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December 4, 2006

Business rules vendors respond to Vista and Office 2007

Business rules software rivals Ilog SA and Fair Isaac Corp are gearing their products up to take advantage of Microsoft Corp's new Vista operating system and Office 2007 desktop application suite, but in very different ways.

By CBR Staff Writer

Hot on the heels of Microsoft’s Vista launch, Paris, France-based Ilog has announced that its .NET business rules management platform has been selected among a handful of application vendors to showcase the new Office 2007 capabilities in Vista as part of a worldwide Office 2007 Business Value launch.

Ilog, which holds Microsoft Gold partner status, said it has provided business rules capabilities for Microsoft’s Office suite since 2004 to allow users to manage rules from familiar desktop applications like Word, Excel and share them with other users via SharePoint Services.

An upcoming of its Rules for .NET platform, which will be released next year, promises to tighten up integration with .NET environments and tap into new Office 2007 functionality including menu enhancements.

Ilog chief product officer Jean Francois Abramatic said users would benefit from a better user experience when editing rules in Word and Excel documents.

The new version of Visual Studio Tools for Office allows us to leverage the Office environment to enhance our BRMS offering, he said, [and] we expect further benefits for our customers in the Open XML format with better data exchange between our products and other enterprise software applications.

He said, for example, that a new Rules tab has been added for Office 2007’s new Ribbon menu structure to simplify access to rules-related content. The Ribbon dynamically reorders commands by when the order in which they are likely to be needed.

Users will also be able to take advantage of Office 2007’s new workflow tools for better document routing and will now be able to edit Ilog business rules directly inside Word documents.

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Meanwhile, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based rival Fair Isaac is preparing to release a new 6.5 version of its Blaze Advizor rules management system early next year that will support both Microsoft’s .NET framework and Vista natively.

According to James Taylor, vice president of enterprise decision management at Fair Isaac, the company plans to support Vista as an operating system for its development environments and to make it possible for deployed rule services from our .NET product to fully use .NET 2.0/3.0 environments.

But other than that have no plans, he said. As for support of Office 2007 we don’t use it or interact with it so have no particular plans to support it. We are a rules management system not a content management system.

Taylor acknowledged that that the company’s support for Office 2007 won’t be as strong in appearance as Ilog’s, because we have a ‘real’ repository and authoring environment and so don’t use Office 2007 the way Ilog does.

Taylor said he was baffled by Ilog’s document metaphor as an ideal tool to writing production-ready rules. They would not write code in Word or Excel so why use it to write rules? he said.

Business rules vendors have bolted their tools onto Office as a way to allow non-technical business users to participate and collaborate in rules development and management.

Microsoft recently launched Vista, its first new operating system for five years. Vista includes a revamped version of its Office desktop productivity suite and new back-end server software. Business customers are being given the first bite at Vista, while consumers will have to wait until the end of January to install it on their PCs.

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