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


Anonymous said...

Oracle Siebel products already use Haley:

Haley actually has several rules interfaces, including a natural language interface (Expert Rules) and a more business user focused interface (Office Rules).

As for the Oracle BPM suite (part of Fusion Middleware), this already includes Oracle Business Rules:

Phil Ayres said...

Good feedback. So it will be interesting to see how Oracle chooses to consolidate the capabilities across the platforms. Having multiple overlapping rules capabilities really plays against the centralization story that rules engines play to.

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