IBM's ILog Unit Rolls Out Rule and Optimization Upgrades - InformationWeek

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6/19/2009
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IBM's ILog Unit Rolls Out Rule and Optimization Upgrades

Rule management systems gain easier testing, simulation and authoring. Supply chain and production planning apps add optimization features.

ILog announced this week its first new products and significant product upgrades since IBM acquired the rules management and optimization technology provider in January. Now known as ILog, an IBM Company, the Gentilly, France, and Sunnyvale, Calif., firm is continuing its push to bring easy-to-author, easy-to-change rule management capabilities to a broad base of users. The vendor also announced upgraded production planning and supply chain applications, the latter adding capabilities to track and reduce carbon footprints.

ILog is best known for its business rules management systems (BRMSs), which are used to automate approvals and decisions involving loans, claims, credit card authorizations and other high-volume transactions. Now a part of the IBM WebSphere portfolio, ILog BRMS products have been upgraded in several ways. IBM WebSphere ILog JRules 7.0, the new release of the vendor's Java-based BRMS, has been enhanced with Decision Validation Services, powerful new simulation and testing capabilities that are build into the rule management, development and deployment environment. Previously, users had to export new rules to a separate Rule Scenario Manager module for testing. Decision Validation Services support both testing and simulation from within the Rule Team Server, including the capability to do what-if scenario planning.

"Now you can examine a change in a rule and understand not only whether it runs correctly, but also whether it meets business objectives," says Brett Stineman, ILog's director of product marketing. "You can compare [simulated results] against key performance indicators or the current version of a rule, looking at champion and challenger scenarios."

The JRules 7.0 upgrade also adds ILog Rule Solutions for Office, a plug-in that lets users author and edit Rule Docs in a guided fashion within Microsoft Word or Excel. "Rule Docs contain rule sets, associated metadata, and the underlying structure and vocabulary you need to work with rules," Stineman says. "When the authoring and editing are done, you can bring the Rule Doc back into the repository and you'll have a full understanding of what changed from the previous version."

IBM WebSphere ILog Rules for .Net 7.0 is the vendor's latest BRMS release for the Microsoft .Net platform. The upgrade adds the ILog rule repository and Web-based Rule Team Server, a combination that supports secure rule management, collaboration, version control and reuse. The upgrade also adds ILog's Transparent Decision Services, which are designed for one-click deployment of business rules within service-oriented architectures.

"Previously, you could deploy rules to the .Net engine but you couldn't deploy across platforms in a one-click manner," Stineman says.

IBM ILog LogicNet Plus XE 7.0 is an upgrade of an existing supply chain design and planning application powered by ILog's analytic optimization technologies. The upgrade adds features to measure carbon emissions within supply chains, so manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and trading partners can now plan plant and distribution locations, product manufacturing decisions, and materials and finished goods logistics with carbon emissions measures and caps in mind.

"As you make decisions about which products are made where and how they are shipped, you can see the carbon emissions ramifications of each decision," explains Derek Nelson, an ILog product manager. "We saw more interest initially from our European customers, but now businesses in North America -- particularly consumer packaged goods companies -- are anticipating a regulatory environment that's likely to include a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system."

The 3.2 upgrade of the IBM ILog Plant PowerOps optimization application announced this week introduces dynamic safety stocking capabilities said to reduce inventory and production changeover costs by as much as 25 percent. The application helps users generate cost-effective production schedules, guiding them on tradeoffs in material flows, safety stock and product shelf lives.

"What's new is the ability to consider the inventory implications of different production schedules," Nelson explains. "Planners typically set targets for the amount of inventory desired and then they figure out a schedule that maintains inventories within those targets. That misses the fact that how you schedule affects how much inventory you need."

If you produce a particular product every day, for example, you can likely keep lower inventory levels than you would need to if you produce the product once per week. The upgrade examines the dynamic interplay between production and inventories.

Products acquired by IBM are often first treated to a basic "Blue Wash" to get them in sync with IBM branding and development standards. This round of ILog upgrades is more substantive, however, having been in the development pipeline long before the acquisition was contemplated.

The recent acquisitions of ILog by IBM, Haley by Oracle and Yasu by SAP leave Fair Isaac and Corticon among the few independent business rules technology vendors remaining.

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