IDC Identifies ‘Referential Rule Integrity’ Problem in Business Rule Management Systems, Says It Must Be Addressed

FRAMINGHAM, MA – MAY 17, 2006 – According to a recently released IDC study, business rule management systems continue to be vulnerable to the problem of "referential rule integrity" – an IDC term that describes the potential for a business rule management system (BRMS) to deliver incoherent results due to its reliance on an inference engine. IDC believes that inference engines, which are the crown jewels of the BRMS market, have enormous IT potential, but the adoption of BRMS inference engines is highly contingent upon providing added measures of referential rule integrity remediation.

"People and businesses have a long-standing bias for IT systems and applications that are completely predictable in their behavior," said Stephen Hendrick, group vice president, Application Development and Deployment Research at IDC. "However, the reality is that any application is just an operational model that seeks to render a desired behavior. The accuracy and predictability of an application is never guaranteed, which is why the software development life cycle has activities such as requirements gathering, analysis/modeling/design, unit test, system test, and acceptance test — all designed to make the resultant code more accurate."

The study reveals that the majority of vendors are not addressing the problem of referential rule integrity, and, therefore, no solutions exist. IDC identifies three main objectives associated with improving inferencing reliability:

— Consistency: the ability to identify where specific condition/value pairs are in conflict

— Completeness: removing as much ambiguity from the rulebase as possible

— Coherence: evaluation of condition/value chains and their associated variables

Hendrick adds, "The point is that applications, regardless of how developed, will misbehave, and the more complex the application the more egregiously it will misbehave. Consequently, the quest is to find ways to develop applications so that they are intrinsically of higher quality and provide methods to verify and validate the behavior of the application."

The study, Business Rule Management Systems: Addressing Referential Rule Integrity (IDC #201262), focuses on a key issue facing the inferencing capabilities of business rule management systems – the issue of referential rule integrity (RRI). This study seeks to both define the RRI problem as well as provide insights into how to address this problem. This study therefore serves as a primer focused on identifying the various approaches to business rule processing, the particular problems characteristic of using inference engines, the reasoning behind how to address the RRI problem, and the methods that vendors should employ for addressing RRI and improving system reliability and integrity.

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