Exclusive: JRules 5.0 touches all the bases
Latest edition of the enterprise BRMS for Java improves ease, flexibility, and speedFollow @infoworld
Abstracting business logic from underlying code into a separate language that business users can understand, a BRMS (Business Rule Management System) puts the control of business applications into the hands of the business owners. An enterprise BRMS, such as ILOG's JRules or Fair Isaac's Blaze Advisor, removes the “impedance mismatch” between the IT department and business analysts, shortcutting the traditionally lengthy software change process and allowing applications to be updated quickly and easily as business requirements dictate.
JRules has always combined good run-time performance and rich rule-management features. In addition to a repository for managing rule sets, JRules provides a shared language — the BAL (Business Action Language) — for collaborating on rules. Its GUI allows business analysts to create rules by combining canned phrases and logical operators, and it also gives programmers access to the underlying Java and good debugging capabilities. Version 5.0 brings a substantial performance boost, a more powerful and flexible BAL, performance-monitoring capabilities, and some other nice improvements to an already mature product. Version 5.1, which should be available by the time you read this, will allow users to build and deploy identical rules to JRules' execution server and ILOG's rule engine for Microsoft .Net.
Someday JSR 94 may become the universal rules language we'd all like to see. In the meantime, JRules' BAL at least offers some welcome flexibility. Prior versions of BAL allowed you to express the rules of your application in the lingua franca of your industry. Now, with Version 5.0, BAL goes even further, allowing you to define your own rule language, with the sense of your own verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.
For example, suppose your insurance company needed to define actions for a given set of circumstances. Using the BAL in JRules 5.0, you could define a complete language composed of rules such as this:
List the applicant first name
and the applicant last name
and the applicant age
For applicants that are high-risk drivers
and have a pickup with daytime running lights
or driver and passenger airbags
That's about as clear as you can get in a single rule. By allowing you to express rules that are readily understood and easily manipulated by business analysts, JRules 5.0 smoothes the way for faster changes and fewer errors.
However, creating such a custom language isn't easy. It will take a lot of time and effort from your programmers and analysts. But the end results for a large company that wants to make optimal use of both programming and business expertise are well worth the effort.
For programmers, one huge development that's been brewing for about a year is ILOG's Business Rule Studio, an Eclipse plug-in now included with JRules 5.0. Although you can't do J2EE deployment from Studio — as you can from the regular JRules tools — Studio allows you to edit files, compile with Ant, maintain source-code control with CVS, and perform all those other tasks you normally do from the Eclipse IDE. And you can set breakpoints and debug rules just like you can in Java or C++.