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.
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.
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
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.