What I Didn't Expect to Find at #IBMImpact

Scott Francis
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I went to IBM Impact looking for direction and strategy around BPM.  What I didn’t expect to find (but perhaps I should have), was an extra present under the tree:  ILOG is getting embedded in more IBM products. Quoting Integration Developer News’ interview of Pierre Haren (founder of ILOG and VP of IBM’s ILOG unit):
“IBM will only have one business rules system and that will be JRules from ILOG,”  Haren said. For IT users, JRules will be embedded into WebSphere Message Broker, WebSphere Process Server, the WebSphere ESB. For business users, JRules will be added into IBM analytics and Lombardi BPM. “This connection between BPM and business rules has several sweet spots, and WebSphere Process Server and Lombardi are two of them,” Haren told IDN. “At both ends, we now bring BPM and rules together for heavy-duty transactions and for business-driven BPM.  Linking these two [architecture] is the way to keep the CIO, the CEO and the business users happy.”
And after seeing the sessions live, it is clear that with the new IBM BPM 7.5 offering, ILOG will be *the* rules implementation for BPM.  This is a big improvement over the previously limited rules offering inside Lombardi, and WPS.  Of course, before this integration you could always call out to a webservice to tap the rules engine – any rules engine – and this worked well.  But there are rule-like behaviors inside the BPM offering that are probably best represented inside ILOG rather than outside of it, and yet happen in the normal context of defining a process (and therefore, should be surfaced inside the BPM authoring environment). An interesting note on the synergy of rules systems and BPM systems:
Rapid Iterative Updates—“Another thing I love about rules and BPM together is that they both are incremental programming,” Haren said. Unlike writing an application in Java or COBOL, the user doesn’t need a specification up front. “You can’t write good code without a good spec,” he said. “But, in BPM you can start with a high level vision, and you can incrementally add filters, decision-points and rules as you go along.”
So true.  And it ties in nicely with the talk we did with Wells Fargo at Impact. Another insightful comment on BPM at IBM:
Looking it as a whole, Haren described IBM’s BPM activities in 2011 this way: “In a real way, Lombardi’s DNA is replicating itself on IBM’s BPM [offerings], and ILOG’s JRules are making all our BPM smarter BPM plus business rules will add up to be more than the sum of their parts,” Haren said.
From reading the article, Haren definitely gets how complementary these two technologies are – and at each point they intersect, you get this interesting value proposition for the process to leverage a rule set.  It was a nice surprise to see the level of integration of ILOG with other IBM products (and of course, it makes sense).  

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  • Incidentally, a few clarifications about ILOG’s role within the IBM BPM suite:

    The embedded version *is* limited. A customer with decent rulesets is still going to want to buy JRules. Apparently the execution engine is the same, but the editor is the Business Action Language editor – not the natural language editors. This is still an improvement over the old rules editors in WLE. To truly realize the promise of the business editing rules outside of the process, you will still want the full version, and probably some of the add-ons for validation and what-if testing.

    It is definitely a step in the right direction. I can’t tell if they’ve drawn the line on functionality in the right place but we’ll dig into that when the release hits.