Real-Time Ambition: Reaching the Potential of Event Processing - InformationWeek

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Real-Time Ambition: Reaching the Potential of Event Processing

Complex event processing (CEP) software delivers on the promise of real-time insight, but is the technology too green for mainstream success? CEP was once available only to big financial institutions and government agencies that could afford custom development projects. That's no longer the case, as off-the-shelf products and implementations have proliferated. Intelligent Enterprise shares success stories and explores the potential of CEP as your next competitive edge.

CEP Spreads its Wings

Where CEP once was a custom project, it has been productized in recent years by vendors including Apama (acquired by Progress Software in 2004), Vhayu, StreamBase, Coral8, RiverGlass Inc. , TIBCO, Aleri, Syndera and SeeWhy.

The most recent entrant into the CEP market is BEA, which last month introduced the WebLogic Event Server. IT industry giants are also closely watching this technology. IBM, for one, hosted the First Symposium on Event Processing in March 2006 and it has partnered with Coral8, creating an integration to DB2 9 so XML-based CEP results can be stored in the database. Oracle hosted the Second Event Processing Symposium last November, and it has been blogging about its internal development efforts.

As CEP products and implementations have multiplied, the technology has spread from the pioneers in financial services, intelligence and telecommunications to manufacturers, casinos and retailers, to name just a few industries.

Event-Architecture and CEP

Shipper Con-Way Freight is embracing CEP as part of a years-long push into services-oriented and event-based architecture. To compete with the likes of FedEx and UPS, which have acquired their way into the less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping business, Con-Way knew it had to become a genuine real-time business, so it embarked on its SOA push way back in 1999. That effort laid the groundwork for an event-based architecture initiative in 2003.

"We justified the move into event-driven architecture in the scope of a single project," says Maja Tibbling, lead enterprise architect. "It had to do with integrating billing data with the collection system to reduce days sales outstanding."

Con-Way used TIBCO adaptors and an enterprise service bus (ESB) to propagate all billing-related events from transactional systems to the collections system. This real-time, publish-and-subscribe approach, built on SOA, sped the flow of information and enabled Con-Way to automate system interaction with a third-party collections package, reducing days sales-revenue outstanding. The initiative "saved millions" and ensured that event-based architecture "became the systematic backbone for every project that followed," says Tibbling. But the complex event processing had yet to begin.

In the wake of the billing project, Con-Way gradually extended the architecture to cover all shipment-related events – everything from the 6,000 to 10,000 daily appointments for shipments to the corresponding movement, loading and unloading of trucks. In 2006, TIBCO's BusinessEvents CEP software was added to analyze those events and ensure successful completion of automated business processes tied to mission-critical operations including planning, dispatching and coordination of inbound and outbound trucks.

"We now have millions of business events that are being published and processed in a zero-latency, event-driven manner, and all of the events that happen over time are known to the complex event processor," says Tibbling. "With that technology in the mix, we have visibility into the sequence of events and the relationship between events, so we can start looking across a number of constraints to see threats and opportunities and make broader, better decisions."

Managers will use an event-driven dashboard to guide their planning, and Tibbling says the combination of event-based architecture and CEP has reduced misloads, streamlined planning and increased the performance of the entire freight network. The success hasn't gone unnoticed, as Con-Way was recently ranked number one in Transportation and Logistics on Fortune’s 2007 List of “America’s Most Admired Companies.”

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