Open source rule management
JBoss Rules and Jess deliver solid rule tools and respectable performance at a nice priceFollow @infoworld
As is Jess, JBoss Rules is being worked on around the world, and so is the documentation. JBoss Rules’ worldwide group is mostly programmers who are helping to write the latest version. Jess’s worldwide group includes programmers, newbies, students, professors, research scientists … almost anyone who might need help. Jess doesn’t encourage highly technical discussion on its list, whereas you find quite a bit of that on the JBoss Rules wiki.
About the only things that JBoss Rules doesn’t have that Jess has are fuzzy logic, backward chaining, internal objects, shadow objects, and Dr. Ernest Friedman-Hill -- but they have a good Friedman-Hill look-alike in Mark Proctor. JBoss Rules is also a close match to Jess in performance. Price/performance is pretty darn good too, because JBoss Rules is free.
What does JBoss Rules have that Jess doesn’t? It has something like the decision tables in Blaze and JRules. But instead of first creating a spreadsheet-looking GUI and then creating rules in the background, you create a rules template that generates the spreadsheet-looking GUI, and then you fill in the values for the cells. It’s a bit clumsy, but it does allow the business user to work in tandem with the programmer.
JBoss Rules 3.2 is a solid, true-blue, Rete-based inference engine with a fairly decent, Eclipse 3.2 developer GUI and debugger. The debugger isn’t working exactly right at the moment, but Mark Proctor is working really hard at changing that very soon. Proctor and company are also developing a Rule Server, the details of which can be found here.
Open source rules
JBoss Rules and Jess are similar in both design and functionality. Neither would be a good choice for a fast-track enterprise project, or for a large application requiring input from many business users or analysts. But both are suitable for business applications that use fewer than, say, 1,000 rules and 100 objects, which means most applications.
How to choose between them? If you are especially price-sensitive, then JBoss Rules is the answer; it’s free. If you seek a formal network of service partners, or if you like the “true” open source approach that focuses on development, versus user support, again JBoss would be the better choice.
On the other hand, if you want more stability, in terms of a longer track record for the product and a longer-established user community, you can’t go wrong with Jess. Likewise, if your project requires fuzzy logic or simple backward chaining, Jess offers these capabilities, JBoss doesn’t.