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Microservices Journal: Product Review

Product Review: FICO Blaze Advisor

Blaze Advisor helps technology teams maintain the business rules/policies

This article reviews the features of Blaze Advisor, a business rules management system from FICO. Blaze Advisor helps technology teams maintain the business rules/policies separate from application code base and provides business users with ability to author & manage rules/policies in immediate response to business events.

Blaze Advisor - Features
FICO Blaze Advisor is a rules management solution that covers the entire process of developing, deploying and maintaining rule based applications. The features of Blaze Advisor 6.9 are detailed below:

Rules Development
Blaze Advisor provides an IDE for developers to model, build, test and deploy rules. Blaze can extract object definitions from legacy systems, databases or XML documents and extend them to define rules as using business terms. There is a performance monitor in the IDE that shows rule statistics like no of times a rule is executed, time taken for execution, rules that take most time etc.

Rules Authoring
Blaze provides a configurable web based interface, Rules Maintenance Application for business users to author and manage rules. Rules are authored in simple vocabulary that conveys business meaning of the rule.

Rules can also be managed in Excel in the form of decision tables, having it connect to Rules repository using Blaze API to leverage versioning capabilities and to work with data online or offline.

Rules Groups
Blaze has ability to group Rules into Rule Sets and manage them together based on projects/tasks. Also, sequence of Rules execution can be visually depicted as Rule flow and can be easily managed in RMA and Advisor IDE.

Rules Verification
There is a ‘Verify' feature in RMA that can be used by business users during creation/modification of rules to ensure rule correctness, to check that the rules follows best practices and to prevent any errors such as rule conflicts. Blaze also provides an automated unit testing tool (named BrUnit) for testing the rules.

Rules Invocation
User defined entry points (Rule Flow, Rule Set, Functions etc.) can be created during the deployment process for invocation of rules. Rules entry points can expose MQ/Java/Web Service interfaces for invocation by other applications.

The rules are compiled and cached in a memory structure to improve the performance of rules execution. Also, this cache gets auto refreshed when the underlying rules are modified and this ability is built in to Deployment Manager.

Rules Repository
Rules created in Blaze are stored in XML format and versioned in centralized rules repository. Advisor IDE and RMA provide the ability to compare versions and manage changes to rules in repository. Blaze also provides a hierarchical view of rules in repository and ability to search rules based on associated metadata in rules repository.

Simulation
Blaze provides a ‘Decision Simulator' module that helps business users estimate the impact of new/updated rules before releasing them into production. Decision simulator provides out of the box simulation reports that help users measure the business impact of rule change/introduction. Blaze IDE also provides wizards for technical teams to create custom simulation projects and expose it for business users.

Analytical Models
Predictive models created in PMML format from other analytical tools like SAS can be directly imported into Blaze Advisor and used within a rule/rule flow.

Model builder, a tool from FICO can be used to create models and then import these models into Blaze Advisor as a rule/rule flow in a decision process. These models are stored in Decision Manager Repository and can be used similar to that of Rules repository.

Security
Blaze helps expose the right scope for rule editing to match authority and skills of users, ensuring proper governance and control. Access controls can be configured at the level of rules/rule flows in RMA. For ex: Rule flows depict the sequence of rules execution and generally not changeable by business users without prior approval and stringent testing procedures so modification of rule flows can be disabled and only modification of rules will be enabled in RMA for business users.

Rule Engine Standards
Blaze uses Rete III algorithm for matching rules within core engine and it is claimed to be the fastest one among algorithms, roughly 100 times faster than previous Rete I algorithm. The product is compatible with JSR 94 specification thus enabling it to be used in a standard way on JEE platforms.

Auditing
Logging monitors are available at multiple levels in the product - to monitor the rule server activities, rule execution requests etc. It provides ability to track the events within the rule engine, seeing which rules have fired, steps taken in the rule flow, and changes to the data. Also, product has ability to set auditing to any level of depth of detail and store the logs in any location.

Blaze also has a rules dashboard that displays details on number of rules executed, its response time, input/output data etc. It also provides Monitoring APIs that can be used to gather similar types of data for display.

Summary
Blaze Advisor provides all the capabilities of BRMS and is one of market leaders in this space. It has the leading performance considering the fastest algorithm it uses and caching abilities. It also provides an easy to use authoring environment to manage rules/rule flows, to perform rules verification and ability to leverage analytical models in decision process.

References

http://www.fico.com/en/Products/DMTools/Pages/FICO-Blaze-Advisor-System.aspx

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M.Ravi is a Senior Technical Architect, specialized in providing architecture and design solutions on broad of spectrum of areas such as JEE, SOA, ESB, BI, CRM & SAS.

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