Why did we build Business Rules Composer?

Business Rules Composer BizTalk360

This blog is a part of the series of blog articles we are publishing on the topic “Why we built XYZ feature in BizTalk360”. Read the main article here.

Why do we need this feature?

Although in our experience many BizTalk Server customers are using the BizTalk Rules Engine, many others are not using it. This is a pity because the BizTalk Rules Engine (BRE) can be very beneficial and can reduce the costs of BizTalk development.

The concept behind the BRE, is to empower business users to create and maintain business rules, which can be accessed by their BizTalk processes.
In case such business rules need to be changed, this can be done via the so-called Business Rules Composer, by the business user.

A simple example on how to use the power of the Business Rules Engine, is a business user who works in retail and would like to, temporarily, apply some discounts to certain product groups.

Without the BRE, the user would have to implement a change in his BizTalk solution, which can be time-consuming and rather costly. Especially, as the discounts will have to be reverted after some time.
With the BRE, the user can use the Business Rules Composer to make that change by himself.

The Business Rules Composer tool comes with BizTalk Server and as demonstrated, using this tool is far more cost efficient than having to line up a development team to make the needed change in the BizTalk process, while maybe having to revert the change after short period of time, like we have seen in case of temporarily discounts.

Besides being able to modify business rules with the Business Rules Composer, it is obvious that it is also possible to just view the business rules to gain insight how the business rules are set up.

What are the current challenges?

As mentioned, the BizTalk Server Business Rules Composer enables to view, modify and deploy business rules. There are however a few challenges with the Business Rules Composer:

  • It is too technical
  • It has no security and auditing

Business Rules Composer is too technical

In most cases the Business Rules Composer is just installed on the BizTalk server(s). Although, from a technical perspective, it is possible to install the Business Rules Composer on a normal desktop computer.
But, even when the business user does have access to the Business Rules Composer, we’ll explain that the Business Rules Composer is too technical in the hands of a business user.

Let’s briefly describe a bit about Business Rules. These rules consist of the following parts:

  • Policies – a policy is a collection of one or more business rules. Policies can be created, edited, deleted, versioned, published and deployed. Once a policy is deployed, no more changes can be made to the policy. If changes are needed, a new version of the policy will have to be created.
  • Business rules – a business rule can be constructed based on conditions, which will be evaluated by the Business Rules Engine. To construct these business rules, elements of the below mentioned vocabularies can be used.
  • Vocabularies – vocabularies contain the components which can be used in the policies. These components can be elements/attributes in a XML schema, fields in a database table or elements in a .NET class.  For ease of use, these components can be provided with a friendly (business) name. Just like policies, vocabularies can be versioned and published.

After vocabularies and policies have been created, they can be saved, published and deployed from the Business Rules Composer as well.

It must be quite clear now, that the Business Rules Composer is a powerful tool, but is quite complex at the same time. The tool is suited better for technical people who are well aware of the technical insides. As business users don’t have that knowledge, it will make it hard for business users to use the original Business Rules Composer.

Business Rules Composer has no security and auditing

In the Business Rules Composer which comes with BizTalk Server, there are no security and auditing features. So, once somebody has access to the tool, they have access to all the business rules of the BizTalk environment and can make any kind of changes, without leaving a trace. We think that this is an unacceptable situation.

How BizTalk360 solves this problem?

BizTalk360 offers a web-based counterpart of the Business Rules Composer. As BizTalk360 is web-based, the Business Rules Composer is easier to access than the software which comes with BizTalk Server, as it is quite often just installed on the BizTalk Server.

BizTalk360 Business Rules ComposerFrom the BizTalk360 Rules Composer, users can for example:

  • Add, edit and remove policies
  • Add, edit, test and delete rules
  • Publish, deploy and undeploy policies

Security

Once a user has access to BizTalk360, the user can have different authorizations for the Rules Composer of BizTalk360. These authorizations are:

  • View rules only
  • Create/Save rules
  • Deploy/Publish rules

Besides security settings, there is also auditing of activity around business rules in BizTalk360.

By hiding irrelevant technical stuff in the BizTalk360 Business Rules Composer, this tool is better suited for business users than the one from BizTalk Server. Therefore, we only show the Policies and Vocabularies.

Additional features

We also brought some features to the BizTalk360 Business Rules Composer which do not exist in the original tool. Think of for example:

  • a Where function – this can be used to query database tables and retrieve the information
  • If, Else, Else If – these statements can be applied to the Actions part of the business rule, to be able to create more complex rules
  • Date Time Picker – to minimize errors while creating rules, we provide a date time picker for any function that involves picking a date/time
  • Download Test Result – besides testing of policies, you can also download XML files, which are modified as result of testing these policies

Conclusion

All in all, the BizTalk360 counterpart of the Business Rules Composer provides similar features as the one from BizTalk Server, while providing easier access, usage and security. By bringing few additional features, we make the feature even more powerful.

Do you want to know more about the Business Rules Composer in BizTalk360? You can read more on our documentation portal:

https://docs.biztalk360.com/docs/web-based-bre-composer-in-biztalk360

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Author: Lex Hegt

Lex Hegt works in the IT sector for more than 25 years, mainly in roles as developer and administrator. He works with BizTalk since BizTalk Server 2004. Currently he is a Technical Lead at BizTalk360.

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