Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oracle buys into Business Rules Management?

Oracle announced today that it acquired RuleBurst Holdings, the parent company of Haley, providing what is described as policy modeling and automation software. Carole-Ann on the EDM blog talks a little about Haley's focus, which she says is more about natural language rules than the structured business rules definitions that I'm more familiar with.

Either way, its interesting that Oracle is currently saying that it intends to match Haley with its ERP and (Siebel) CRM products. I can certainly understand the rationale for this, matching compliance policies to core systems makes a lot of sense, enabling best practices to be enforced at the heart of the business. I wonder whether Oracle have thought much about embedding Hayley into the Oracle BPM Suite as well, since there seems to be a fairly natural match.

Like all rules systems, Haley probably offers more value from being a centralized service than being limited to automated business processes, so strict embedding probably doesn't offer Oracle BPM much more than marketing spin and analyst kudos (both important obviously). In practice customers really want their rules to be used by any process, system or application, so loose integration is likely to be acceptable.

With this, the number of independent rules vendors has shrunk a little further, with IBM already having acquired Ilog and SAP acquiring Yasu (according to James Taylor on the EDM blog - I had missed this news). So HP and its growing software division will probably need to snap someone up just to join the party, and EMC will need to work out whether its partnership offering of Corticon is appropriately profitable before making a move into owning its own technology. Microsoft must have a play in here somewhere as well, though it seems to be happy with the Business Process Alliance as a provider of best of breed process and rules technologies, at least for now.

Where does this leave independent BPM vendors? Owning rules technology outright is appealing for the marketing and analyst reasons stated above, but are business rules management systems owned by BPM vendors appealing to customers when they plan to deploy them as centralized services? As rules become just another capability of company ERP systems, maybe the push will be for BPM software to provide clean integrations to these new ERP rules engines, much as content management software often leverages the storage and full-text search capabilities of the database. Time, and a some heavy IBM/Oracle/SAP marketing will probably tell.

A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finovate in NYC

I was hoping to take a visit to the Finovate event in NYC next week, to see some of the hot new innovative financial services products and software coming out of the industry.

Unfortunately my travel schedule seems to be as unreliable as the markets right now, meaning that I can't attend. So I'd like to wish the organizers and companies that are presentering the best of luck for the event and I look forward to seeing some feedback from some of the bloggers and media who'll be onsite.

A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Processes in the cloud

Amazon, in its new incarnation as cloud computing provider, has announced that its EC2 service will have the ability to run Microsoft Windows Server or SQL Server before the end of the year. Why does this matter?

Companies are under pressure to deliver applications for a better total cost of ownership than ever. This isn't just a matter of cheaper software and less sys admins to support it. Already we see the importance of virtualization, helping reduce the cost and increase the flexibility of corporate server rooms, at least for the products that certify themselves to run under products such as VMWare. Side this with the new 'green' push of Intel, AMD, Sun, etc - to show a reduced cost of electricity powering and cooling the masses of servers that are still required, and the complexity of organizing server rooms to do so. According to Sun, 25% of IT budgets is consumed by energy costs.

So why not just save the valuable office space that server rooms have expanded to overtake, the power costs, complex network wiring, and the cost and risk of knowing how to, and actually doing this infrastructure stuff well? Just deploy your applications to the 'cloud', make sure you have a powerful and fault-tolerant Internet connection, and away you go.

Does this work for your critical business processes, perhaps run by a business process management (BPM), enterprise content management (ECM) or traditional imaging and workflow solution? AIIM talks about SaaS for ECM, and adds some nice commentary on the key tests for an organization selecting a SaaS solution: does SaaS meet the tests of speed, functionality, cost, flexibility and suitability?

Since BPM should be about running your differentiated processes, the cookie cutter approach to cost effective SaaS solutions may not be appealing. But when you have the ability to build exactly your solution and run it in the cloud on a common Windows operating system and database, BPM might become viable without complex infrastructure requirements (at least those that your boss can see).

A post from the Improving New Account Opening blog