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January 22, 2006

Fair Isaac scales rules management platform

Fair Isaac Corp has taken the lid off a new version of its Blaze Advisor business rules management platform that handles larger complex data sets.

By CBR Staff Writer

The key ingredient in Blaze Advisor 6.1 that bumps up scalability is the inclusion of the RETE III rules execution engine which Fair Isaac picked up from its acquisition of RulesPower Inc last September. At the time Fair Isaac officials made a public commitment to put the RETE algorithm into the next release of its Blaze Advisor product.

RETE III is optimized to execute complex, data intensive rules, meaning that users no longer have to sacrifice rules complexity with execution performance – something they users had to juggle with in the past. With the engine now RETE III now embedded into the core of Blaze Advisor 6.1 means these two requirements are no longer mutually exclusive.

James Taylor, vice president of product marketing at Fair Isaac said that the original RETE algorithm, while scalable in terms of adding new rules had a tendency to break down once the model got more complicated.

We asked ourselves how we could prevent that and determined it was an inferencing issue, he said.

Taylor said that RETE III’s powerful inferencing algorithms now provide the necessary muscle to handle to cope with highly complex and dynamic rules sets.

In the past people tended to turn inferencing off in order to squeeze more performance out of the rules system, he said. Not any more.

He said that recent benchmarks conducted by InfoWorld’s testing lab show that RETE III ups performance by an order of magnitude of hundreds of seconds.

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RETE is proprietary engine used exclusively with Fair Isaac’s products. Other new enhancements pumped into Blaze Advisor 6.1 include better rule maintenance, improved usability.

We’ve focused our UI improvements on enhancing how users manipulate rules using decision trees and letting them interact with graphical rules maintenance environments in better ways, Taylor said. For instance users can now cut-and-paste parts [conditional and action nodes] of decision trees and shift rows and columns around much easier than before.

An interesting new feature is conditional rendering which lets users assign different options to a rule maintenance application in the context of a system or data.

The system automatically displays the editing environment differently depending on user defaults like what language is running or data states, Taylor said.

Blaze Advisor 6.1 is freely available to customers holding a current maintenance license.

Fair Isaac said that upwards and downwards compatibility with older rules sets is assured since the upgraded 6.1 product shares the same repository structure as the 6.0 version.

To squeeze maximum performance you’ll probably have to make some minor tweaks. But rules sets can be moved back and forwards [between both versions] with no impact, Taylor said.

Taylor also outlined a roadmap for all three flavors of Blaze Advisor – Cobol, .NET and SmartForms.

The Cobol version promises to deliver a host of new functionality aimed at improving rules execution on mainframe systems, including an extended object model and language and support for multidimensional arrays.

Future upgrades to the .NET version will focus on tightening up integration through a new business object model adapter and XML and .NET business object management architecture (BOMA) models.

The SmartForms version will be retro-fitted with new intelligent web front-ends supporting object model driven web forms, dynamic questioning and support for AJAX.

Over past year Fair Isaac has increasingly repositioned itself around its enterprise decision management (EDM) applications, packaging up intellectual property gleaned from use of its development tools into packaged solutions.

Blaze Advisor now sits at the heart of most of Fair Isaac’s solutions now; including its Falcon fraud management and credit origination solutions. The next version of Fair Isaac’s Triad customer management systems will also be built on Blaze Advisor as well.

Rather than offering disparate tools and applications, we now a consistent platform for building [EDM] applications, Taylor said.

Its turned out to be a good ploy for the company – as products like Blaze Advisor continue be improved so too does the rest of Fair Isaac’s packaged applications.

Fair Isaac will formally unveil new 6.1 software at its annual Blaze Advisor user group meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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