What is Business Logic?

In the world of business-oriented software, we use the phrase ‘business logic’ a lot. In my particular area (WebSphere integration products), a typical pattern is to delegate ‘technical logic’ to mediation flows in WebSphere ESB, and to put ‘business logic’ in process flows in WebSphere Process Server. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s what many people encourage, as it seems to neatly match what the software can provide.

But what do we mean by the phrase ‘business logic’? Ultimately both business logic and technical logic come down to the same thing; instructions executed by the machine. I can implement both in mediation flows, Java, Perl, assembler, or shell scripts. So why the distinction? It really depends on one’s perception.

For example, let’s imagine we are developing an integration system for a peanut factory, and we are developing a system to handle the orders. A typical way we might encourage someone to use WebSphere ESB is at the boundary, to convert between the protocol used by the web-based bulk order system (say SOAP/HTTP) to the one used by the back-end production system (say JMS). The distinction between these isn’t important to the business; it doesn’t matter what format the message is in; it just has to be in a certain format because we need some integration and don’t want to change everything.

By comparison, we might encourage someone to use a business flow to model (say) the approval of orders of peanuts. The process might follow a number of steps, some of which might involve human intervention, to modify the order (message) accordingly - i.e. adding ‘approved’ or ‘denied’. This would be based on the size of the order, that customer’s past history, whether they were salted or (urgh) dry roasted - all things that are at the business level - things that we find interesting (assuming we like peanuts).

Therefore, let’s characterise the difference as follows:

Therefore, these two types of logic are at different abstraction layers - the technical layer we’d love to make as simple as possible and hide away (and I’d like to think WebSphere ESB does a good job of helping IBM’s customers do that), whereas the business layer we find interesting and want to spend some time on. I mentioned something similar before as a best practice - I could rephrase that best practice here as: ‘Spend as much time as possible on the business logic, and as little time as possible on the technical logic’. It seems sensible, then, that to keep them separate (and there are plenty of patterns for doing just that) is a natural thing to want to do.

I’d love to hear some comments from my consultant colleagues on this: do you think this distinction is important? Does it impact the way you work day-to-day?

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[...] Andrew Ferrier draws up an interesting distinction between business and, what he calls, technical logic. [...]