The Grammar of Complex and Intelligent Events

June 28, 2008

Folks defining CEP, and now this new term IEP, have been very passionate over the past few years that “Complex Event Processing” means the Processing of “Complex Events” not the “Complex Processing” of Events.   

Grammatically speaking, it follows that Complex is an adjective describing a noun, Event; and Processing is a verb. 

Complex events are defined by the same community as composite events, or events that are composed of two or more “contributing” events.

To be consistent, I think we should follow the same logic and grammar in the discussion of “Intelligent Event Processing”. 

It follows that Intelligent should be an adjective describing a noun, Event; and Processing is a verb.  It also follows that “Intelligent Event Processing” means the Processing of “Intelligent Events” not the “Intelligent Processing” of Events.   

This is precisely the problem that folks are creating a new CEP term, “Intelligent Event Processing” to describe processing capabilitities that are missing from the current suite of self-described CEP software products.   What people really mean to describe is the Intelligent Processing of Complex Events.   However, based on the same grammer used in defining CEP, they have created the Processing of Intelligent Events.

The use of inconsistent grammar and logic is not good for the CEP community, in my opinion.   Just because the current generation of self-described CEP vendors do not rise to the capability required by the vast majority of business event applications, we should not create new terms just to make marketing folks happy.

I think I am in a good position to speak about this, because some of my best friends work for software companies selling self-described CEP software and they have seemingly lost patience  because I refuse to support inconsistent illogical positioning and repositioning of the CEP market.

Why is the grammar between the terms “Complex Event Processing” and “Intelligent Event Processing” inconsistent?.   Folks can only spin and reposition CEP so much before all the spin, hype, and repositioning begins to catch up with the community.   

Dr. David Luckham’s original papers and single book on CEP was clear enough about CEP; and CEP covers the entire space that Opher Etzion would like to reposition as IEP.    The Grammar of Complex and Intelligent Events are, at best, misleading and inconsistent.

I think the main problem is that what Opher has been describing is the Intelligent Processing of Complex Events – however, to say this would affirm what I have been evangelizing for over two years.

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TIBCO Leaps Ahead in CEP with Insightful Acquisition

June 24, 2008

TIBCO Software shows, yet again, why the team in Palo Alto far outpaces the rest of the field with their announced acquisition of Insightful.  

Everyone who follows The CEP Blog and my vision for the business use of CEP understands how much energy and passion I have put into explaining why the crude time-series analysis of streaming data cannot possibly solve the vast majority of complex business problems CEP must address. 

TIBCO’s acquisition of Insightful shows just how serious TIBCO is about working to make the vision of “Predictive Business” a reality.    TIBCO means business, and a large part of what that means is helping customers solve their most challenging business integration problems, which can be summarized in CEP-speak as detecting opportunities and threats, in near real-time, as a core corporate competency. 

If you spend a few moments on the Insightful web site, you will find a treasure of documentation that discusses a gold mine of advanced statistical analytics that can be used in a number of mission critical applications.

This is the class of analytics that form the backbone of complex event processing.  In fact, as I have often pointed out (to the dismay of some of my CEP colleagues), any software company that discusses CEP and does not support or advocate advanced analytics are selling snake oil.      TIBCO obviously understands the difference between snake oil, smoke-and-mirrors marketing, and the technology it takes to solve real operational problems.

My hats off and warm congratulations to the team in Palo Alto for demonstrating, yet again, why TIBCO is committed to solving real customer problems with realistic solutions.

Maybe TIBCO will evolve to mean “The Insightful Business Company”   versus the tired and stale “The Information Bus Company” of yesteryears?

Disclaimer:  I have not been an employee of TIBCO for over a year. 


Capital Market CEP Fantasy Land

June 23, 2008

In Tech Spending Hit by Subprime Mess, Jeffery Schwartz says,

“According to Tabb, spending on development is being refocused on projects that can help firms improve their margins and, not surprisingly, do a better job at risk management. As such, investments in capabilities such as algorithmic trading and complex event processing (CEP) are likely to be pivotal in some firms’ efforts to become more competitive and improve their efforts at mitigating risks.”

“But for some banks that have deployed such technologies — the now-defunct Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch — the question is: How did these companies fail to mitigate the risks that have slammed their businesses if their development teams were developing and deploying sophisticated systems?

“There is definitely an awareness that perhaps the systems that existed in place to assess the value of portfolios or judge risk [are being scrutinized],” said Stevan Vidich, an industry architect in Microsoft’s financial services group. “

He added that there is strong interest in CEP and other risk management methodologies. A growing number of shops have started deploying such solutions based on the .NET Framework, Vidich said, and he believes such investments will continue.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of need to deal with the immense influx of data and being able to analyze data in a timely manner,” Vidich said. “It also drives need for systems like business intelligence, or BI, applied to a near-real-time scenario, which is a very attractive proposition.”

What are these guys on Wall Street smoking? 

This is the precise “over hyping” problem I have warned about repeatedly.   Folks selling rule engines that perform basic calculations over a time window of streaming data have been marketing their wares as “superbrains” that can solve very complicated problems and, at the same time, save Wall Street and The Planet.

Let me be perfectly clear here Wall Street.  Listen very carefully.

There is nothing in any of the so called CEP products in the market place that is going to stop losses related to the subprime meltdown effecting the “now-defunct Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch,” as Jeffery Schwartz implies.

To imply that the risk management (and corporate governance) required to mitigate the current crisis on Wall Street can be foreseen, solved, or even mitigated, by a rules engine (or any software) is complete and absolute fantasy.   

I think the fever created by the subprime flu is putting folks on Wall Street, or at least the vendors and the analysts pandering to them, in a Capital Market CEP Fantasy Land.

 


The Predictive Battlespace

June 11, 2008

Friend and colleague Don Adams, CTO World Wide Public Sector, TIBCO Software, explains how CEP can be used to sense, adapt and respond to complex situations in The “Predictive” Battlespace: Leveraging the Power of Event-Driven Architecture in Defense


A Page from Greg’s Diary: Nerwana Software

March 25, 2008

I started my career in IT many years ago and since that year have worked in enterprise IT for year and years.     Almost all of my odd career story evolves around working with end users, often advising, architecting and managing the complexity of large systems integration projects, from hands on implementation to strategic vision development.  My deep background is with Techrotech in network systems engineering.

A few years ago, years after I started my career at Techrotech, I grew a bit dismayed at enterprise software companies.   They would, for the most part, always come to us, the end users, and try to sell us large software packages.  Their sales and technical teams had very little domain knowledge of the problems they claimed they could solve – and they had little doubt that if we purchased their wares, our problems would be solved,

These software companies were keen on buzzwords and technology jargon but somewhat clueless on operational solutions or the challenges of implementation across a large federated organization with many powerful business units and “in name only” CIOs.  We often referred to these software sales guys, and their favorite systems integrators, as “drive by (or fly by) implementations” where they dump the software (and hardware) at your door and run like crazy!

So, I joined a very cool Silicon Valley company,  Nerwana Software, hoping to change all of that, or so I thought 🙂

Naturally, when I first came on board Nerwana , the entire organization, from executives to recent new hires out of school, heaped praise-upon-praise on my years of operational experience at Techrotech and elsewhere.   They cheered me on as I wrote papers and created slides on operational use cases and event processing solutions that the sales and solutions teams could take to market.   They sang my praises as I spoke to large audiences and evangelized their most innovative software and solutions.  They were pleased with the great reviews from customers.

As one would expect, I was destined to learn the face of the problems I experienced as an end-user “outsider,” now from an “insider’s” perspective. 

One of the interesting challenges that surfaced at Nerwana was the “let’s export our culture and business model to the world” mantra, maybe better referred to as “if it sells in New York, then we must sell it the same way in Tokyo or Bejing!”

Also, I really was surprised to find out how dependent Nerwana was on the opinion of analysts.   When I worked for the customers and end users, we rarely paid any special attention to the analyst’s opinions.   Sure, analysts provides a good data point, but that is all it was (or is), simply another data point.   

I soon found that software companies are often held hostage by “analyst chasing” which really was an eye opener for me, because we end-users, the people who actually buy the software, view analysts as mere mortals reading from the same foggy crystal ball as everyone else. 

Another one of the fasinating challenges I experienced at Nerwana was what some would call  “The Hero Culture.”  

I’ll elaborate on some these, hopefully interesting, observations and experiences in a future Page from Greg’s Diary.


A Bitter Pill To Swallow: First Generation CEP Software Needs To Evolve

February 8, 2008

Frankly speaking, the CEP market is now saturated with hype about all the great things CEP can do, detecting opportunities and threats in real time and supporting the decision cycle.  However, in my opinion, it is time for the software vendors and analysts to move beyond the marketing hype and demonstrate real operational value with strong end user success, something seriously lacking today.

I have advocated this evolution for two years, including the notion of expanding CEP capabilities with proven techniques for event processing that have worked well long before current “Not yet CEP but called CEP” software hit the marketplace and airwaves.

For example, in my first CEP/EP presentation in New York in 1Q 2006, I presented Processing Patterns for Predictive Business and talked about how the US military has implemented high performance detection-oriented systems for many years (in the art-and-science of multisensor data fusion, MSDF), and how every day, when we sit at home (or at work or in transit), we are comforted to know we are safe from missile attacks because of what I would also call “complex event processing.”   There is a very rich history of “CEP but not called CEP” behind the scenes keeping people safe and warm. (The same thing can be said with many similar examples of complex event processing in use today, but not called “CEP” by CEP software vendors.)

This is one reason, when I read the “CEP history lessons,” I am amused at how, at times, the lessons appear self-serving, not end user serving.  There is so much rich event processing history and proven architectures in “CEP but not called CEP” (CEP that actually works, in practice everyday, long before it was called CEP).  It continues to puzzle me that a few people the CEP/EP community continue to take the “we invented EP” view.  Quite frankly, the history we read is missing most, if not all, of the history and practice of MSDF.

When we take the current CEP COTS software offerings and apply it to these working “CEP but not called CEP” applications, the folks with real operational “CEP but not called CEP” detection-oriented experience quickly cut through the hype because they are, based on their state-of-the-practice, now seeking self-learning, self-healing “real CEP type” systems.  They are not so excited about first generation technologies full of promises from software vendors with only a few years of experience in solving detection-oriented problems and very few real success stories.

The same is true for advanced fraud detection and other state-of-the-art detection-oriented processing of “complex events” and situations.  The state-of-the-art of complex event processing, in practice, is far beyond the first generation CEP engines on the market today. 

This is one of the reasons I have agreed with the IBM folks who are calling these first generation “CEP orchestration engines” BEP engines, because that view is closer to fact than fiction.  Frankly speaking again, process orchestration is much easier than complex detection with high situation detection confidence and also low false alarms.

Customers who are detection-savvy also know this, and I have blogged about a few of these meetings and customer concerns.  For example, please read my blog entry about a banker who was very sceptical in a recent wealth management conference in Bangkok.  I see this reaction all the time, in practice. 

Complex problems are not new and they still cry out for solutions.  Furthermore, many current-generation event processing solutions are already more advanced that the first generation CEP engines on the “call it CEP” market today.  This is a very real inhibitor, in my opinion, to growth in the “call it CEP” software space today – and credibility may ultimately be “at risk.”  Caution is advised.

Candidly speaking again, there are too many red-herring CEP-related discussions and not enough solid results given the time software vendors have been promoting CEP/EP (again, this is simply my opinion).  The market is in danger of eventually losing credibility, at least in the circles I travel and complex problems I enjoy solving, because the capabilities of the (so called) CEP technologies by software vendors in the (so called) CEP space have been over sold; and, frankly speaking, I have yet to see tangible proof of “real CEP capabilities” in the road maps and plans of the current CEP software vendors.  This is dissappointing.

This pill is bitter and difficult to swallow, but most of my life’s work has been advising, formulating and architecting real-time solutions for the end user (the C-level executives and the operational experts with the complex problems to solve).   CEP software must evolve and there needs to be more tangible results, not more marketing hype.


Orthogonal Blogging at the SOA Horse Races

January 20, 2008

Dear friend Opher Etzion responds to my post Betting on the SOA Horse with a discussion on how SOA, EDA and CEP are technically orthogonal, concluding:

“Event Processing can have different interactions with SOA, and when IBM’s announcements in this area will be available you’ll realize that there are different entry points. Event processing can also work in legacy and non-SOA environment.”

Richard Veryard, who also kindly reads my blog (and Opher’s blog) replies with Technological Perfecta where he opines,

“I think there are some mutual dependencies between these technologies, but they are what I call soft dependencies.”

Opher, Richard, you guys are technically right, but you are blogging orthogonally to the message in Betting on the SOA Horse.

First of all, my post was not a technical discussion, it was a discussion about business, marketing, timing positioning and the software industry in general. Therefore, it is a bit humorously orthogonal to reply to a marketing metaphor about investments, competition, software postioning and horse racing with architectual posts about technology and how they are related or interdependent.

In a nutshell, here is why….

Candidly speaking, despite what many analysts want you to believe, end users rarely build “SOAs” “EDAs” or CEPs”. End users have IT budgets to solve business problems with the most cost effective technology they can find; and they do not care (if they have a clue) what cute three letter acronyms have been created by analysts to describe momentum in the software market. Sorry, it is true really.

For example, I remember when I was in Tokyo where the very capable and conservatively risk adverse Japanese executives told me time and time again, “We don’t care about SOA we simply want to integrate our systems.” They were quick to remind me, “You guys in America must realize we don’t care what the western analysts, supported by software companies, say. They have a conflict-of-interest anyway and they are not end users. What we care about are mature technologies with solid reference clients and proven implementations.”

By the way, this is one reason I admire Japanese business so much. They are not impressed with handwaving hyperbole. They just want to see results. In other words, “Prove it, don’t just say it.” The devil is in the details, as they say. The Japanese are highly skillful at cutting through the smoke-and-mirrors. I think this is one reason the Japanese are among the leaders in so many industry sectors, but that is a blog story for another day.

To this point, if you are in front of customers and you are pushing SOA because your software company has “bet the farm” on positioning themselves as an SOA company, you are making a mistake. Three letter acronyms and technology jargon do not solve business problems. In fact, for the most part, they are a red-herring. The same is true of EDA and CEP. This was the main message in my post Betting on the SOA Horse.

How do I make such a statement?

Because for over 20 years I have worked as a consultant working on the opposite side of the table of hungry software vendors who come into our house (organization) tossing out buzzwords, acronyms, and jargon. My job was solving real business problems, not selling software. We used to wonder when all the scrabble and babble the software companies were tossing at us was going to turn into a business language that solves real business problems easily, rapidly and economically. That day never came.

Then, I made a conscious decision to take a break from a long career of consulting to get an insiders perspective on, and perhaps even transform, the software industry (What was I thinking?). This experience, working for a software company, was an eye-opener.  

Candidly speaking again, some software companies tend to live in “La La Land”.

They create go-to-market strategies based on jargon, buzzwords and three letter acronyms that have little to do with understanding their customer’s business problems, risks, and culture. They spin, position and reposition in a market of smoke-and-mirrors happy to sell you a gold disk of “the-answers-to-all-your-problems.”  Then, they leave you the gold disk, and your business problem, as they drive away, looking at your business in the rear view mirror as they count the revenue from their victorious campaign.

These same companies bet on jargon like SOA, EDA, CEP, BAM and they hedge their bets with different combinations of the above, the theme of my post Betting on the SOA Horse, which was not a technology, architectural nor implementation discussion, in any way.

Is it any real wonder why SOA has become, for the most part, complex, vendor-driven jargon barely making a dent in the practical real-world, whereas social-networking and other grass-roots user-driven technologies, most without trendy jargon, has left SOA in the dust for the past few years?