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First Look: IBM ODM on Cloud


I have blogged about IBM ODM (Operational Decision Management – their Business Rules Management System) many times before (most recently about ODM Advanced here). IBM has a new cloud offering – IBM ODM on Cloud – that was announced in early October.

IBM ODM has offered various deployment options for a while – on premise, Bluemix, Pure Application System, SoftLayer etc (Private, IaaS and PaaS clouds). What’s new is the IBM ODM on Cloud as a pure SaaS offering. Key drivers for the new initiative were to deliver fast time to value for smaller projects at an affordable price and with a focus on decisions not operations. The new offerings is designed to be complete –a “born on cloud” environment – rather than just a deployment option.

IBM ODM on Cloud is:

  • An IBM ODM product
  • That runs on the IBM cloud (SoftLayer)
  • Rule designers continue to use Eclipse to define object models, decision services etc
  • A rules-based decision service is then pushed to the cloud
  • Business experts and rule administrators can then update rules, test them, simulate them, monitor and deploy rules directly in the cloud using cloud-based user interfaces etc.
  • The deployed service can be invoked like any cloud based service

IBM ODM on cloud offers a collaborative cloud service to capture, automate and manage rules-based business decisions. It uses the same artifacts as ODM on premise allowing them to be shared. It is quick to get up and running (less than 48 hours) and pricing is completely based on a monthly subscription with no initial capital expense. IBM manages the servers, provides backup and high availability, disaster recovery, updates, maintenance etc leaving users to only worry about the development of the decision service and its integration to their application(s). Instances can be provisioned worldwide in any SoftLayer data centers. The cloud offering also offers a try for free version, allowing a customer to trial the cloud deployment at no cost for two weeks.

The product offers out of the box development, test and production environments (each runs on their own server) with web-based tools for everything except the initial rules designer work. The three environments are accessible from a user portal and the development environment offers both Decision Center and a Decision Server while the test and production environments support Decision Server.

Once the rule designer is downloaded it is easy to point it to the ODM on Cloud install (identifying the test, development and production environments automatically). The designer is focused on creating and managing a decision service using ODM best practices and the standard rules product. The rule designer can reuse components developed for on premise installs also.

When a user logs in (after an initial project has been pushed to the cloud) they see a portal with the development, test and production environments to which they have access. Pre-defined roles are established that restrict things like editing or deployment and each user is assigned to appropriate roles. In development they have access to download the rules designer, Decision Center (Business and Enterprise) and execution server console. Test and production servers expose other capabilities.

Once the service is set up the usual Decision Center capabilities are available – Business or Enterprise Console options are both available, allowing a more or less technical view of the rules for editing. Simulations can be defined and run, tests defined etc. – all the functionality provided in Decision Center. Moving the rules to production and testing is all based on the standard governance framework, allowing all the usual capabilities for rule promotion and management to be used. Users with the right roles can make a rule change, test it, simulate the impact and deploy the change all from the web environment.

ODM on Cloud is designed to leverage exiting customers’ investments in ODM while also making it easy for new customers to get started. It can be provisioned quickly and all the platform management activities are handled by IBM (including performance, security, back up etc.) as part of the subscription. The automated management of development, test and production environments and the focus on the standard best practice approach to developing and managing decision services make it easy to get started quickly. Three tiers are provided that handle different levels of complexity and scale.

While it would be nice if the whole process could be managed without the rule designer download, the product is otherwise very cloud-centric offering customers a genuine SaaS option for deploying and managing rules-based decision services.

More information on ODM on Cloud is available here.


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