CEP For Real-Time BI: Vendor Announcement Events Come In Threes, Apparently

JameskobielusBy James Kobielus

As is clear from the general pattern of my Forrester I&KM blog posts, I'm closely tracking the penetration of complex event processing (CEP) into the world of real-time BI and data warehousing (DW). I'm working on a report now providing best practices for real-time DW, which will be available later in Q2. I'll follow up with a trends document on CEP for real-time BI in Q3.

One thing I've noticed is that the BI industry doesn't fully realize how deeply and quickly CEP is beginning to permeate reporting, dashboarding, analytics, and other decision-support apps. Case in point: I was interviewed yesterday by Mary Hayes Weier of InformationWeek, a reporter who definitely knows the BI market. She asked me about areas where BEA might complement Oracle's BI portfolio. I mentioned operational BI (leveraging the semantic federation/virtualization/abstraction layer in BEA AquaLogic Data Services Platform) and CEP (leveraging BEA WebLogic Event Server). She understood the operational BI side of it right away, but stopped me mid-sentence with the question, "What's CEP? I've never heard that acronym before."

Not to single out Mary — who, as I stressed, is definitely one of the best tech reporters in the BI arena — but I've also encountered this same lack of CEP familiarity among BI vendors and users. What I say to everybody is that CEP, primarily associated with real-time SOA apps such as business activity monitoring (BAM), is an enabler for truly real-time (i.e., end-to-end streaming subsecond-latency) BI — as a complement and/or alternative to traditional historical/thru-the-EDW BI. The fact that CEP familiarity is low in the BI space right now is because few of the leading BI vendors have much of a BI-integrated CEP capability — yet.

Interestingly, right after I got off the phone with Mary, I checked the day's news releases and encountered three product announcements ("events"!) from vendors who have staked their BI strategy purely on CEP, both on the middleware side and in the front-end presentation, interaction, and analytic layer. I'm speaking of these vendors/announcements (the titles of which I've edited down to avoid propagating gratuitous marketing boilerplate in this, the Forrester blog):

  • Altosoft Introduces Altosoft Insight 3.0: This announcement concerns enhancements to Altosoft Insight. First, the new version 3.0 includes enhancements for continuous event-based business activity monitoring (BAM) and rule-driven workflow-exception alerting across diverse operational systems — i.e., one of CEP's traditional core markets. Second, it includes new functionality for user-driven, code-free, AJAX-enabled visual development of continually refreshable browser-based reports — i.e, for CEP-infused low-latency BI. Third, it beefs up the low-latency event-streaming middleware features of the product, with tweaks to its high-speed, 64-bit in-memory calculation engine for real-time data aggregation, transformation, and optimization, plus cache acceleration for complex operations like multi-source outer joins with intelligent calculation and compression for optimized memory management, while minimizing loading on operational event/data sources. Note that Altosoft can also do dashboarding, reporting, and analytics on data retrieved from third-party DWs, and join/analyze this data alongside continuously refreshed-via-CEP operational BI data from many sources.
  • Truviso Delivers Next-Generation Analytics Solution: This announcement concerns enhancements in the new Truviso v2.5. This version adds functionality for high availability; event-based real-time integration with enterprise data sources; event-driven integration with user interfaces (e.g, browsers, portals); and interactive visualization of continuously refreshed CEP/BI analytics. It also supports development of models for customized event-based data flows, including stream-staged data-integration and changed data propagation/visibility. Clearly, changed data capture and low-latency end-to-end propagation is a middleware area where CEP/BI overlaps with best practices for near-real-time/"active" DW.
  • TIBCO Spotfire Delivers Visual, Interactive Business Mashups: This announcement concerns Spotfire 2.1, the latest set of user-driven development enhancements to the browser-oriented CEP/BI solution family that TIBCO acquired almost a year ago. This version continues to enhance Spotfire's impressive capabilities for interactive visualization of myriad live event-data feeds in BI/analytics apps, such as reports, dashboards, trending graphs, and comparison charts, which display inside the TIBCO Spotfire Web Player. Spotfire 2.1 implements a Web 2.0 mashup-style development approach.

Of course, this is just a convenience sampling of CEP/BI product announcements on one day. There are of course other vendors going deep on CEP, for BAM and/or BI (re BI, Agent Logic, Aleri, Coral8, GemStone Systems, and Syndera also spring to mind). I will cover them in greater depth in my forthcoming report in Q3. As I noted above, the leading BI vendors are conspicuous, so far, by their absence from this hot new niche. But I suspect that, by the time I publish that report, one or more of the bigger BI vendors will have their own CEP roadmaps mapped out to a greater degree.

For I&KM professionals in the here and now, though, if you want truly real-time BI, you should seriously explore the solutions from these and other CEP/BI pioneers. You should consider these offerings either as an alternative to real-time DW, or as an adjunct to the traditional historical/static EDW for real-time operational BI.

In my upcoming real-time DW report, I'll provide pointers for identifying deployment scenarios for going with real-time DW vs. CEP for real-time/operational BI. The distinctions between these approaches are rapidly blurring. I wouldn't be surprised to see the established EDW vendors add CEP-like deterministic-subsecond-latency features to their offerings.

Oh... I pointed Mary to these CEP/BI vendor announcements. Whether she follows up by speaking with them is up to her. But three such announcements in rapid succession on a single morning tends to catch my attention.

Important, but not earth-shattering, events in a steady and growing stream.

Jim