CIO magazine had an interesting editorial today - A New Blueprint for IT - talking about the value and potential of SOA - Service Oriented Architecture. While a decentralized SOA application environment provides a great deal of flexibility for business units and IT departments, it also creates a new set of challenges: how can organizations effectively manage the consistency of business decisions delivered through various applications; and how can organizations reliably implement changes to business decision logic across all their services. Business rules management systems provide a highly effective and efficient mechanism for managing decision logic and acting as a conductor in order to align decision behavior. Furthermore, implementation of a BRMS is a good first step in moving to a SOA-based environment.
Business rules management systems (BRMS) provide a mechanism for managing decision logic and act as a conductor in order to align application decision behavior. Since BRMS are designed to deliver decisioning components, they are perfectly suited to SOA - BRMS can act as intermediary between service-based applications and legacy applications and deliver consistency and compliance across an SOA. In fact, the transition to SOA is not an all-or-none proposition; many organizations start by implementing new applications as services, but it is also possible to tie new service-based applications and existing applications together using a BRMS as the common decisioning mechanism. This is especially useful in legacy modernization efforts. In many cases, organizations rely on older mainframe systems to handle many crucial business functions, and it just not feasible to completely replace these systems. Instead, a more practical approach is to slowly transition portions of functionality off of legacy systems while allowing them to continue to perform their primary processing responsibilities. Removing decision logic is a good initial step in legacy modernization efforts. By doing this, legacy systems are actually stabilized, since fewer changes need to be made to the core code over time. Decision logic code is replaced with a simple invocation call to a decision management service, along with a mechanism for receiving the output from the BRMS. When decision logic (rules) is changed, the legacy system code is unaffected since the changes are made within the BRMS. Core processing functions within legacy systems can then be transitioned to new service-based applications incrementally, and legacy systems can be decommissioned as their functionality is fully replaced by newer systems.
An SOA can help organizations become more productive and nimble in their ability to build new applications. The use of a business rules management system within a service-oriented architecture provides clear benefits through the separation of decision logic from application functionality. Using a BRMS ensures that disparate applications behave consistently, are able to automate complex decisions and quickly adapt to changing business requirements. Business rules management systems also offer organizations the ability to incrementally transition from legacy systems to a service- oriented architecture.