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InfoQ Homepage News JBoss Drools 4.0: Business rules now more accessible to non-programmers

JBoss Drools 4.0: Business rules now more accessible to non-programmers

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JBoss Drools, an open-source business rules engine, recently reached version 4.0. InfoQ took the opportunity to learn more about JBoss Drools and its current and future capabilities.

It has been a little over a year since JBoss Rules 3.0 was released, and the first big change is the name - with this release, JBoss Rules is becoming JBoss Drools. Along with the new name come new API and language features which break backwards compatibility with 3.0. According to the official release announcement, the major features and benefits in 4.0 are:

  • Faster performance: Drools 4.0 is faster and leaner than its predecessor and features a smaller memory footprint. Internal benchmark testing showed improvement from minutes to seconds.
  • Improved expressiveness: This release introduces a dramatically more expressive and powerful declarative business action scripting language (MVFlex Expression Language). Users will find that it is more concise as well as more readable.
  • Business analyst friendly tooling: A new Guided Rules Editor lets non-programmers point and click their way to advanced declarative business rules that automatically bind to enterprise data without writing a single line of code. Basic menu prompts and drop-down lists do the guiding.
  • Rule flow capabilities: This visual modeling technology enables users to declaratively model execution paths of related rules. It also allows for simultaneous flows within a single working memory and essentially organizes rule execution along the requirements governing a typical business process.
  • Multi-application support: Improved support for stateful and stateless processing as well as overall thread safety helps make Drools even easier to embed within Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (EE) and service-oriented business applications.
  • Hibernate-ready: Users can assert facts directly from Hibernate-driven RDBMS queries. Existing Hibernate components can be used directly in the rules engine, reducing the amount of coding.
  • BRMS for non-programmers: A technology preview, the new BRMS is a web-based, AJAX-enhanced, collaborative rule authoring, versioning, and management system. Business analysts can now interactively author and/or modify rules that are automatically versioned. Administrators now have full lifecycle control over which rules are in QA, staging, production, etc.
Version 4.0 is also available in the JBoss Maven repository for Maven users, and the Eclipse Drools IDE has a number of new features and capabilities to go along with this release. There is a detailed overview of the changes available in PDF form as well.

Mark Proctor, the JBoss Drools lead, recently talked about what to expect of future JBoss Drools releases:

We are still missing 3 main things:
ontology modelling

Our next release will be quite quick, I'm hoping approx 3 months. That release should hopefully have analytics and testing in it, as I want to get those out as soon as possible. Ontology modelling will take a little longer so will be in release after that, along with prolog style backwards chaining (for a full hybrid engine) and Complex Event Processing(CEP)/Event Stream Processing(ESP).
Proctor also described some community projects, such as an upcoming solving framework called drools-solver, and a fuzzy-logic evaluation system which will plug into JBoss Drools. Further into the future, Proctor believes that JBoss Drools will grow from a rules engine into a fully integrated artificial intelligence platform for behavioural modelling.

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