ILOG, now an IBM company, is releasing the 7.0 version of their business rule management system (BRMS) family tomorrow (June 17th). Based on the demonstrations I saw, these mark a big step forward for the ILOG product range. I am going to post a full review tomorrow but I thought I would give everyone a flavor today as the nice folks at IBM have said I can preview a couple of things. With this release IBM/ILOG have brought features previously available only on one platform to the whole product set (JRules, Rules for .NET and Rules for COBOL 7.0). So, while the ILOG BRMS 7.0 products have all the standard BRMS components, I am going to focus on a couple of specific features I really like that are available across the product set.
The first neat feature is robust cross-platform support. In 7.0 rule projects are stored in a common repository across the three deployment options – Java, .NET and COBOL – while still supporting platform-specific developer tools. For instance, rules can be edited for JRules using an Eclipse-based editor and then checked in to a repository. Once in the repository they can be edited using the web-based Rule Management Server. Rule edits for Rules for .NET are made in VisualStudio and these can also be synchronized with the common repository. This ability to have a common repository and shared editing tools combined with the platform-specific developer tools is a great boost for those developing across multiple platforms.
The second feature I find particularly appealing is the strong integration with the Microsoft Office tools, especially Word and Excel. I have to admit to having been a skeptic initially based on personal experience: I had developed products that attempted to use Word as an editing environment in the past and it was just not possible to exert enough control over the Word environment. By sticking to the newest version of Office (with much stronger customization support) the ILOG team have made it possible to create documents that can be managed and edited as documents while still providing real control over the rules. It’s very slick – the documents include the rules but also embed the meta data necessary to explain and support editing of these rules with a BRMS-specific toolbar ribbon, metadata display and syntax checking. With the ability to add non-rule text around the rules and check the documents into to content management systems, these documents could dramatically increase the ability of business users to collaborate on business rules and that is something much to be desired.
The third feature is ILOG’s version of decision simulation/audit. Features for testing decisions and rules have long been part of a strong BRMS and the leaders have been busy adding simulation while improving logging/audit for deployed decision services. With 7.0 ILOG has new testing and simulation capabilities called Decision Validation Services that support the development of test suites and simulations. Again there is a nice use of Excel (to manage test/simulation data) with a wizard generating the structure of an Excel spreadsheet to manage the data for a scenario. I was also struck by the number of ways in which this could be extended by customers, to integrate with their own test/scenario data and systems for instance. New logging features round this out, making it possible to create a Decision Warehouse and, while there is not much in the way of analysis tools yet, this too is a great building block for the crucial ongoing decision analysis that improves decisions over time.
More to come tomorrow but this is an exciting release and I couldn’t wait to tell you about it….