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New Red Hat Rules Tool Ties Java Developers to Business Users

Red Hat this week released a new business rules platform that the company said will make it easier for Java developers and business users alike to build policies and processes into their applications.

The company's JBoss Enterprise Business Rules Management System (BRMS) builds on the company's JBoss Rules engine, adding onto it the open source Drools engine and a repository for storing rules and metadata about rules, said Pierre Fricke, Red Hat's director of SOA platform and BRMS product management.

Along with the repository, the console for authoring and managing rules has a Web 2.0 user interface. "That expands the audience for the rules engine, which is for Java developers to business analysts, enterprise architects, and a much wider set of people in the enterprise, ranging from the line of business type people all the way to a wide variety of IT people," Fricke said.

While Red Hat's new tool spreads the potential user base beyond the traditional Java developer, Fricke said it doesn't marginalize the developer. "A business analyst can work with the Java developers on a project through the lifecycle by passing it from analyst to developers and then adding rules for deployment," he said. "The Java developers can work through the tools, and pick up the information from the analyst directly as opposed to sketching out on paper."

As an example, Fricke said it can be complex to change pricing rules in an insurance policy application developed in Java. But put into the BRMS, it can provide more flexibility for developing those changes, he said.

BRMSes are becoming more widely used in general, said Gartner analyst Roy Schulte in an e-mail interview. However, Red Hat is a new player. While the Drools open source rules engine is widely used with hundreds of thousands of copies downloaded, it represents a small percentage of commercially deployed rules engines, Schulte said.

"Still, that's a lot of systems," he said. "Drools is the core open source rules engine and JBoss Rules is a superset of that, and it's been out for almost three years. It's proven, and I haven't heard complaints about it."

The new BRMS rounds out Red Hat's offerings in the rules area, Schulte added, but warned that it's still an early technology. "It's OK for the leading edge to try, but it's a bit early for a mainstream IT department to buy into," he said.

Given the large footprint of the JBoss application platform, Fricke said he believes the rules engine will appeal to that base. JBoss BRMS is available on a subscription basis starting at $20,000 for a four-CPU license.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is executive editor, features, for Redmond Developer News. You can contact him at jschwartz@reddevnews.com.

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