Using a Rules Engine to Manage Integration Behind the Scenes

Loraine Lawson

Information Management recently identified five stand-out companies for its 2011 Innovative Solutions Awards. Pegasystems was recognized in the category of BPM. Russell Keziere, Pegasystems' senior director of corporate marketing, explains how customers use Pegasystems to manage business rules and integration behind the scenes, whether you're dealing with airplanes or insurance.


"Pega's approach is to take the rules that govern when and where to get data and how to get data and it creates an abstraction of the data sources so that the rules engine can mediate between one data source and another. We've created a monitoring system that can anticipate and predict slowdowns and access to data."

Russell Keziere
Senior Director, Corporate Marketing

Lawson: I understand Pegasystems was a crucial part of the Farmers Insurance Hero project. Can you talk about how your system played into that project?

Keziere: The biggest problem I have with Pegasystems is we have all these Fortune 500 companies using the software, but because business people take our software and specialize it for their needs, they never call it Pega. It always becomes something that they've branded themselves. At least when they buy Oracle, they know they're using Oracle. Our software is customer-centric, so customers take the software and make it their own. We like it that way but we do kind of feel like we're a Mercedes Benz with the hood ornament snapped off with a body that morphs to reflect the personality of each individual driver. It's a problem for brand marketing.


As our founder and CEO Alan Trefler said, it took 26 years of complete-from-scratch rewrites to finally get it right. When we came out with our fourth-generation software, we knew we were onto something. The genius of this software was a vision Allen had after being berated by one of his customers - it was Citibank at the time. He had this vision that business software is never going to keep up with the business. We need to make a software environment that the business can own and change in real time. Once he got it right, the company hit that $100 million plateau, began to grow and it compounded at about 30 percent a year. It's had strong growth right through the worst of the financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009; we've reported to Wall Street that we will see the half a billion dollars next - despite investments in Websphere and Netweaver and Infusion.


Lawson: Do you consider yourself BPM then?

Keziere: Yes, but we're also CRM for customer service and for marketing and for sales.


There are a lot of parallels to BPM but to a certain extent. No one goes to BPM to build all their applications for the enterprise. While we do everything that BPM does, people are using us to do other things as well, and that is to create this dynamic business application layer that is meeting a need for enterprises like Farmers. So really what folks do is they use us to rapidly develop business applications then iterate and improve them, and empower the business people and the people on the front lines of the business to suggest ways to improve the software and the solution for the customers.


We're a global company now, 2,000 employees. We recognize that we've got a lot of competitive challenges because there are these big giants around us. But when people who have a choice between upgrading their SAP or getting an application from Oracle, and they tend to use us instead, we think that the market is telling us that we're onto something that could change the way software's being developed in these enterprises.


Lawson: To what extent does your technology handle or intersect with integration?

Keziere: Every single one of our customers uses Pega to integrate into multiple different systems, but the difference between our approach to integration and an enterprise application integration approach is that we use our artificial intelligent rules engine to manage the integration problem. I'll give you a couple of examples of how we do that.


One of the big problems in the service-oriented architecture world is maintaining the health of a composite application that is feeding data to and from multiple data sources. Frequently, because you are depending upon being able to put data into and take data out of these sources, things can go wrong on the backend or things can change and that can affect the health of the composite application that you're trying to introduce. Pega's approach is to take the rules that govern when and where to get data and how to get data and it creates an abstraction of the data sources so that the rules engine can mediate between one data source and another. We've created a monitoring system that can anticipate and predict slowdowns and access to data. It can help diagnose potential incoming depredations in the system or problems and even pinpoint the exact data source and help you diagnose the fact that someone came in there and messed with procedures on the Oracle database that you're relying on. But we do so in the way that protects the health of the ongoing composite application.


So using rules-driven integration is a unique approach because you have specific problems such as semantic mapping of data. With a rules engine, you're able to maintain with persistence a REST-ful (to use a technology term) for these complex business objects. That's a lot of techno-babble, but what it means is you've got a job to do that goes across multiple different silos and multiple different data services and Pega needs to get that job done regardless if someone has monkeyed with a SQL statement or some BPM/DBA guy has decided this field should be called "X" versus "Y." When you deal with mergers and acquisitions, you have two or three organizations coming together and you're providing a bridge that can help them come together. You really want a smart, process-centric approach to data integration to manage that. That's one great thing that we do.


The other thing that we do is work with Big Data. If you look at our predictive analytics engine, we can look at massive amounts of data that come from outside your traditional database sources. Those can come from sales data, syndicated market research, customer segmentation data or even physical plant asset management event data.


One example is a customer that does medical devices. It monitors literally hundreds of thousands of events on a daily basis from medical monitoring equipment and it senses response patterns and issues alerts. It uses Pega to communicate back to a person.


The British Airport Authority monitors all the different variables in landing a plane and launching a plane out of UK airspace. They use us to correlate those events and respond to the data in much the same way that we analyze the health of a composite application with processing multiple silos and databases, but in this case you're dealing with weather, you're dealing with events that could come up like a volcano in Iceland or a hijacking or merely a pilot who missed his train and won't be there for the 8 p.m. takeoff to Amsterdam at terminal 5. All of those events can have an impact on the experience of the traveler, so Pegasystems is there to correlate these events, analyze them, make a good recommendation to optimize and resolve the situation, sometimes before the managers even know that they have a problem - which is what you want technology to do. Self-heal, identify, predict and anticipate, with predictive analytics, whether you're talking about optimizing a sales process or optimizing what the next best action is for an engagement with your customer.

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May 16, 2012 4:08 AM Kevin Yeaman Kevin Yeaman  says:

Regardless of whether you are into sales or marketing, I think a proper data and rules engine to manage all the information is essential to a successful company. It allows your staff to get the information they need quickly and efficiently and reduce the downtime and hence produce happier clients.


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