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Business Rules Forum: In the Groove

The second day of the BRF is typically the most active.  People are arriving throughout day 1 and start heading out on day 3.  I’m attending RuleML, which follows on the heels of the BRF, so I’ll be here for all if it.

The morning keynote was delivered by Stephen Hendrick (IDC).  His presentation was titled, “BRMS at a Cross Roads: the Next Five Years.”  It was interesting hearing his vision of how BRMS vendors will need to position their offerings in order to be relevant for the future needs of businesses.

I did find myself wondering whether his vision was somewhat off in terms of timing.  The move to offer unified (or at least integrated) solutions based on traditional BRMS, Complex Event Processing, Data Transformation and Analytics seemed well beyond where I find many clients are in terms of leveraging the existing BRMS capabilities.

Between discussions with attendees and work on projects for which Blue Slate’s  customers hire us, the current state of affairs seems to be more about understanding how to begin using a BRMS.  I find many clients are just getting effective governance, rules harvesting and infrastructure support for BRMS integration started.  Discussions surrounding more complex functionality are premature for these organizations.

As usual, there were many competing sessions throughout the day that I wanted to attend.  I had to choose between these and spending some in-depth time with a few of the vendors.  One product that I really wanted to get a look at was JBoss Rules (Red Hat).

Similar to most Red Hat offerings there are free and fee-based versions of the product.  Also, as is typical between the two versions, the fee-based version is aimed at enterprises that do not want to deal with experimental or beta aspects of the product, instead preferring a more formal process of periodic production-worthy upgrades.  The fee-based offering also gets you support, beyond the user groups available to users of the free version.

The naming of the two versions is not clear to me.  I believe that the fee-based version is called JBoss Rules while the free download is called JBoss Drools, owning to the fact that Red Hat used drools as the basis for its rule engine offering.  The Drools suite includes BPM, BRM and Event Processing components.  My principle focus was the BRMS to start.

The premier open source rules offering (my opinion) has come a long way since I last tried it over a year ago.  The feature set includes a version control repository for the rules, somewhat user-friendly rule editing forms and a test harness.  Work is underway to support templating for rules, which is vital for creating rules that can be maintained easily by business users.  I will be downloading and working with this rule engine again shortly!

I also had a chance to see some of the new innovations that are part of PegaRULES.  The current production version is 5.5 and sports several interesting new and improved features.  Three that were very interesting were 1) internal tools for leveraging Scrum; 2) an expanded testing environment; and 3) an extended Direct Capture of Objectives (DCO) facility that provides support for the requirements phase of Pega’s traditional development process.

During the afternoon I delivered my presentation and was glad to see that it had attracted the attention of a good number of attendees.  I try to stick to what I feel are more pragmatic and actionable topics.  People seemed to understand my objective and the relationship with my case studies.  The Q&A portion included good conversation as we discussed the boundaries of where data may be accessed directly and how broad the definition of a rules environment can be.

Following the presentation an individual also came up to me and singled out the fact that they really liked my slides.  If you read my post back in August, I’ve changed my style for slides drastically and this was my first time in public with the new approach.  I’ve never had anyone comment either way on my slides, probably since they looked like all the other slides they were seeing, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Tomorrow should be another interesting day focused solely on sessions, since the vendors have packed up and gone home.

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