Introduction to Rules-as-a-Service on Bluemix

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[Editor’s note:  this is a guest-post by Justin Phillips, part of our UK team, and a fantastic expert on all things ODM.  His ideas and insights have made it into products and service offerings for more than one company. We couldn’t be more excited to have his services on our team at BP3]

IBM’s Bluemix is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering that allows businesses and enterprises to build applications using services quickly on a cloud based infrastructure, hosted and managed by IBM (see https://www.ng.bluemix.net/docs for more information). One of the services that Bluemix provides is what IBM calls the “Business Rules” service.

This service provides an execution server instance that rule applications can be deployed to and exposed as decision services. Bluemix does not provide rule authoring capabilities in the form of Decision Centre, but you can still use Rule Designer for rule development and deployments.

The underlying execution server mechanics between the Bluemix service and the full ODM product (see http://www-03.ibm.com/software/products/en/odm for more information) are the same, but being a PaaS, Bluemix offers some distinct advantages:

  • Pay-as-you-go payment plan.
  • First 1k per month execution engine calls are free (at the time of writing).
  • No need to worry about hosting and infrastructure costs.
  • Quick and easy to create a service and start using it.

The final point above about the speed of setup is the most compelling. Once you have registered for a Bluemix account, it takes only five minutes to create the Business Rules service that is ready to accept the deployment of a rule projects. The opposite of this is with a full ODM deployment, where just the installing and configuring the same execution components may take several days or weeks, particularly for production environments where a clustering and failover configuration maybe required.

Bluemix is ideal for creating development and test environments, where often they are only needed for the lifetime of a project. For some enterprises, if they are running multiple parallel projects, then cost and overhead benefits are apparent.

So that takes care of things from a development and execution point of view. But what about the management of the rules by the business user? Bluemix does not offer a Decision Centre instance. Decision Centre is a web based authoring tool that is part of the full ODM suite of applications, that provides rule management and governance capabilities. Non-technical users can use it to maintain the rules and push them through a change process, which will enable them to deploy to the target execution engines. If the rules and decision services need to be exposed to the business units within your enterprise, then this will be an essential component of ODM that would need to be installed and managed.

While the Bluemix Rules Service does not come with an Decision Centre, if you have one, you can deploy Rules Apps from your Decision Centre to Bluemix.  Such a Decision Centre would need to be separately licensed but really this is the only way to provide your business users the ability to own the management of rules deployed in Bluemix.

In conclusion, Rules Service on Bluemix is a different offering from ODM.  Selecting the right one for you is all about use cases and if something that BP3 would love to help you with if you are interested.

 

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