As Event Processing Hits Main Street, Vendors Rev CEP Engines

CEP upgrades focus on business users. Experts foresee big opportunities for real-time analysis.
The complex event processing (CEP) market totaled only $85 million in 2007, but a steep growth curve is expected to lift it to $800 million by 2012, according to IDC. Only a few short years ago, CEP was the exclusive domain of Wall Street titans and intelligence agencies, but the technology is now being applied in customer service, transportation, telecom and other, more mainstream applications. Expecting big opportunities, vendors are upgrading and expanding their portfolios while experts are predicting groundbreaking uses that will change much more than IT.

CEP technology is used to spot patterns in complex, high-volume data while it's streaming through business systems rather than after it's stored and a matter of history. Speaking at last week's Gartner Event Processing Summit, industry visionary Dr. David Luckham predicted "within three years, CEP will be a key information technology, and we'll see applications in many different markets along with open-source development." Author of the 2002 book "The Power of Events," Luckham further predicted that within 10 years, we'll see "holistic" event processing, which he describes as unifying multiple CEP applications and event-processing networks. Implementations such as modern air traffic control systems, drive-by-wire cars, and automated surveillance are being studied.

A few holistic event processing applications already exist, says Luckham. The US Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has created the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, which aggregates event streams from dozens of earth monitoring systems to map and track worldwide hurricanes, earthquakes, ocean tides, wildfires, weather, hydrology other conditions with ten-minute to two-hour latency. The goals of the system are to study changes and predict and avert disasters related to climate, ocean health and conservation, disease, energy resources, water resources, agriculture, ecology and biodiversity.

As for more immediate, commercial applications, TIBCO on September 22 released BusinessEvents 3.0, a CEP engine update with business-user-friendly touches including a new rules engine interface and a new SQL-like query approach that will make it easier to make sense of patterns in fast-moving data.

"So many of the latest solutions are very business focused and encapsulate a lot of business logic, so we added a business-user interface that supports the creation and maintenance of business rules," says Rourke McNamara, TIBCO’s director of product marketing. "It's an Excel-like GUI that will enable customer service reps and other non-technical users to maintain and change rules to adapt to changing business conditions."

The new SQL-like query capacity will make it easier to develop dashboards and interfaces without specialized coding, McNamara says. He adds that architectural improvements in BusinessEvents 3.0 have doubled the product's performance, which should support growing CEP projects.

"As companies event-enable larger chunks of their businesses, the total volume of events will increase," McNamara explains. "We can now deal with roughly 100 times the number of events per second with lower latency, so we won't have to ask customers to be selective about what they put online."

IBM held an event in Boston earlier this month to highlight event processing and show off its growing portfolio of related products. Highlights included the 6.2 release of WebSphere Business Events, a product added early this year through the acquisition of AptSoft. The upgrade features business-user-oriented interfaces designed to make it easier to construct applications, create event flows and set alerts. WebSphere Business Events eXtreme Scale V6.2 is a separate product geared to extreme transaction processing (XTP) environments. IBM also updated its WebSphere Business Monitor business activity monitoring software and Tivoli IT-event-monitoring capabilities.

At Gartner's recent Event Processing Summit, IBM, TIBCO, Oracle and Sybase exhibited alongside CEP specialists including Aleri, Coral8, Progress Apama and Streambase Systems.