Progress Software Rounds Out its RPM Offering with Corticon Buy

Progress Software (NASDAQ: PRGS), a software solutions and platforms provider that enables enterprises to be operationally responsive, is ending 2011 on quite a positive note. Not long after its partner and user conference Progress Revolution 2011 this fall (see TEC’s exhaustive report on the multiday event), the company first picked its new CEO in Autodesk’s former top executive Jay Bhatt in late November (well thought-out succession planning, as the company’s outgoing CEO Rick Reidy announced that he would be stepping down several months ago).

Then, in early December 2011, Progress acquired privately held Corticon Technologies, an innovative business rules management system (BRMS) provider. The company’s official press release can be found here.

Why Corticon?

Corticon BRMS services and related products are used by many of the world's largest financial services, insurance, and e-commerce companies, as well as federal and state government organizations, collectively automating millions of decisions per day to improve productivity and customer service. Corticon’s model-driven (“no code required”) approach also makes rules accessible to business domain experts (end users) who can maintain them directly, making rules easier to adapt to changing market conditions. Mark Allen, Corticon’s founder, provides many details on the product in his recent blog post.

Corticon's patented "no-coding" rules engine is used by over 450 customers to automate their most sophisticated decision processes, significantly reducing development and change cycles. The engine will be integrated into the Progress RPM (Responsive Process Management) suite, which combines Business Process Management (BPM) from Savvion, Complex Event Processing (CEP) from Apama, Business Transaction Assurance (BTA) from Actional, and Business Analytics through the Progress Control Tower (PCT) product. The Progress Corticon BRMS offering will enhance automated business decision making for all enterprises.

Too Many Rule Engines under One Roof?

At first glance I was a bit puzzled, in light of the fact that both Savvion and Apama had accompanying rule engines. Savvion has rules capabilities based on the open source Drools BRMS and is not as feature-rich as Corticon. For their part, Apama’s rules are all event-centric and not data-centric (via decision tables/matrices, etc.), unlike Corticon or Savvion BRMS. Corticon will thus provide much richer data-based business rules and eliminate the reliance on the open-source Drools engine. On the other hand, Corticon BRMS was not as robust in event-based rules as Apama, and could not do real-time event series pattern matching. Thus, I think that overall this is quite a complementary acquisition for both Progress and Corticon, some inevitable overlap, rationalization, and legacy customer support issues notwithstanding

With Corticon, Progress is joining the BRMS top echelon of IBM ILOG, Pegasystems, and Fair Isaac. The intent for Progress RPM’s business users is to be able to handle business problems on the fly without IT staff help, such as emergency transportation routes for an airline or travel agent, re-sequencing and redirecting the shipment, billing and services issues for a telecom firm, and changes in the financial markets for a bank. It will be interesting to watch whether this nifty rules engine will enable Progress to produce supply chain management (SCM) industry frameworks and challenge supply chain process platform (SCPP) offerings from Manhattan Associates and IBM Sterling Order Management.

For more views on the acquisition, see the MWD Advisors blog post by Neil Ward-Dutton. Dear readers, what are your thoughts in this regard, and your experiences with the responsive process management solutions such as Progress RPM and Corticon? Your comments, opinions, suggestions, or individual experiences with BPM and BRMS products from Progress and Corticon are more than welcome.
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