are read by the process engine. Each definition is an XML file that consists of two layers: a BPMN 2.0-compliant process definition + Camunda-specific additions.

Cockpit (Technical Operations)

The Cockpit is essentially Camunda's dashboard, the technical operator interface. It is available in both the Community and Enterprise versions. You can view your installed, running, paused, ongoing and failed processes, and intervene in various ways in their running to adjust their course or fix an error. Key features: view current status of processes, pause, resume, stop, restart, detect failed jobs and initiate retries, view process audit trail (history).

Camunda Cockpit heatmap (source: camunda.com)

Cawemo (Collaboration Platform)

Cawemo (https://camunda.com/products/camunda-platform/cawemo/) is available in both the Enterprise and free editions. It is a collaborative modeling tool available on a web interface that enables multiple people to model processes together. The simplest way to interpret this process modeling is as something like ‘Google Docs’. It is possible to create, edit, group, version processes, take notes on processes and open conversation streams.

Additional features of the paid version: importing processes from the modeler and engine, visual comparison of versions.

Optimize (Reporting, Alerting, Analytics)

The paid feature Optimize (https://docs.camunda.org/optimize/latest) provides reporting, monitoring, and alerting capabilities. This is a Big Data solution that enables you to extract information about your processes, which you can then use to make business decisions and optimize each process.

The reports can be configured in detail and examined from a number of different perspectives. Among other things, you can get answers to the following types of issues: which user task was executed, how often an incident occurred, what proportion of execution processes were crawled during a process, the minimum/average/maximum execution times in a given time interval for process steps/processes, and the identification of notably slow parts of the process.

For example, based on the results of reports related to alerting, notifications can be sent to specific email addresses. One possible configuration: run a report every ten minutes to determine what percentage of processes running on that day experienced an error. If this number exceeds a threshold, the device sends a notification email.

Support and SLA

Support and related SLAs are only provided by Camunda for the Enterprise Edition. This feature could be significant for critical core features in a large enterprise environment. It is possible to receive an error report by phone or JIRA. You should also note that a new version of the Community edition is released every six months. The engine is the same as the paid version at the time of release. However, with the paid version there may also be mid-term versions that include bug fixes.


Source: Camunda.com

Which version should you choose?

The BPMN Engine, DMN Engine and Camunda Modeler products can be used in their full functionality for the free version. Essentially, these features mean that even if you only have the free version, you can still tackle a more serious and complex project. Because the engine is the same between the two versions, there is no real difference in terms of performance, scalability and availability.

It is true that the Enterprise edition has more supportive functions for Cawemo. However, for us the lack of these functions has not yet caused any issues across a collaborative team of 10-15 people.

Some of the reporting and alerting functions provided by Optimize can also be implemented individually. You can do this by storing the state of the engine in the Camunda database: process definitions, processes, states, process data, etc. You can write different queries and develop logics and alerting functions that process their results. It is not worth trying to replace the full Optimize functionality in-house. At the same time, if you need a well-defined, finite number of reports, you can easily implement them. However, if you require complex statements that are dynamically compiled on the interface by the person requesting the report, you may want to opt for the paid version.

One of the most important functionalities of the Cockpit is that you can detect processes where errors have occured or jobs were unsuccessful. This could be a temporary error outside of your application (e.g. a requested REST service is not available) or a programming error in the source code of your application. Once the error has been cleared/resolved, you can initiate a retry via the Cockpit. This function is included in the free version.

If required for reporting-type enterprise functions, then, as already mentioned in relation to Optimize, you have the ability to solve these custom queries and reports with custom development. In addition, if you want to see these reports in the Camunda Cockpit itself, you have the option to develop your own Cockpit plugins in order to expand its functionality.

Some of the additional action-like Enterprise Cockpit features are ones that I personally don’t believe you would actually use in most applications, and could even cause the application to fail. When deploying and un-deploying BPMN processes or restarting processes, for example. Here, the problem stems from the fact that the process engine is usually controlled through an application, the processes are included there, they have their own characteristics and they are also accounted for there and may have data external to the process engine. No matter how you deploy a new process in Cockpit, if for instance it is not possible to start it in the interface of a web application, or if it is a process that doesn't have UI interaction, the logic associated with it is not developed in your server application. In the event of a reboot, there may be a problem with some tasks not being designed to run multiple times, or simply not being run multiple times in business setting. In general, the connection to the application and the possible effects of an operation need to be considered for each intervention, regardless of whether it is a free or Enterprise feature.

In addition, as we said above, it is a question of how important SLA and support are to the customer in terms of operational security, legal protection and other aspects. Because, of course, you can't overlook the cost of the Enterprise version, which is a multi-million-forint commitment on an annual basis, but still cheaper than its big competitors – for this reason it's definitely worth considering as an alternative to replace a more expensive solution.

On the other hand, given the above, there is no real question about whether you should start using Community even in the implementation of enterprise-level projects, as it can do everything that is needed from a BPMN engine. At a smaller level, for small and medium-sized companies, we cannot imagine a better solution at the moment.

Finally, we ask the question: has the Community Edition become too good? Or are there too few extra features in the Enterprise? Perhaps SLA-based security is worth that much to companies? What do you think? Write in the comments on our social portals or write to us at camunda@nitrowise.com. And if you have professional questions or would like to discuss the details of any potential projects, we are here to help!

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