One of the interesting panels was the one that Steve Hendrick of IDC hosted where representatives of many of the big players in business rules took questions. I did not attempt to take detailed notes but here are some of the things that struck me:
- All the vendors are very focused on providing more tools to allow developers and business users to check the consistency, completeness and validity of the rules they are creating and editing. This is one of Steve’s hot topics, quite rightly, and it was good to see everyone have it on their road map
- There was broad agreement that the value of a business rules management system came from allowing a shared definition of the business between technical and non-technical users. A range of metaphors, strong business context and constructs that support understanding were all highlighted as critical areas both of current products and future plans.
- The value of decision services to manage complexity and bring rules-driven automation into business processes and general service-oriented architectures was widely discussed. Almost all the vendors are discussing Decision Services these days and it was good to see such broad agreement on a term.
- All the vendors seem to agree that the industry needs to do more to support standards and all of them seem keen to support emerging standards like the Production Rule Representation from OMG and the Rule Interchange Format from W3C.
- When asked about performance all of the vendors pointed out that the problems they saw in their clients were data bound, not bound by the rules processing. All of the engines are now fast enough for almost all uses and many offer compile to code where that is needed. Someone made a great point that the extra meta data about the decision’s structure that a rules engine has often allows it to complete a decision problem faster than traditional code. Performance should not be an objection any more.
There is a lot of energy and plenty of development going on in the rules space and that was very reassuring.