Real-time business intelligence takes a step forward this week when startup Celequest Corp. debuts its business-activity monitoring software suite. Unlike traditional business intelligence, which is geared toward analyzing historical data, business-activity monitoring applications track and analyze operational data from manufacturing, financial, and retail systems.
Business-activity monitoring is in its early stages of evolution and is attracting more vendors than users, Gartner analyst Bill Gassman says. But Gartner predicts it will be a major IT initiative within many leading companies by next year. Business-activity monitoring applications are primarily used by operational managers for making day-to-day decisions, in contrast to traditional business intelligence, which is frequently used by business analysts and executives for strategic planning purposes.
Celequest monitors streaming data from operational systems on a continuous basis. The software can be used for revenue optimization, dynamic pricing, financial-portfolio monitoring, real-time marketing, inventory management, and quality-monitoring applications. Using business rules and metrics, the system can alert a manufacturing manager when production yields are down, for example, or a store manager that inventory is running low. The software can also spot trends and patterns by comparing the streaming data to historical data stored in a data warehouse. That can help a bank spot an unusually large deposit from a customer who might be a candidate for an investment offer, for example. Information from Celequest is made available to users through portals, E-mail, business-intelligence tools, applications using Web-services standards, and Microsoft Excel.
While more data warehouses today are receiving data in near real time, they are most suitable for analyzing snapshots of historical data, says Diaz Nesamoney, Celequest's founder, president, and CEO. Nesamoney, previously a co-founder and president of Informatica Corp., started Celequest in September with $6.5 million in venture funding.
Brocade Communications Systems Inc., which manufactures network storage devices, is using Celequest to build a prototype business-activity monitoring system to track production yields at its contract manufacturers. The plan is to compare collected production-yield data with benchmark historical data, says Jim Cates, CIO and information technology VP. Brocade has attempted to do the same using data loaded into a data warehouse, "but I never get as close to real time as I want," Cates says.
Celequest isn't the first entrant in the business-activity monitoring software arena. One early player, Praja Inc., was acquired by enterprise application integration software vendor Tibco Software Inc. in September. Tibco built Praja's technology into the latest release of its BusinessFactor application. In April, Informatica and webMethods Inc. debuted the jointly developed Business Activity Platform, combining webMethods' enterprise application integration software with Informatica's business-intelligence and real-time data-integration tools. Microsoft is adding business-activity monitoring capabilities to its Content, Commerce, and BizTalk servers, while Sybase Inc. is doing likewise with its integration broker product.
The Celequest Activity Server suite includes the core streaming datastore software for processing real-time data and a modeling engine for analysis and business-rule execution. The suite also provides an application workbench for building software for data transformation and viewing data streams, a scenario modeler for specifying business rules and alerting conditions, and an activity dashboard that provides users with information and alerts. The software is available now, starting at $100,000.