Firstly, I hope all my American colleagues and friends are enjoying Thanksgiving. Happy holidays everyone!
I especially hope that all the IT professionals who work in the consumer retail markets get some rest because this coming Monday is Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping transactions in the business year. Cyber Monday is part of the holiday season, which Forrester defines as November through December, and as our recent retail forecast report for 2013 points out, we expect online sales to top $78 billion in the US alone. Cyber Monday is not just a US event though; even in the UK, spending is forecast by Sage Pay to be more than £500m for this one day alone.
These figures highlight how digital our world has become. There is no need to go out in the cold or the rain as purchases can be made via mobile devices at any time or anywhere. This move to the digital world means that for many consumer retail companies, their websites and increasingly their mobile apps are now key to their success as they are becoming a major revenue and brand image contributor.
Events are, and have been for quite some time, the fundamental elements of IT infrastructure real-time monitoring. Any status changed, threshold crossed in device usage, or step performed in a process generates an event that needs to be reported, analyzed, and acted upon by IT operations.
Historically, the lower layers of IT infrastructure (i.e., network components and hardware platforms) have been regarded as the most prone to hardware and software failures and have therefore been the object of all attention and of most management software investments. In reality, today’s failures are much more likely to be coming from the application and the management of platform and application updates than from the hardware platforms. The increased infrastructure complexity has resulted in a multiplication of events reported on IT management consoles.
Over the years, several solutions have been developed to extract the truth from the clutter of event messages. Network management pioneered solutions such as rule engines and codebook. The idea was to determine, among a group of related events, the original straw that broke the camel’s back. We then moved on to more sophisticated statistical and pattern analysis: Using historical data we could determine what was normal at any given time for a group of parameters. This not only reduces the number of events, it eliminates false alerts and provides a predictive analysis based on parameters’ value evolution in time.
The next step, which has been used in industrial process control and in business activities and is now finding its way into IT management solutions, is complex event processing (CEP).