Ab Initio applications are represented as “dataflow graphs,” or “graphs” for short. These applications consist of components that process data and flows that move data from one component to the next:
Data flows from the input components, through all the processing components, and finally to the output components. This is so basic that most software professionals design applications in this manner on paper, on whiteboards, or in drawing programs (such as Visio). The difference with Ab Initio is that these are not just pretty pictures – they are full-fledged applications that can implement the most complex business processes.
These dataflow applications can connect to practically any type and source of data, legacy or modern, structured or semi-structured, real-time or web services or batch. The components can come from Ab Initio, from end-user programs (usually with no changes), or from 3rd party products.
The Ab Initio technology for designing, implementing, and testing applications is the Graphical Development Environment (GDE). The GDE is tightly coupled with the processing engine, the Co>Operating System.
Rules are the heart of applications. Because they embody the details of the business, it is critical that business users be able to at least understand their implementation. Even better is when the business users are able to specify and test the rules. This is accomplished with Ab Initio’s Business Rules Environment (BRE).
The substrate for rules is simple: They are specified in the form of spreadsheets, something that all business users are intimately familiar with. Below is an example of a rule in a loyalty card application for deciding what reward level to allocate to each customer:
The Ab Initio Business Rules Environment goes far beyond graphical specification of business rules. Go here to learn more.
Large applications consist of many graphs, and managing the orchestration of these graphs is also done graphically. Such an orchestration is called a “plan,” and the elements of a plan are “tasks.” Tasks correspond either to Ab Initio graphs or to other non-Ab Initio programs or shell scripts. Depending on how they are connected, tasks can make decisions as to which other tasks will be executed in what sequence. Thus, plans are very much like flowcharts, though they also contain information about execution constraints and resource management.
Plans are controlled by Ab Initio’s Conduct>It technology. Conduct>It also provides operational monitoring and scheduling capabilities. For details, see here.