ILOG Rules for .NET 2.0. Brings BRMS to Microsoft Shops
- By John K. Waters
The emergence and rapid proliferation of business rules management systems
(BRMS) over the past couple of years is strong evidence that IT/business alignment
is a front-burner issue. These software tools, designed to automate business-rules
decision making in enterprise IT applications, are fast becoming a must-have.
In a recent report from industry analyst firm IDC, "Momentum Continues
for Leading Vendors in Business Rules Management Systems Market," Group
VP Stephen D. Hendricks predicts that BRMSs will become "the key component
of the application infrastructure stack," beginning next year. Hendricks
also notes that the BRMS market has experienced a high rate of growth in the
last several years compared with "the lean growth" of most application
development and deployment tools markets.
BRMS is pretty well established in the Java world, observes Henry Bowers, director
of product marketing for Business Rules at ILOG, but it's just beginning to
make inroads into Microsoft .NET shops.
“The Java technical community gets what business rules are all about,
and they understand the benefits of outboarding the business rules themselves
from the rest of the application source code,” Bowers says. “The
same thing is starting to happen on the Microsoft side, now that Microsoft has
its own rules engine [the BizTalk Server], and they’re talking about business
rules to their customers.”
ILOG, which IDC recently named the BRMS market leader for the second year in
a row, sells ILOG JRules for Java environments, as well as ILOG Rules for C++
developers. The company just announced a new version of its Microsoft-targeted
BRMS offering: ILOG Rules for .NET 2.0.
The 1.0 version, released last year, was the first product to build business
rules authoring, deployment and persistence into Visual Studio .NET. A typical
BRMS consists of separate business-rules authoring and business-rules execution
applications. In Rules for .NET 1.0, ILOG built its rule repository on top of
Windows Sharepoint Services, created a rule engine written purely in C#, then
packaged them as a .NET assembly that could be used as a component in any .NET
In the 1.0 version, ILOG used Microsoft Word as an additional interface for
rule authoring, providing a document metaphor. Users could open a Word doc and
create new rules, edit existing ones and print them. They could also mix in
non-executable rule content to provide context and background for why a policy
is the way it is or why they made a change.
“You can’t expect a typical business person to work with Visual
Studio .NET,” Bowers says. “They’re not going to be pulling
up the IDE on their laptop and cranking away on their rules. But they do have
Microsoft office, which, in a sense, is the business user’s IDE.”
In Rules for .NET 2.O, ILOG leverages Microsoft Excel as a tool for developing
and managing business rules management applications.
Where MS Word allowed business users to create business rules in an English-like
if-then-else structure, Excel becomes the decision table, which is a compact
way of representing a collection of related rules. “A decision table looks
an awful lot like a spreadsheet,” he says, “so it’s a very
natural way for business people to represent their policies.”
The new version is also integrated with Microsoft BizTalk Server, which allows
users to automate and manage business processes across multiple applications.
And it includes new support for Ruleflows, to give developers a more precise
way to orchestrate business rule tasks graphically.
“A lot of the magic of BRMS is figuring out how to keep all of the changes
coming from both of these different environments—the technical people
and the business people—in sync, and making sure that when it comes time
to deploy a set of polices modeled as rules, that you know exactly what you
ILOG plans to release Rules for .NET 2.0 later this fall. More information
is available at ILOG.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached
at [email protected].