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What Not How: The Business Rules Approach to Application Development

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What Not How: The Business Rules Approach to Application Development


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  • Copyright 2000
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9"
  • Pages: 144
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-70850-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-70850-9

"What I think Date has done is nothing less than to lay out the foundational concepts for the next generation of business logic servers based on predicate logic. Such a breakthrough should revolutionize application development in our industry--and take business rules to their fullest expression."
--Ronald G. Ross, Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC
Executive Editor, DataToKnowledge Newsletter

The way we build computer applications is about to change dramatically, thanks to a new development technology known as business rules. The key idea behind the technology is that we can build applications declaratively instead of procedurally--that is, we can simply state WHAT needs to be done instead of HOW to do what needs to be done. The advantages are obvious: ease and rapidity of initial development and subsequent maintenance, hardware and software platform independence, overall productivity, business adaptivity, and more.

What Not How: The Business Rules Approach to Application Development is a concise and accessible introduction to this new technology. It is written for both managers and technical professionals. The book consists of two parts: Part I presents a broad overview of what business rules are all about; Part II then revisits the ideas in Part I and shows how they fit squarely into the solid tradition of relational technology. Topics covered include:

  • Presentation rules
  • Database and application rules
  • Building on the data model
  • Potential advantages and disadvantages
  • A new look at relational fundamentals
  • Business rules and the relational model

Overall, the book provides a good grounding in an important new technology, one poised to transform the way we do business in the IT world.


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Table of Contents



 1. What's the Problem?
 2. Business Rules Are the Solution!
 3. Presentation Rules.
 4. Database and Application Rules.
 5. The Data Model.
 6. Potential Advantages.
 7. Potential Disadvantages.
 8. Summary of Part I.


 9. Some Technical Preliminaries.
10. Views, Base Tables, and Stored Tables.
11. Integrity Constraints.
12. A Closer Look at Relational Databases.
13. What Relations Mean.
14. Business Rules and the Relational Model.
15. Summary of Part II.
References and Bibliography.
Index. 0201708507T04062001


An exciting new technology called business rules is beginning to have a major positive impact on the IT industry--more precisely, on the way we develop and maintain computer applications. The aim of this book is to explain what this new technology is all about, and why you should care.

I must make it very clear right away that the book is not impartial. I'm very enthusiastic about business rules!--and I hope you will be too, when you've finished reading. In other words, this is definitely a book with an attitude: It explicitly champions the business rules idea, and it describes and explains what in my opinion are the merits and benefits of that idea. Why am I so enthusiastic? For two reasons: because of what the technology can do, and because it is so squarely in the spirit of "the original relational vision." And the book's structure reflects these two points. To be more specific, Part I is an overview of what business rule technology consists of and what it makes possible, and Part II then takes another look at the ideas presented in Part I and considers them from an explicitly relational point of view.

I should also make it clear that the book grew out of the script for a live presentation. As a consequence, the style is a good deal chattier than my usual writing, and the tone is possibly a little shrill on occasion . . . In the interests of full disclosure, I must also explain that the presentation and the book were both produced under an agreement with Versata Inc. (formerly known as Vision Software Tools Inc.), a company that has a business rules product to sell. However, the book is not about Versata specifically, nor is it about any other specific company or product; rather, it's about business rule technology in general. What's more, "the views expressed are my own"; they're not necessarily endorsed by Versata, nor by any other vendor. Equally, I don't mean to suggest that all of the features we're going to be examining can be found in all of the commercially available products (or in some cases, perhaps, in any of them!). The book describes how business rule systems work in general and in principle; it doesn't necessarily correspond exactly to the way any given product works in practice.

Who should read this book: Part I of the book is meant to introduce business rule technology to the widest possible audience. It's deliberately not very technical; in fact, it's intended primarily as a "manager's guide" to the subject, though I do believe that technologists, especially people concerned with developing databases and applications in the traditional way, should benefit from it as well. All you need in order to understand Part I is a basic knowledge of what databases and applications are all about, together with a broad idea of what's involved in the traditional approach to developing such databases and applications.

Part II of the book is a little more technical in nature, but not very much so; the primary target audience is still basically as for Part I, and in any case most of the technical background required to understand the overall message is explained in the text itself.

How to read the book: Part I is meant to be read in sequence as written and in its entirety; skipping chapters or reading them in a different order is not recommended, at least not on a first reading. Part II can be skipped if you like, but if you do read it then I would strongly suggest, again, that you read it in sequence and in its entirety, at least on a first reading. Of course, the book is quite short, and you could probably read the whole thing in a single sitting if you felt like it.

C. J. Date
Healdsburg, California



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