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1/5/2009
05:20 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Complex Event Processing as a Marketing Device

"For software vendors, CEP is a marketing device and nothing else. Notice that no two people will agree on what complex-event processing is, but everyone claims to be more CEP than the next guy. The only two consistent attributes across all 'CEP' products are (1) they are in some way used for soft real-time processing and (2) they are general purpose, rather than coming pre-customized for a very specific purpose..."

I thought I'd share a CEP-Interest list message on Complex Event Processing (CEP) as a marketing device with Intelligent Enterprise readers. Posted by a long-time member of the event-processing community, Hans Gilde, it's an objective, refreshing market positioning/messaging analysis. I don't completely agree with Hans of course, but I do think his views are insightful. They echo points I wrote about back in 2007, and some are points I puzzled out in writing a sponsored CEP-BI white paper for Coral8. With Hans's permission, the rest of the words in this article are his:

For software vendors, CEP is a marketing device and nothing else. Notice that no two people will agree on what CEP is, but everyone claims to be more CEP than the next guy. It's like asking to define "cool." The only two consistent attributes across all "CEP" products are (1) they are in some way used for soft real-time processing and (2) they are general purpose, rather than coming pre-customized for a very specific purpose.

So the question of the CEP marketplace has two parts: The marketplace for the brand (really a "brand attribute" or whatever) that is the acronym CEP and the marketplace for products with the above two attributes.The market for the brand CEP was always destined to be disappointing. How many of these buzzword techno-brands have ever worked out well? They are the things that go through hype cycles, are discussed by analysts and are often believed to be very "strategic." And we all know that 80% of that stuff is either total BS or exaggerated for career promotion. From a finance perspective, we are also very aware of how to exploit and then abandon the fad built around such a buzzword. The capital market has gone through an upswing in capital for fad CEP, and now will experience a the abandonment phase. Which will be compounded by the overall capital market problems (duh).

So the question remains: what is the market for applications that help with general real-time processing? I'm confident of two things:

First, over the next couple of years this market can support maybe three big vendors, one small vendor and maybe a profitable but small operation founded around a fundamentally OSS offering. This leaves about 20 small vendors and one or two big ones out of luck. And considering the fragmentation, I think it's unlikely for a vendor that is now still small to become big. All that's left is the knife fight among the small vendors for that one surviving spot and the slow attrition that will cause one or two big players to abandon their product line.

Second, there is a fundamental but modest need for this kind of thing. Some businesses will get great cost savings from software that handles a good chunk of the infrastructure for real-time processing. Once a player (or two) can establish both a flexible and generic product and a viable volume licensing model, they will be able to show ROI from consolidating development around a real-time logic infrastructure. They will probably see a good upswing in revenue followed by years and years of haggling over the licensing cost. Hence the medium-term survival of a few players in this market.

Also, I will disagree that this problem is very simple in any language. If you get together any 5 programmers to discuss this problem, they will come up with at least 2 or 3 different solutions to discuss. So I'm not worried by a couple of different approaches coming from a forum question.

And the fact that people can't agree on the "real CEP" approach also doesn't worry me, because there never was a "real CEP" approach, just a of "CEP brand" approaches.

"For software vendors, CEP is a marketing device and nothing else. Notice that no two people will agree on what complex-event processing is, but everyone claims to be more CEP than the next guy. The only two consistent attributes across all 'CEP' products are (1) they are in some way used for soft real-time processing and (2) they are general purpose, rather than coming pre-customized for a very specific purpose..."

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