Rules and the name ILOG have seemed to be associated forever. Last year (2008), saw IBM acquire ILOG and incorporate the products as part of the WebSphere product division. This acquisition has opened new opportunities and markets for IBM, whilst at the same time strengthening their SOA and BPM story.
The key to BRMS is that they separate rules from the process, database and application logic. This separation has two key benefits:
- It allows business users to maintain the rules without IT involvement except where knock-on’s to other pieces of logic are involved; and
- It provides operator agility as business users can make change quickly and easily to respond to market demands.
IBM currently provide 2 separate products for the Java and .NET environments; however it is interesting to note that in the latest releases of these 2 products, there is a coming together of features which previously were only available in one of the two products.
Figure 1: IBM Websphere ILOG JRules (Source: IBM)
WebSphere ILOG JRules is the Java-based product and the current version is 7.0. The product consists of a number of components:
- WebSphere ILOGRule Team Server: this provides business users with the ability to define and edit business rules using ay web browser. Rules can be authored and edited using a natural language, customizable business vocabulary, or they can be expressed in graphical formats, such as decision tables and decision trees.
- WebSphere ILOG Rule Solutions for Office: this allows business users to have guided rule authoring and maintenance through Microsoft Office Word and Excel. It is integrated with Rule Team Server. Rulesets can be exported from the business rule management system (BRMS) repository as ruledocs.
- WebSphere ILOG Rule Studio: this provides developers an Eclipse-based environment (v 3.3) for the development and testing of rules. It comes with some additional goodies in the form of “out-of-the-box” templates and an XML import feature.
- Rule Repository: It stores rules and their properties, including name, creation date, last modification date and associated documentation. The Repository can also be extended to store an organisation's specific rule properties. A repository-locking mechanism supports simultaneous access to rules.
- Decision Validation Services: this is a new feature that provides the ability to test, simulate and audit rules to ensure they meet business objectives. Business users can run rules against reference data used for testing and simulation, receiving results at multiple levels of detail and comparing results against key performance indicators (KPIs). Developers can run tests in the JRules Rule Studio development environment, integrating with standard testing frameworks and tools such as JUnit and Apache Ant. Developers also have access to customization project editors and wizards in Rule Studio, enabling fast, easy set-up of test scenarios which are then made available to business users in Rule Team Server.
- Rule Execution Server: this is the runtime engine, but it provides administrators through the administration web console with the ability to deploy and monitor rule applications through a J2SE - and J2EE-compliant execution environment. It can be run on any of the leading web and application servers from IBM, BEA, JBoss, Oracle, and Apache.
ILOG Rules for .NET is the .NET product and it is also at version 7.0. Developers can work within the Microsoft Visual Studio-based ILOG Rule Studio module, which now supports VS 2008. Business users can use either Microsoft Office Word and Excel using ILOG Rule Solutions for Office, or they can now use the ILOG Rule Team Server Web-based environment as a centralised, governed rule management environment. Business rules can run directly on .NET-based operating environments, and now they can be deployed as cross-platform Transparent Decision Services. With one click, rulesets can now be deployed as web services, which can then be monitored from within the ILOG Rule Execution Server console.
For those of you looking for rule support for mainframe applications, IBM ILOG provides two different approaches. Firstly IBM offer WebSphere ILOG Rules for COBOL. This is an add-on module to the WebSphere ILOG JRules. It allows organisations which run applications on mainframe systems to externalise and manage business rules while maintaining their legacy COBOL applications. It lets you author rules which can be generated as COBOL code, whilst at the same time leveraging Websphere ILOG JRules' capabilities for auditing, versioning and creating metadata for all the business rules used in mainframe systems. The second approach is that WebSphere ILOG JRules itself can run on z/OS environment.
IBM Websphere ILOG was one of 5 top BRMS in the recent Bloor Market review. This survey reviewed some 24 products in the BRMS space using 160 criteria and the results of interviews with each vendor’s product management team. Not only do the Wepbsphere ILOG products have all the necessary features for a BRMS, but IBM has been very innovative in the marketplace. Bloor see the current IBM Websphere ILOG strategy as a good long-term bet.