Cost, time and expertise are obstacles to business rules adoption. Corticon’s recently announced RulesWorld is designed to let individuals prove the value of rules without cost or risk. RulesWorld is an online community supplying learning materials, samples and forums as well as access to the software itself. All of this at no cost. Users can download the modeling tools and use the cloud to test and deploy the result. The modeling tool is exactly what people have been buying and using (thousands of users) and this is now free – not cut down, not restricted. Corticon has always focused on making their product easier to use for non-technical users and on making it easier to get started with rules modeling. RulesWorld is going to build on this ease of use.
RulesWorld allows people to view much of the site as a guest and then makes the software available, along with some of the assets, to those who register. Someone who registers on RulesWorld can easily download and install Corticon’s rule modeling tool, access training and read the full product documentation. There are plans to create a library of self-running demos and forums are available for discussions. Corticon expects to provide a high percentage of the responses on these forums initially to make sure that questions get answered quickly. Over time they hope to have community users support each other, though this obviously takes time. Corticon has moved their whole support site over so that all the materials created over the years are available and so that those on paid support can get immediate access to RulesWorld and the additional discussions there.
One of the most interesting things is the range of samples available on the site. Users of the site will be able to review and download samples to help them get started. At launch on October 14, Corticon will make available approximately 100 samples, some of which are pretty lightweight or simple, and others of which get quite complex. Most of the samples are designed to show how to solve a type of problem – the design patterns that occur in developing rules-based solutions. Some samples are more specific to a business use case. Users can search the sample base, rate samples and so on. Samples can be searched by meta-data such as industry, business function, implementation pattern, and features of the tool used in the sample.
From a product perspective, the Corticon Business Rules Modeling Studio (Corticon Studio), the part of the Corticon Business Rules Management System (Corticon BRMS) that supports the creation of what they call “executable rule models” will be available free. Corticon rule models are used to describe decision-making tasks using business rules, and ultimately to automate those decisions (and rules) as “decision services”. For example, a pricing decision could be modeled using numerous business rules that consider products, volume, customer value, and other criteria to determine a price. The Corticon Studio product available at RulesWorld is the same product formerly sold for $5,000 per seat.
Corticon Studio offers users a tabular, spreadsheet-like layout for writing business rules. This rule sheet style is very approachable and users find it easy to write rules using it. Corticon Studio also highlights errors in the logic (such as conflicts or incomplete rules) and enables the testing or execution of the rules against sample data entered by a user. Various reports are available to document the rules or, more usefully, the rule models can be deployed as decision services either to the RulesWorld sandbox or using a Corticon Server product (which requires a paid license).
Once customers see the value for themselves, Corticon obviously hopes that they will license the other Corticon BRMS products. These include an Enterprise Edition of Corticon Studio, with all of its data connectivity, and a variety of server products for high performance rules execution and enterprise-wide management of business rules (Corticon Server for Java, Corticon Server for .Net, Corticon Enterprise Data Connector Server, Corticon Dialogs Server, and Corticon Collaborator).
The core server products are available in a sandbox online through RulesWorld for prototyping and non production usage. This allows real testing and real transactions to be run without a restriction on the number of rules, so that folks can really try the system. While the RulesWorld sandbox enables users to build and test real applications, use in production systems requires a production license. Today, the sandbox is only available via special request. By early 2010, Corticon expects to offer the sandbox to all registered members at RulesWorld.
The RulesWorld sandbox will also enable users to build rules-based applications with web front ends using Corticon’s web-based Dialogs Designer tool. Dialogs Designer lets users define web forms using a simple and non-technical design environment. Users can define presentation rules in addition to other decision-making rules (e.g. only display pregnancy status if gender is female and age is greater than 12). When deployed in the sandbox, this would create a web front end that dynamically displays the pregnancy status question when (and only when) the relevant age and gender responses are provided.
While several rules vendors allow their design tools to be downloaded and provide online communities for those using or trying the software, RulesWorld offers more. Not only is the full version of the modeling or design tool available for free forever, the deployment sandbox is unique and the range of samples very impressive. Corticon Studio is also aimed squarely at business users too so this will make RulesWorld appealing to much less technical audiences.
I am excited about the potential of RulesWorld because of a simple fact: Business rules are not being used in most of the applications that could use them. In fact only a tiny percentage of possible uses of business rules are currently using the technology – people externalize data without thinking about it but they still put their logic into code. Access to rules technology in a way that allows a real solution to be developed and proven will hopefully make people more comfortable using rules and so increase the number of projects that use them.
Clearly other vendors will follow suit, providing both a free development environment and free-to-try cloud deployment. Production cloud deployment of business rules must come next and I expect to see several vendors offer both cloud deployment and new pay-as-you-go deployment models in 2010.
Check it out at RulesWorld.com