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Q&A: Gartner's Roy Schulte on Choosing BI, BAM or CEP

Event processing looks like the next big thing in IT, but Gartner analyst Roy Schulte says it comes in three varieties: low-latency BI dashboards, lower-latency Business Activity Monitoring (BAM), and ultra-low-latency complex event processing. Here's how to spot candidate apps, pick the right technology, and start with the right architecture.

Roy Schulte, Gartner Roy Schulte

You offered a keynote on event processing (EP) at a recent Gartner BPM Summit. How does the technology show up in business process management?

It's fairly common to see EP used to monitor business processes. That's one of the big reasons people use BPM in the first place — to give end users visibility into what's happening in those processes. BAM monitors are something that end users can see, and they're attractive to them because they're easy to use and understand.

In most cases BAM vendors have developed their own EP engines that operate behind the scenes to correlate multiple incoming events. If you're going to put up a dashboard and turn the lights red, yellow or green, or show a gauge or a bar chart, you almost have to be using EP under the covers because you're trying to spot changes in seconds or even milliseconds.

Many BI vendors offer dashboards with the kinds of displays you describe, but I take it they're not in the same latency league as BAM products?

The BI vendors are certainly moving toward BAM. If you put up a BI dashboard and you're refreshing it, say, every ten minutes, which you can do with any BI dashboard, then you are doing BAM with traditional BI tools. BAM is really a style of deployment rather than a distinct technology type, so I would say BAM can be done with traditional BI tools.

When it comes to low-latency BAM, where you're trying to refresh the dashboard every few seconds, traditional BI tools aren't fast enough. That's when you need BAM products that are purpose-built to run fast.

Can you name some leading low-latency BAM products?

There's Oracle BAM and Sun has the SeeBeyond eBAM product. IBM has several BAM products, one of which is Cognos Now, which Cognos acquired from Celequest... Information Builder's iWay [integration unit] is getting there, too...

What about the ultimate in event processing, namely the kind of complex-event-processing (CEP) technologies used on Wall Street and in the intelligence community? Can you describe the latency demands in that arena?

These products are processing 10,000 or more incoming events per second, applying rules, coming up with an analysis and taking action within about 20 milliseconds.

So when do you step up from BAM into CEP?

If you're doing something that involves a human being, you probably don't need CEP. People can't work that fast, so in those applications you may be able to use BI or BAM. When you're dealing with machine speeds, that's where CEP comes in.

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