ILOG JRules 6.5 brings rules to SOA
ILOG BRMS shines with smooth deployment of decision services, but some usability quirks remainFollow @infoworld
The flip side of putting rule management into the hands of business owners is increased risk of mistakes. Testing becomes more important. RSM (Rule Scenario Manager), the optional testing module for JRules, sees a few minor enhancements to usability. RSM has great potential, although I hope to see further improvements to usability in future versions. Having a mechanism to test business rules to ensure operational compliance (BASEL II, SOX, etc.) is essential, and RSM makes this much easier than writing JUnit tests. However, the tool is still suitable only for technical staff. In order to be truly useful, RSM should allow business analysts -- the folks who truly own the business rules -- to test rules and run simulations and scenarios on their own. RSM is also inflexible in its methodology. For example, rule-testing artifacts should be stored and versioned along with the rules themselves, but RSM handles them separately.
RTS (Rule Team Server), the authoring environment, contains improvements to the way business analysts locate business rules during the maintenance cycle of business rules. This "Semantic Query" feature allows users to write simple rules that locate other rules, and to find rules without knowing the structure of the repository. Users may search for rules that have a particular condition ("Find all business rules such that each business rule uses the value of loan amount") or action ("Find all business rules such that each business rule may lead to a state where a loan is rejected). Plus, the queries may be authored using a GUI environment very similar to that used to author business rules.
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Bumps in the road
A few areas still need smoothing. I've mentioned the documentation before, and this hasn't improved in 6.5.2. Although ILOG provides an applet for searching the documentation, this search mechanism just doesn't do as good a job as the old CHM (Microsoft Compiled HTML Help)manuals did. With such a large documentation set it's essential to allow users to easily find what they need, when they need it. A documentation road map would be a nice start. Tuning the search engine to identify higher-level, rule-oriented concepts (through metatags or good old-fashioned indexing) would also be helpful. The existing search engine is just too rudimentary, and it returns many pages of the same keyword. ILOG is aware of the problem and does have several people working to on it, so we can look forward to some improvement in future versions.