Rules Engine Design Pattern: A Comprehensive Guide

Know the power of the Rules Engine Design Pattern, simplifying decision logic and advancing workflow automation for intelligent systems.

Mukul Bhati

12
 min read
Rules Engine Design Pattern: A Comprehensive Guide
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12
 min read
Table of Contents

Rules Engine Design Pattern represents a detailed rule-based step in how we approach business logic. Instead of embedding complex decision-making logic directly within code, this pattern emphasizes an externalized rules engine.

In this blog, let us learn what Rules Engine Design Patterns, their design, UI and architecture. Now, let's quickly dive into the blog to know the unknown!

What is the Rules Engine Design Pattern?

The Rules Engine Design Pattern is considered a software design approach that dynamically changes how business logic is handled in software applications.

It depicts external decision rules and separates them from internal application rules. This extraction of rules from the codebase results in a modular and flexible structure, allowing developers to view and modify business rules independently of the underlying application logic.

By adopting the Rules Engine Design Pattern, you can streamline the development process, making it more agile and responsive to changing business requirements. The external nature of rules enables collaboration between domain experts and developers. 

Practical Examples of Rules Engine Design Patterns

Here are a few practical examples of rules engine design patterns. 

  • Email Client: To illustrate, consider your email client a practical application of the Rules Engine Pattern. When you configure automatic email handling, like sorting messages
  • based on subjects or senders into specific folders, you're likely leveraging a rules engine.

This functionality streamlines processes by automating decision logic, exemplifying the adaptability and power inherent in the Rules Engine Pattern.

  • Online Shopping: Imagine shopping through an online store with a complex web of discounts – 25% off for specific categories, individual item markdowns, and free shipping offers, if your order hits a certain value. 

Each discount scenario is essentially a distinct rule, and this is where the rules engine takes the spotlight. Whether it's discounting prices on categories, marking down items, or granting free shipping, the rules engine skillfully manages these rules, prioritizing them based on set criteria and effortlessly managing cart totals.

Rules Engine Architecture

The architecture of the Rules Engine Design Pattern optimizes the orchestration of rules and ensures adaptability and efficient execution. 

Nected has a simple architecture where you can reduce dependencies in the technology, and even ensure non-tech teams can experiment, build and iterate. This design pattern for the rules engine contains three key components: the Rules Engine, a Collection of Rules, and an Input for rule application. 

1. Rules Engine

At the heart of the Rules Engine Pattern, this component is responsible for processing and executing a set of rules. Rule Engine is also responsible for making decisions and ensuring that the specified conditions are met and actions are taken accordingly. The rules engine enhances modularity and maintainability and allows efficient rule management independent of the application logic.

2. Collection of Rules

This component represents the container of predefined rules that control the behavior of the system. Each rule contains a specific condition that triggers an action when the conditions are satisfied. Rules can range from simple conditional statements to complex algorithms. 

For instance, rule policy in the Nected platform provides a flexible framework for defining the logic behind various behaviors of the system. The separation of rules from the application code enables dynamic rule modification without extensive code changes. 

3. Input for Rule Application

An integral part of the Rules Engine Pattern, this component represents the data or scenario to which the rules are applied. The rules engine processes this input, evaluating the conditions specified in the rules, and generating a result or triggering relevant actions. 

Execution Workflow:

Upon receiving input, the rules engine traverses the collection of rules, evaluating conditions and triggering actions based on the rule outcomes. This process ensures a dynamic response to changing inputs, enabling the system to seamlessly adjust its behavior. 

Let us see the workflow in a stepwise manner. 

1. Input Reception: The process begins when the Rules Engine receives an input, which could be data, events, or any other form of information that requires decision-making.

2. Rule Evaluation Initialization: The Rules Engine initiates the rule evaluation process. It starts by accessing the collection of Rules, which contains a set of predefined rules that define conditions and corresponding actions.

3. Condition Evaluation: For each rule in the collection, the engine evaluates the specified conditions. Conditions are logical expressions that compare the input data with predefined criteria.

4. Rule Matching: It identifies the rules with conditions that match the current input. The matched rules form the basis for determining the actions to be taken.

5. Action Triggering: Once rules are identified based on matching conditions, the associated actions are triggered. Actions could include calculations, updates to data, or any predefined operation specified by the rule.

6. Dynamic System Adjustment: The executed actions dynamically adjust the system's behavior based on the input and the rule outcomes. 

7. Iterative Process: As new inputs arrive, the Rules Engine iteratively evaluates conditions, triggers actions, and adapts the system behavior dynamically.

8. Feedback Loop: Many implementations incorporate a feedback loop, where the outcomes of rule executions might influence subsequent inputs or trigger additional actions. This creates a continuous loop of dynamic decision-making.

Integration with Applications:

The integration process involves identifying integration points, configuring the Rules Engine, defining rules, developing interfaces, optional middleware use, thorough testing, deployment, continuous monitoring, rule updates, adaptation to existing systems, and scalability considerations.

With Nected you can easily start using the rule management system within just four steps. Firstly, you need to connect and integrate your database, secondly create and publish the rule by setting the dynamic input. Thirdly, apply action with rule results and finally call the rule via API. 

Let us see how the rules engine design pattern is integrated into real-world applications in a step-by-step manner -

1. Identification of Integration Points: The integration process begins by identifying specific points within the application where decision logic plays a critical role. These points could include areas where dynamic decision-making based on rules is essential.

2. Configuration of Rules Engine: The Rules Engine, being a modular component, is configured to suit the application's needs. 

3. Rules Definition: Developers define business rules within the Collection of Rules. Each rule encapsulates conditions and actions, and this collection serves as a repository for the logic that the Rules Engine will process.

4. Interface Development: Interfaces are developed to facilitate communication between the application and the Rules Engine. This involves establishing clear communication protocols and data exchange formats to ensure seamless integration.

5. Integration Testing: Rigorous testing is conducted to ensure that the Rules Engine integrates effectively with the application. This includes validating rule execution, data exchange, and the overall impact on the application's behavior.

6. Deployment and Monitoring: The Rules Engine is deployed within the application environment once the integration is validated. Continuous monitoring ensures that the integration functions as intended and adapts dynamically to changing inputs.

7. Rule Updates and Maintenance: As business rules evolve, you can update the rules within the Rules Engine without modifying the application code extensively. This flexibility allows for agile adaptation to changing business requirements.

8. Adaptation to Existing Systems: The externalized nature of the Rules Engine allows for easy adaptation to existing systems. You can introduce the Rules Engine without disrupting the application's core functionality, making it a valuable augmentation.

9. Scalability Considerations: The modular design pattern for Rules Engine architecture ensures scalability. As the application evolves, additional rules can be incorporated into the Rules Engine to address new decision-making requirements.

Rules Engine Design

First, define a specific use case in your application, where you need to be dynamic in handling decision-making. Choose a clear representation for rules, such as if-then statements or decision tables, and try to design a mechanism to test conditions within rules. 

Make sure to develop an action execution framework that can perform operations based on the outcomes of the rules. This ensures the simplicity of the design in a basic scenario.  As the first step, document the rules and the entire design to facilitate testing, validation and maintenance. This basic approach serves as the best starting point. 

Nected offers simple if-else statements, decision tables and rule sets. These features will help in designing multiple rules rapidly just like designing an Excel table. 

Design Considerations in Rules Engine Design

When designing a rule through Nected you get a self-explanatory interface. However, there are some considerations to take in mind while designing the rules. Now let us see the various considerations that you should care about when designing a rules engine design pattern. 

  • Modularity and Extensibility: To enable both flexibility and extensibility, divide the Rules Engine into modular components such as the rule execution engine, rule repository, and input handler. This modularity maintains future additions and maintenance when new or updated rules are added.
  • Rule Representation: Give your rules a logical, consistent format. Being concise and clear is essential whether utilizing declarative language, decision tables, or graphical representations for ease of understanding and rule maintenance.
  • Condition Evaluation Mechanism: The condition assessment mechanism can be used to create a methodical approach to evaluating events that fall inside the rules. Optimizing algorithms for comparing inputs to conditions and accounting for components like index structures or caching may be necessary to increase performance.
  • Action Execution Framework: Provide a solid framework for carrying out directives from rules. To ensure smooth integration with the program, this entails managing a variety of tasks, from straightforward computations to intricate procedures.
  • Rule Prioritisation and Conflict Resolution: Create a system for deciding which rules are most important and how to settle disputes when more than one rule applies. This makes sure that rules with greater priority always take precedence and that decision-making is consistent.

Rules Engine UI

A Rules Engine UI, or User Interface, refers to the graphical or interactive component of a Rules Engine system that allows users, typically developers or business analysts, to create, manage, and visualize the rules within the engine. Rule Engine UI is a platform for defining, editing, and organizing business rules in a more accessible manner than directly manipulating code and configuration files.

Nected offers an intuitive user interface and provides the following advantages: 

  • Integration via DB Connectors, Trigger Rules and Data connectivity
  • Contains simple if/else, decision tables, RuleSet and Rule Chain
  • Offers multiple output formats and custom JS code. 

Key features of a Rules Engine UI include:

  • Rule Creation and Editing: Rather than writing code by hand, you can define rules using a graphical interface. This frequently emphasizes utilizing a visual platform to explain circumstances and actions.
  • Organization of Rules: Managing and maintaining a large number of rules inside the system is made easier by the user interface's ability to categorize and arrange the rules.
  • Rule Flow Visualization: Rules Engine Visual representations of the interaction between rules and the decision-making process are provided by UI design. Understanding the reasoning and interdependencies between the rules can be easier with this visual help.
  • Testing and Simulation: Before deploying rules to the live system, users can verify the anticipated results by testing or simulating rule execution within the user interface.
  • Version Control: Version control features enable users to collaborate as a team to create rules, roll back to previous versions, and maintain track of changes made to engine user interfaces (UIs).
  • Integration with Source Control:  Integration with source code repositories or version control systems ensures proper management of rule versions in a larger development environment and facilitates easy cooperation.
  • User Permissions and Access Control: The Rule Engine UI provides management of user roles like who can create, modify, or delete rules to maintain security.

Nected and Rule Management

Nected, embracing a low-code/no-code philosophy, revolutionizes rules management by providing a platform for teams to design and implement rules with minimal manual coding. Nected becomes a catalyst for witnessing the full potential of product, growth, and tech teams, drastically reducing time-to-market. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Rules Engine Design Pattern plays an important role in the software development life cycle. You can create adaptive and user-friendly systems with its modular architecture, decision-making capabilities, and the impact of Rules Engine UI.

The collaborative nature of rule management organizes the development process. Your organization can ensure the application’s performance across multiple domains by integrating flexibility and consideration of scalability by rule engine design pattern.

FAQs

Q1. What is the Rules Engine design pattern?

It's a pattern separating business logic from code, enabling dynamic rule management for flexible and adaptable software.

2. How do I choose the right Rules Engine design?

Consider business rule complexity, integration, and real-time update needs to match your application's requirements and ease of maintenance.

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