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K2 [blackpearl] – First Impressions

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a test/trial edition of the new K2.NET Black Pearl product.   After a bit of fiddling & some minor hassles, I’ve been able to install K2.NET BlackPearl Beta Tech Refresh 2 (phew!).

Unfortunately, this is a tightly controlled Non Disclosure Agreement program (NDA) – but I can cover a few items & issues that I’ve seen & noticed thus far (only a few hours playtime thus far).

Also – the public site detailing “the upcoming release” will have more information than I can cover in my humble blog.    See it here.

Integration with Visual Studio.NET 2005 – Process Designer

One of my gripes with K2.NET 2003 was that there was an entirely separate development environment – entitled “K2.NET Studio“.   ($2 coin to whoever came up with THAT naming brain-storm !)

The new version is even more tightly integrated with .NET – to the extent that the underlying workflows created are compiled into DLLs using Windows Workflow Foundation (WF).

And further more, it’s entirely integrated INTO Visual Studio [btw - it's no longer called Visual Studio.NET - as someone pointed out to me the other day].

Haven’t yet churned out any workflows – but just been poking about in VS.NET (BP-style).  Here’s a quick screen-shot.

Lots of great new WPF looking wizards, and config screens, and the use of additional dockable toolbars is helpful – especially many of the tools that used to live on the “File” bar – a pain to get at in multiple succession.

There’s a really nifty “documenter” tool also – within Visual Studio.   Must use something like the /// comment blocks to dynamically generate the text – and can then export to RTF.   Great for developers.

Additional Designers

You can now (also) create workflows within Microsoft Visio 2007 (1 2) and a web-AJAX designer also – looking very much like the Nintex Workflow Designer.   Will get to them later.

For “output” there are the Report Designers (1 2) which generate on-the-fly SQL Server Reporting Services reports) – and the Policy Designer, allowing business users to define “rules” outside of the workflow itself, to build a library of “SmartObjects”.

Lastly, there are the “Forms Designers” – which allow a user to interact with the workflow (otherwise, it’s just a big hunk of spinning digits, with nothing going in or out).

Within K2.NET 2003, this was achieved by coding ASP.NET forms – (optionally) using K2.NET SmartForms objects – which seem to have been deprecated. 

You could also use InfoPath (Rich Client) and Sharepoint 2003 and/or 2007 – and WinForms, MCMS, etc.   

Being (fully) MOSS-2007 enabled, this swag of forms has been extended to InfoPath Forms Server within MOSS.   And the rich-client tools for desktop Office 2007 can now host K2.NET forms.

Of course, you can still use WinForms, and good ol’ ASP.NET forms, for the client event forms as required.

Servers

Not just ONE – there’s now FIVE !   There’s the Host server and Workflow server – as well as the SmartObject server and the SmartFunction server – and don’t forget the Category server (!)     I’ll get into each and every one of these in due course.

Managing these servers & other info such as security, artifact library, environment library, etc is now via the Management Console implemented within the “Workspace” as an AJAX environment, rather than an MMC-snap-in (was often a little clunky in parts).

New, new and more New

Lots of stuff to cover, and I’m sure I’ve only just scraped the surface – there’s an entire mountain of detail to climb – I will never-rest until I know it all !   

Sorry for the bad puns – that’s especially for those folk who know that “K2″ happens to be the second highest mountain in world – behind Everest.

Hopefully I can share a few of my discoveries and war stories over the coming weeks – without violating any NDA stipulations.

Full Story – K2 [blackpearl]

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10 Responses

  1. Thanks for the informative post. I think the biggest question with Black Perl is how it compares to developing workflows vs. just using WF and VS. Obviously there are huge advantages to using a tool like K2, especially now that it is integrated with VS, but if the cost is significant, clients might be inclinded to just use WF. I’m interested in hearing your opinions on the advantages of using a product like K2 vs using WF.

  2. [...] Another grab-post from grumpywookie.com [...]

  3. Thank you for the post, it is very nice for me to start working on this new version of k2.
    Btw can you include your installation step and the error you facing while int he installation.
    Because i install failed into my VPC, it prompt me SQL authentication error while configure BlackPearl while i can connect to my SQL thru any other system out there.
    I have enabled Mixed mode and TCP/IP.

  4. [...] a comment about problems when installing K2.NET Black [...]

  5. I’ve gotten a really good look at K2’s Black Perl. I researched a large number of workflow products and K2 came back as one of the best. It looks to me like Black Perl will set the bar as far as 3rd party workflows products go, especially for MOSS. Power users have the ability to create visio type looking workflows in MOSS which is a cool feature. Pain points such as deployment of WWF type workflows are addressed in that the workflows seemed fairly easy to deploy. From a first glance this product looks very processing. I’m looking forward to using it and seeing if it lives up to my expectations.

  6. [...] Also – the vNext Black Pearl product has been released as a limited edition Beta 1 product – with some initial impressions here. [...]

  7. Does anyone know anyone with K2 Blackperl, SharePoint, & InfoPath experience? Looking for an independent contractor for a 6-mo contract. It’s in the Seattle/Eastside area. Please email at summergreen2000@yahoo.com if interested or know anyone.

  8. **************
    Does anyone know anyone with K2 Blackperl, SharePoint, & InfoPath experience? Looking for an independent contractor for a 6-mo contract. It’s in the Seattle/Eastside area. Please email at summergreen2000@yahoo.com if interested or know anyone.

  9. Thanks a lot for this Post,
    What i need to know more is if there are any possibility to create the K2 Forms (Tasks Forms) without being obliged to write any line of Code, I would like to know if it is possible to display the tasks in the Workspace without using any independent tool like (MS OFFICE , INFOPATH, WSS3.0, or MOSS 2007, or any other tool. I want to use K2 BP alone and generate dynamically the forms and tasks Interface without writing any line of CODE.

  10. [...] Also – the vNext Black Pearl product has been released as a limited edition Beta 1 product – with some initial impressions here. [...]

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