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Chapter 1. What is Red Hat Business Optimizer

Red Hat Business Optimizer is a lightweight, embeddable planning engine that optimizes planning problems. It helps normal Java programmers solve planning problems efficiently, and it combines optimization heuristics and metaheuristics with very efficient score calculations.

For example, Red Hat Business Optimizer helps solve various use cases:

  • Employee/Patient Rosters: It helps create timetables for nurses and keeps track of patient bed management.
  • Educational Timetables: It helps schedule lessons, courses, exams, and conference presentations.
  • Shop Schedules: It tracks car assembly lines, machine queue planning, and workforce task planning.
  • Cutting Stock: It minimizes waste by reducing the consumption of resources such as paper and steel.

Every organization faces planning problems; that is, they provide products and services with a limited set of constrained resources (employees, assets, time, and money).

Red Hat Business Optimizer is open source software under the Apache Software License 2.0. It is 100% pure Java and runs on most Java virtual machines.

1.1. A planning problem is NP-complete or NP-hard

The provided use cases are probably NP-complete or NP-hard, which means the following statements apply:

  • It is easy to verify a given solution to a problem in reasonable time.
  • There is no simple way to find the optimal solution of a problem in reasonable time.

The implication is that solving your problem is probably harder than you anticipated, because the two common techniques will not suffice:

  • A brute force algorithm (even a more advanced variant) will take too long.
  • A quick algorithm, for example in the bin packing problem, putting in the largest items first will return a solution that is far from optimal.

By using advanced optimization algorithms, the Business Optimizer does find a good solution in reasonable time for such planning problems.