The guys over at the official Drools blog beat me to the announcement, as I was waiting for it to published on Amazon, but now that it has, I’m happy to announce that after 12 months of pushing and shoving, I’ve finally got my first book , on Business rules and Workflow, out the door.
In business, a lot of actions are trigged by rules: “Order more ice cream when the stock is below 100 units and temperature is above 25° C”, “Approve credit card application when the credit background check is OK, past relationship with the customer is profitable, and identity is confirmed”, and so on. Traditional computer programming languages make it difficult to translate this “natural language” into a software program. But JBoss Rules (also known as Drools) enables anybody with basic IT skills and an understanding of the business to turn statements such as these into running computer code.
This book will teach you to specify business rules using JBoss Drools, and then put them into action in your business. You will be able to create rules that trigger actions and decisions, based on data that comes from a variety of sources and departments right across your business. Regardless of the size of your business, you can make your processes more effective and manageable by adopting JBoss Rules.
Banks use business rules to process your mortgage (home loan) application, and to manage the process through each step (initial indication of amount available, actual application, approval of the total according to strict rules regarding the amount of income, house value, previous repayment record, swapping title deeds, and so on).
Countries such as Australia apply business rules to visa applications (when you want to go and live there)—you get points for your age, whether you have a degree or masters, your occupation, any family members in the country, and a variety of other factors.
Supermarkets apply business rules to what stock they should have on their shelves and where—this depends upon analyzing factors such as how much shelf space there is, what location the supermarket is in, what people have bought the week before, the weather forecast for next week (for example, ice cream in hot weather), and what discounts the manufacturers are giving.
This book shows how you can use similar rules and processes in your business or organization. It begins with a detailed, clear explanation of business rules and how JBoss Rules supports them.
You will then see how to install and get to grips with the essential software required to use JBoss Rules. Once you have mastered the basic tools, you will learn how to build practical and effective of the business rule systems.
The book provides clear explanations of business rule jargon. You will learn how to work with Decision Tables, Domain-Specifi c Languages (DSL)s, the Guvnor and JBoss Integrated Development Environment (IDE), workflow and much more.
Understand the basics of business rules and JBoss rules with minimal effort
Install the required software easily and learn to use the Guvnor, which is a user-friendly web editor that’s also powerful enough to test our rules as we write them
Learn to write sophisticated rules and import the fact model into the Guvnor and then build a guided rule around it, which makes your web pages a lot clearer
Gain complete knowledge of what we can do with the Guvnor rule editor, and then use the JBoss IDE as an even more powerful way of writing rules, and automate processes for discounts, orders, sales, and more
Know the structure of the rule file through the example of a shipping schedule, which will help you with your own shipping schedule
Test your rules not only in the Guvnor, but also using FIT for rule testing against requirements documents; run unit tests using JUnit for error-free rules and interruption-free services
Specifically, non-developers can work with Excel spreadsheets as a fact model to develop business processes without learning any other new technology
Work with DSLs (Domain-Specific Languages) and rule flow to make writing rules easy; which makes staff training quicker and your working life easier
Deploy your business rules to the real world, which completes your project successfully, and combine this into a web project using the framework of your choice to provide better services
Benefit from concepts such as truth maintenance, conflict resolution, pattern matching rules agenda, and the Rete algorithm to provide advanced and faster business systems so that staff efficiency is maximized
Chapter 1, Drooling over JBoss Rules. This chapter gives you a good platform to understand business rules and JBoss rules. We look at the problems that you might have (and why you’re probably reading this book). We look at what business rule engines are, and how they evaluate business rules that appear very simple and how they become powerful when multiple rules are combined.
Chapter 2, Getting the software, deals with installation. This chapter explains setting up Java, setting up Business Rule Management System (BRMS)/Guvnor running on the JBoss App Server, setting up Eclipse, and installing the Drools Plug-in. It also details the installation of the Drools examples for this book and the Maven to build them.
Chapter 3, Meet the Guvnor, deals with writing our rules using the ‘Guvnor’. Guvnor is the user-friendly web editor that’s also powerful enough to test our rules as we write them. We take up an example to make things easier. Then we look at the various Guvnor screens, and see that it can not only write rules (using both guided and advanced editors), but that it can also organize rules and other assets in packages, and also allow us to test and deploy those packages. Finally, we write our very first business rule—the traditional ‘Hello World’ message announcing to everyone that we are now business rule authors.
Chapter 4, Guided Rules with the Guvnor. This chapter shows how to use the Guvnor rule editor to write some more sophisticated rules. It also shows how to get information in and out of our rules, and demonstrates how to create the fact model needed to do this. We import our new fact model into the Guvnor and then build a guided rule around it. Finally we test our rule as a way of making sure that it runs correctly.
Chapter 5, From Guvnor to JBoss IDE. This chapter pushes the boundries of what we can do with the Guvnor rule editor, and then brings in the JBoss IDE as an even more powerful way of writing rules. We start by using variables in our rules example. Then we discuss rule attributes (such as salience) to stop our rules from making changes that cause them to fi re again and again. After testing this successfully, we look at text-based rules, in both the Guvnor and the JBoss IDE, for running ‘Hello World’ in the new environment.
Chapter 6, More Rules in the jBoss IDE. This chapter looks again at the structure of a rule fi le. At the end of this chapter, we look at some more advanced rules that we can write and run in the IDE.
Chapter 7, Testing your Rules. This chapter explains how testing is not a standalone activity, but part of an ongoing cycle. In this chapter we see how to test our rules, not only in the Guvnor, but also using FIT for rule testing against requirements documents. This chapter also explains Unit Testing using JUnit.
Chapter 8, Data in Excel, Rules in Excel. This chapter explains how to use Excel Spreadsheets (cells and ranges) as our fact model to hold information, instead of the write-your-own-JavaBean approach we took earlier. Then we use Excel spreadsheets to hold Decision tables, to make repetitive rules easier to write.
Chapter 9, Domain-Specific Languages [DSL] and rule flow. This chapter aims to make our rules both easier to use, and more powerful. We start with DSLs—Domain-Specifi c Languages. This chapter follows on from the ‘easy to write rules’ theme from the previous chapter and also discusses both ruleflow and workflow. It would be great to draw a workfl ow diagram to see/control what (groups of) rules should fi re and when. Rule flow gives us this sort of control.
Chapter 10, Deploying rules in real life. This chapter shows you how to deploy your business rules into the real world. We look at the pieces that make up an entire web application, and where rules fit into it. We see the various options to deploy rules as part of our application, and the team involved in doing so. Once they are deployed, we look at the code that would load and run the rules—both home-grown and using the standard RuleAgent. Finally we see how to combine this into a web project using the framework of your choice.
Chapter 11, Peeking under the covers. This chapter looks at what happens under the cover by opening up the internals of the Drools rule engine to understand concepts such as truth maintenance, confl ict resolution, pattern matching, and the rules agenda. In this chapter, we explore the Rete algorithm and discuss why it makes rules run faster than most comparable business logic. Finally we see the working memory audit log and the rules debug capabilities of the Drools IDE.
Chapter 12, Other Drools features. This chapter deals with the other advanced Drools features that have not yet been covered. This includes Smooks to bulk load data, Complex Event Processing, and Drools solver to provide solutions where traditional techniques would take too long.
This book takes a practical approach, with step-by-step instructions. It doesn’t hesitate to talk about the technologies, but takes time to explain them (to an Excel power-user level). There is a good use of graphics and code where necessary.
Who this book is written for
If you are a business analyst – somebody involved with enterprise IT but at a high level, understanding problems and planning solutions, rather than coding in-depth implementations – then this book is for you.
If you are a business user who needs to write rules, or a technical person who needs to support rules, this book is for you.
If you are looking for an introduction to rule engine technology, this book will satisfy your needs.
If you are a business user and want to write rules using Guvnor/JBoss IDE, this book will be suitable for you.
This book will also suit your need if you are a business user and want to understand what Drools can do and how it works, but would rather leave the implementation to a developer.
Paul Browne’s first job was selling computers in France and things went steadily downhill from there. He spent millons on behalf of a UK telephone company’s procurement department and implemented direct marketing for a well-known Texan computer maker before joining the IT department of a company that builds bright red tractors and other seriously cool machines.
Paul then embraced his techie side (he was writing games in machine code from the age of 11) and started a consultancy that used IT to solve business problems for companies in the financial and public sectors in Ireland, UK , Belgium, and New Zealand. Eight years later, he now works with an Irish government agency that helps similar software companies to grow past their initial teething pains.
More formally, Paul has a bachelor’s degree in Business and French from the University of Ulster, a master’s degree in Advanced Software from UCD Dublin, a post-grad qualification in Procurement from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (UK), and will someday complete his ACCA financial exams.
Workflow (e.g. JBoss jBPM) is great – it allows you to take spaghetti code and draw it as a workflow diagram (flowchart) so that it can be reviewed by the business (the nice people who pay our wages). You then attach standard (Java) actions to these steps.
Only problem is when you come to a decision node (the one circled in red below): How do you decide to go left or right (in the workflow)? Normally this is coded in Java – good for us, but hidden from those nice business people (which means that this is more room for errors-in-translation).
Business Rules allow you to keep those decision making rules in Plain English: When something is true , then do this. That’s it. The rule engine does most of the hard work.
Integrating Workflow and Rules is easy. Use JBoss Seam (link) or do it by hand (link). And it works on non-JBoss web / app servers such as Websphere, Oracle Application Server, Tomcat and Weblogic.
Repeat x6 : Use workflow and rules. Use workflow and rules …
If you’re in business you need computer systems to support your team. Systems to find previous dealings with a customer, systems to allow your team to work together, systems to stop people finding out things that they shouldn’t.
Once your business passes the 100 employee mark and is heading for ‘Enterprise’ scale, chances are you need custom software written just for you, in addition to he ‘shrink wrap’ stuff you’ve been able to get away with until now.
Most custom Enterprise software is written in (or uses a large element of) Enterprise Java.
Enterprise Java is hard to get started with – it’s a big and complex framework because it solves big and complex problems. The Spring framework makes it easy.
OK, so we’re Spring nuts. But nuts only because it’s solved problems for FirstPartners over the last 4 years. What we like:
Spring allows you to use just enough Enterprise Java to solve your problem
Spring complements Enterprise Java, not replaces it.
Spring gives you a gentle slope to using Enterprise technologies.
Spring works well with Java, Oracle, .Net , (J)Ruby and pretty much any mainstream technology – including most of the widespread Java Frameworks like Struts and Hibernate.
So you wait ages for one Spring Event in Ireland, then two come along at once. We’ve written about Rod Johnson speaking in Dublin on Tue March 11th. Now there is a full day Spring Event in Belfast the day before (March 10th). And it’s sponsored by Momentum NI, so it’s free. And the Hilton Hotel is right beside Belfast Central train station, so it’s easy to get to from Dublin.
The full agenda is here (more details below), but given the importance of Spring to the Enterprise world, and the fact that the top four Spring guys are speaking, we reckon that it the Enterprise event of the year. The booking form is here.
Spring Ireland 2008
10th March 08:3010th March 17:30
Hilton Belfast, 4 Lanyon Place, Belfast (Beside Central Train station)SpringSource is proud to announce Spring Ireland 2008. Join us for a free one-day conference with presentations from the SpringSource team including a keynote from Rod Johnson.
Keynote: Spring into the Future – Rod Johnson
The Spring Framework began in 2002 with Rod’s best-selling Expert One-on-One J2EE Design and Development; one of the most influential books ever published on J2EE, Rod is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on Java and J2EE development.With the rapid expansion of SpringSource and move to new corporate HQ in Silicon Valley, this is a rare UK opportunity to hear Rod provide his views and explore the future of J2EE application development.
What’s New in Spring 2.5 – Sam Brannen
Sam is a lead architect at SpringSource and one of the most experienced developers within the organisation.This session provides delegates with an overview of the new features available in Spring 2.5. Specifically, highlighting the simplified and extensible configuration support provided via configuration annotations and new XML configuration namespaces, new Java 6 support, updates to Spring AOP, improved JDBC and JPA support, annotation-driven web MVC controllers, the new annotation-based TestContext framework for unit and integration tests and more!
SpringSource Professional Services – Greg Southey
Greg has built SpringSource’s UK Professional Services organisation into the leading Spring consultancy business in the world.
This is a brief resume of some of the 97 major projects completed by the UK Professional Services team in 2007. Delegates will hear about the business drivers behind some major development projects, the business issues faced and how they were resolved in partnership with the client.
Spring as a Full Stack Web Framework – David Syer
As Principal Consultant at SpringSource, Dave leads the way in the understanding of satisfying business requirements using the Spring Portfolio. His easy manner cloaks a prodigious knowledge of application development.
This session explores the “full stack” web framework trend and answers the question: how does Spring stack up? This session defines what a full-stack web framework is, then provides a fair technical comparison between a Spring-centric web development stack and the alternatives. Delegates will head about the feature-set of modern “full stack” web frameworks, and what Spring has that differentiates itself from the pack.
Spring in Ireland – Ian Graham
Ian Graham, Momentum, will explore the use of Spring in Ireland and introduce case studies from companies who are using the Spring family of products.
Round Table Discussion – Rod Johnson, Rob Harrop, Dave Syer, Sam Brannen & Greg Southey
Your chance to ask Rod and his team anything that’s on your mind regarding Spring!
I’ve been lucky enough to have been using Spring for just over 4 years. If you don’t know what Spring is, it solves a lot of problems in complex Enterprise Java Systems. And it makes those systems more configurable; Spring makes your code like Lego blocks. Blocks that you can take apart and use again and again (no matter what the underlying technology is). And because you can take it apart, it makes your code easier to test. And testing is a good thing – the earlier you find bugs , the cheaper they are to fix.
Get the feeling that I’m a bit of a Spring fanatic? Wasn’t always that way. It took me two projects where other people had choosen Spring to convince me. And did I mention that it’s one of the most in demand skills in the Java world?
Not (too blatant) a plug for the Irish Java Technologies Conference (IJTC). Although if you’re around Dublin on the 7th / 8th / 9th November I’m told you’re more than welcome to drop in. This post is more a quick review of the people who are speaking. It’s also an invitation to check out their websites and see if any of the technologies they are promoting could be of use to your project.
Here are the top 10 projects that I’m looking forward to checking out.
10) Java and Microsoft SQL Server : It’s still a brave Microsoft person that comes to a Java conference. Shows MS recognition a substantial amount of Java deployments persist their Data to a SQL- Server database.
9) Eclipse STP (and SOA) – Service Orientated Architecture is the buzzword of the year. If anybody can put substance behind the hype , it’s the guys From Iona.
8) Eclipse JPA and Dali. Hibernate pushed Object Relational Mapping (ORM) to be the standard approach to database access. The manager of the ‘other’ ORM Project (Oracle Toplink) should give a interesting coverage of the tooling developments.
7) Apache Geronimo – by Jeff Genender from Apache Foundation. So long the ‘other’ Open source application server, this is now becoming credible in commercial deployments.
6) Java Update – Simon has been working as a lead Java consultant for Sun Microsystems. He’ll be talking about Java Standard Edition 6 and Java Mobile Edition. But what I’m really interested in is Java Enterprise Edition 5, Scripting, Java Realtime and Java FX.
5) If scripting is your thing fellow Onjava Blogger Dejan Bosanac is also speaking on this subject. He’s talking about Scripting within the JVM, which will be one of the hot topics for 2008.
4) iPhone v JMME – I don’t get the buzz around Mobile (give it another 18 months , we’ll all be running Java Application Servers on the mobile). But many people are interested in it – this talk is how to make you Mobile Java apps as slick as those in the iPhone.
2) JPA and Hibernate - There is a very strong possibility that Emmanuel Bernard will be returning to Dublin to talk about the Hibernate project that he leads. Having seen his recent talk, and given the level of interest in Hibernate, I expect a strong turnout for this one.
1) Spring 2.5 - Spring has been around for more than 5 years and is making serious inroads in the the Enterprise Java community. Sam Brannen (from Interface21) will give details on the latest on the major update to Spring (2.5) as well as what is planned for the future.
Picture the scene: a self help group meeting, plastic chairs arranged in a circle. Sitting on the chairs are an assortment of (mainly) men in their 20’s or 30’s. One plucks up the courage and mumbles ‘Hello, I’m Paul , and I’ve been writing bad Java code for 10 years‘.
‘When I got into Java I was using JSP for everything – HTML, talking to databases, doing workflow – anything I could get my hands on. I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing. Even after I got treatment based on EJB, Spring and Hibernate, I still feel that there is a void at the centre of my coding life‘.
‘I fell in with a bad crowd. Business types with suits and violin cases. They said they’d pay me good money if I built them something. Now they don’t believe that it works – it’s all techie stuff to them. Those boys are going to play rough if I can’t make them understand the code. What can I do?‘
There was silence for a while. Then the group leader said
It’s a tough one. Does anybody have any suggestions?
I’ll just give the 2 minute summary. An IDE (integrated Development Environment) is like Microsoft Office for Developers – you could use notepad instead, but an IDE makes the overall writing experience easier. Microsoft Visual Studio is the main non-Java IDE. For Java , you have the choice of Eclipse (and other tools built on it such as JBoss IDE, JBuilder ,Websphere and Weblogic studio), IntelliJ or Sun’s Netbeans. Very much a personal preference as to which is best of the three of these.
For me, I tend to use Eclipse (1) because I can install it on any client site (2) If an IDE preference is stated on a project, it tends to be Eclipse and (3) There are plugins available for almost anything – including non-Java languages such as Ruby.
Or rather , I download a version of Eclipse with all the plugins pre-packaged – which is what Red Hat Developer Studio does.
Lead developer from JBoss, coming to Dublin to talk about Hibernate on 15th October. What else could you be doing that evening? Full details on Developers.ie.
What is Hibernate? Java programs are like Lego blocks – very 3D with bumps on them to connect together. Database tables to store data are like flat sheets of paper. Hibernate is a bridge between these two very different worlds. In technical terms, it’s called Object-Relational-Mapping (ORM).
Why is it important? Hibernate is the defacto standard in the Java World, and has had huge influence on the most recent version of the EJB spec. There’s a .Net version and even competitors (such as Toplink from Oracle) are moving to the Hibernate way of doing things.
So it in Friday’s Irish Times Business section (main part), I was surprised to see Sugar advertising for people for their Dublin European HQ (I obviously missed this press release back in March announcing the opening). The ad in the main part says ‘look at page 19 of the jobs section’. Page 19 exists, but no Sugar CRM ad. Strange.