Enterprise Rules Engine versus Drools

Before I came onboard at my present company I was fairly impressed with their use of a rules engine. It seemed better than most places that on a major application they had tied all of their business logic into the rules tier, theoretically for reuse.

Of course you don’t necessarily see reality in an interview. The realities included:

  • The rules engine was brought in house to solve the problems with a wonderful ‘Big Bang’ project.
  • The rulebase had a few thousand rules organized into rulesets, and then we implemented workflow, or ‘rule flow’ in the rules engine.
  • The software was so expensive we only had a few licenses for developers, and only two developers worked with the rules engine product at all.
  • Debugging the rules engine is difficult, and unit testing it is a nightmare.
  • And finally the business analysts were supposed to write the business rules in the tool. I’ve never seen this work where the programing interface is easy enough to use for the business side. Lots of tools promise it, I don’t know of what that delivers it.

One of my developers is looking into Drools, after a brief look it appears to be a much better match for our requirements.

Another example of a simple rule I try to follow, ‘Always avoid Enterprise Software where possible.’