Exclusive: Corticon plays by different rules
Spreadsheet-like alternative to traditional rule builders aces developmentFollow @infoworld
Naughty and nice
Perhaps the most disconcerting quirk is that the drag-and-drop operation fails to highlight the object to which another object is being dropped. I pretty much had to guess, based on the position of the cursor arrow, that I was in the right area. Not a showstopper by any stretch, but enough to throw some users for a loop.
Similarly, after entering the preliminary rules in a ruleset, using the point-and-click routine of the Check for Amibiguities feature will become straightforward only after some experience with Corticon. The problem columns are highlighted in red but no problem statements are seen until the mouse rolls over the offending cell in the spreadsheet. There is a saving grace, however: the GUI does allow you to “Expand the Rules” to show not only the offending conflict but also what the engine thinks should be the answer. Nice.
When a rule subsumption occurs, the Helper Screen suggests that one of the generated “sub-rules” be overridden by the main rule, a cue that is understandable to techies but not very informative to a business analyst. I also have a philosophical disagreement with Corticon’s tolerance of subsumption, which I believe should always be flagged as an error: Although subsumption might be OK with smaller rulesets, it could lead to potential problems in very large spreadsheets containing thousands of rules. On the other hand, Corticon allows you to correct the problem easily by changing the offending portion of the spreadsheet.
Another fantastic feature in Corticon is Check for Completeness, which tells you if you have left anything out of a rule set that “might” become a problem later. Finally, the Testing feature is something not totally unique to Corticon, but unusual and nice to have included with a BRMS, allowing you to run your rules through some preliminary tests during the development process.
Corticon started a minor revolution in the BRMS industry when it unveiled a solution that “optimized” the rules before runtime rather than at runtime. Although competitors may argue that the Corticon approach is not as scalable as their Rete-based systems, the company has tackled some rather large projects in the past and is continually being challenged by more and bigger things. Reporting is rather sparse and debugging (the up-front part) is quite limited, but Corticon maintains that its solution requires neither the level of reporting nor the debugging tools needed in its Rete counterparts.
Despite a few rough edges, Corticon offers the best spreadsheet-oriented rule development tool I’ve seen. For most kinds of business applications, this solution deserves a close look from companies who want to bring rule development and maintenance into the hands of business experts.
This review has been changed to qualify statements in the original regarding Corticon 4’s performance and scalability and its suitability for complex applications. The scoring remains unchanged.