A Vocabulary of Confusion

The blog post, On Event Processing Agents, reminds me of a presentation back in March 2006, where TIBCO‘s ex-CEP evangelist Tim Bass (now busy working for a conservative business advisory company in Asia and off the blogosphere, as we all know) presented his keynote, Processing Patterns for Predictive Business, at the first event processing symposium.

In that presentation, Tim introduced a functional event processing reference architecture based on the long established art-and-science of multisensor data fusion (MDSF).   He also highlighted the importance of mapping business requirements for event processing to established processing analytics and engineering patterns.

In addition, Tim introduced a new slide (shown below),  “A Vocabulary of Confusion,” by adapting a figure from the Handbook of Multisensor Data Fusion, overlaying the notional overlap (and confusion) of the engineering components of MSDF with CEP and ESP, to illustrate this confusion:

One idea behind the slide above, dubbed the “snowman” by Tim, was that there is a wealth of mature and applicable knowledge regarding technical and high functional pre-existing event processing applications that span many years and multiple disciplines in the art-and-science of MSDF.     A few emerging event processing communities, vendors and analysts do not seem to be leveraging the art-and-science of multiple core engineering disciplines, including well established vocabularies and event processing architectures.  

On Event Processing Agents implies  a “new” event processing reference architecture with terms like,  (1) simple event processing  agents for filtering and routing, (2)  mediated event processing agents for event enrichment, transformation, validation, (3) complex event processing agents for pattern detection, and (4) intelligent event processing agents for prediction, decisions.

Frankly, while I generally agree with the concepts, I think the terms in On Event Processing Agents tend to add to the confusion because these concepts in On Event Processing Agents are following, almost exactly, the same reference architecture (and terms) for MSDF, illustrated again below to aid the reader. 

Unfortunately, On Event Processing Agents does not reference the prior art:

Event Processing Reference Architecture

My question is why,  instead of creating and advocating a seemingly “new vocabulary” and “new event processing theory”, why not leverage the excellent prior art over the past 30 years?  

Why not leverage the deep (very complex) event processing knowledge, well documented and solving some of the challenging CEP/EP problems we face today,  by some of the top minds in the world?   

Why not build upon the knowledge of a mature pre-existing CEP community (a community that does not call itself CEP) that has been building successful operational event processing applications for decades?

Why not move from a seemingly “not really invented here” approach to “let’s embrace the wealth of knowledge and experience already out there” worldview?

Since March 2006, this question remains unanswered and, in my opinion, the Vocabulary of Confusion,  introduced in March 2006 at the first unofficial EPTS party, is even more relevant today.   Competition is good;  new ideas are good; new perspective are good; however ignoring 30 years of prior art and not leveraging critical prior art is not very good, is it?

Frankly speaking, there is more than enough CEP theory in the art-and-science of MSDF.  If we map the prior art of operational MSDF systems against existing “CEP platforms” we will gain critical knowledge in just how far behind the emerging CEP/EP software vendors are in their understanding of where event processing has been and where the art-and-science is headed.  

Well, enough of blogging for now.   Time to get back to mudane SOA “hearding cats” tasks at Techrotech, so I’ll be back Off The Grid for a while.



5 Responses to A Vocabulary of Confusion

  1. I’m too a bit surprised that no other vendors re-use more knowledge and concepts from other areas. We are proud to re-use concepts from other areas and turn them into our own by putting them into an event processing context.

    In ruleCore we actually have “Business Event Fusion”, built on ideas and well tested concepts proudly borrowed from the sensor fusion community.

    In the same way we have built lots of ruleCore on concepts developed by the active database community. Their ideas are a perfect match for CEP if decoupled from the database. Reactive (ECA) rules, which are what you’ll find inside the ruleCore CEP Server, are ideal base for an complex event detection server. That’s also a concept we proudly copied from the active database research community and applied in a new context.

  2. Opher Etzion says:

    Event Processing is indeed a child with multiple parents – simulation, sensor fusion, active databases, stream management, pub/sub (distributed computing) and application integration middleware – to name some (there maybe more). Anybody who attended the first meeting in March 2006 noticed that there have been eight (8) presentations that talked about things with substantial overlap, using different terminology. While sensor fusion is a respectable branch of science and engineering, it is not the only one there (the terminology I am using is integration middleware terminology, of course). The conclusion of that meeting has been the need to create a community agreed glossary, and some steps have been taken to do the most basic terms, more work should be done – other communities have succeeded to do standard glossaries.



  3. Greg Reemler says:

    Hi Opher,

    The diagram, “A Vocabulary of Confusion” illustrated at least 14 domains (where sensor fusion is but one) where there is overlap and confusion, and the list is not exhaustive.

    The terms used in the post, “On Event Processing Agents,” …. all not all established “middleware terms”, BTW (as you seem to imply), for example SEP, MEP, CEP and IEP are not established middleware terms, I am sure you would agree.

    The market is confused. The vendors are confused. The customers are confused. The analysts are confused.

    My boss at Techrotech, Jerry Fleck the CIO, is confused.


    Greg the Architect

  4. Opher Etzion says:

    Hello Greg the Architect

    The terms of – {simple, mediated, complex} actually came from Gartner and we are using them internally in IBM, since we thought in makes sense to us. The glossary terms may indeed be different. I agree that everybody is confused – if your boss wants to visit Israel (and take you with him) – I’ll get him out of confusion (+ take you to a free tour).


    Opher the tourist-guide

  5. Greg Reemler says:

    Hi Opher,

    I just got back from a mountain in Tibet where I met the lead analyst throwing darts at the Mystic Grid for SOA 🙂



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