The folks at ILOG and Relativitiy recently announced a new integration between their products – Legacy IT Modernization enabled by ILOG and Relativity Technologies Business Rules Solutions. I got a chance to chat with them today about what was new and different in this latest attempt to bring legacy modernization and business rules together. Relativity’s product line allows a variety of languages (COBOL, Java, PL/1) to be analyzed and the resulting model of the application is stored in a repository. From this they make the information available to developers maintaining or redeveloping code, managers making portfolio decisions etc. Business Rules Manager is one of the products that interacts with the repository and is designed to mine candidate business rules from the model in the repository with an end goal to evolve them to the point of being useful in authoring new rules. In particular their product, they say, helps move the very technical “rules” that come out of code analysis to something more useful. They can differentiate between real business logic and what you might call housekeeping code. The repository allows you to build a business vocabulary that can be assigned to the structures found in the code and thus to the rules.
The initial integration with ILOG’s product takes this vocabulary across as well as copybooks etc. This would allow new rules to be authored using the same object model and vocabulary as that established in the model in Relativity. At present the candidate rules remain in the Relativity environment and are not moved into the ILOG repository but these candidate rules and some elements of ruleflow are next on the integration roadmap (though no date has been announced yet). In addition Relativity is working on decision tables and decision trees and the companies expect this to help with integration as many trees and tables should come across more or less wholesale. The current integration is with JRule and takes advantage of some of the features in Rules for COBOL (which I blogged about before).
When companies reengineer legacy applications into COBOL one of the most important aspects is impact analysis. Often some of the legacy code is left untouched, some is restructured and some is completely replaced. Ensuring that impact analysis is done right across all of these is often a challenge. The folks at Relativity re register the COBOL generated from ILOG’s product. This code and is structure, comments etc is then in the repository and this code contains information that links to rules artifacts. This allows impact analysis to be done in the Relativity product that will include the impact on code generated from the rules and, indirectly therefore, to the rules themselves.
This is clearly a first version of the integration as there are still a number of areas where no work has been done. Besides the obvious lack of integration for candidate rules, there is also no work so far on how a user of the rules environment would be able to access artifacts managed in Relativity to help them write the rules correctly. Similarly no work so far on rule templates. This is important when the legacy code is being replaced with rules because it changes so often. In those circumstances the current values of the rules may be less interesting than the structure of the rules in the code. Taking the structure of the old rules and creating rule templates from them may be more useful than just moving the rules themselves.