The latest generation of service oriented architecture (SOA) technology could help IT departments meet demands for business process monitoring systems that can combine information in real time.
One of the main benefits of an SOA running across the business is that different IT systems can be monitored simultaneously to discover complex patterns of events occurring within business processes, such as when a customer makes an online purchase and changes their address. Analysts believe SOAs could provide a simple way to solve the issues of complexity and immediacy, which have previously required vast amounts of programming.
The latest generation of SOA technology features complex event processing (CEP), which could provide a solution to the issue of managing complex simultaneous occurrences.
CEP offers IT directors a way to detect and manage the events that happen in the organisation. According to analyst firm Butler Group, the objectives of CEP are to assist with the understanding of the events found in the enterprise and to provide techniques to help improve event handling.
"Only when there is a full appreciation of what is occurring, or about to happen, can planning commence and action be taken," said Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group.
The challenge for users is that current systems and infrastructure are not flexible enough to meet the constantly changing demands of the organisation.
"Supporting the real-time enterprise needs a dynamic and agile infrastructure based on SOA, combined with efficient event handling capabilities that can quickly and automatically provide information about incidents taking place for interested processes, services, applications and middleware," said Blowers.
"Organisations need to respond quickly to changing circumstances and be made aware of new opportunities and threats. This information usually becomes apparent through an event or, in many cases, multiple scheduled and unscheduled events. What happens to the enterprise on a daily basis has an impact on all aspects of the enterprise's operation."
CEP can be embedded into production processes or be part of a business activity monitoring application. Either way, the technology can help an organisation react more quickly to business events.
Business activity monitoring concerns the aggregation, analysis and presentation of relevant and timely information about business activities inside organisations and involving customers and partners.
However, some analysts believe that business activity monitoring is still maturing as a technology and not ready for monitoring SOAs.
Henry Peyret, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said, "Users cite the need to collect performance management data from numerous places and aggregate this in dashboards as a fundamental requirement. A number of suppliers have announced enhancements and partnerships, demonstrating a willingness to open up their business activity monitoring strategies to an SOA world, but they will need standards definition and more integration capabilities before they can truly claim that business activity monitoring is ready for SOA."
According to Peyret, "Early business activity monitoring project implementations have revealed significant user frustration. The available products are too tightly linked to technologies such as business process management or business intelligence and are not open enough to support a SOA strategy."
Nevertheless, open web services standards for SOAs designed to facilitate CEP activities are being developed.
A lot of work is being done around messaging and event management. For example, the web services standards for messaging (WS- Reliable Messaging), notifications (WS-Notification and WS-Topics), monitoring and management (WS-DM), events (WS-Eventing), security (WS-Security) and orchestration (WS-BPel) are in the process of being defined and ratified.
As businesses continue to function at internet speed, CEP is becoming more of an issue. Fortunately, there is no lack of technologies to help record, manage, and analyse these simultaneous business events.
For example, a standard such as WS-Notification has broad support from the likes of SAP, Hewlett-Packard, Tibco and IBM and can harness the power and flexibility of web services to help users manage their businesses at a granular level.
The next step
Event management technology can link into the enterprise service bus (ESB), a software layer that unites applications, such as human resources systems, accounts systems and datawarehouses. It addresses the intersection of message oriented middleware and web services.
The main ESB products are IBM Websphere Business Integration, Sonic ESB, and webMethods' enterprise services platform Fiorano ESB.
In a report Anne Thomas Manes, research director at analyst firm Burton Group, said the boundary between ESBs and web services management (WSM) products is blurred. WSM suppliers include Blue Titan, and SOA Software. BEA Systems plans to merge ESB and WSM functions into its Quicksilver technology.
"ESB products provide seamless interoperability with established message oriented middleware protocols such as IBM Websphere MQ, Tibco Rendezvous and Sonic Software SonicMQ," said Thomas Manes.
"Meanwhile, the super-platform suppliers (such as BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP) and other web services platform suppliers are adding ESB functionality to their systems based on the interoperable WS-Reliable Messaging specification.
"Once WS-Reliable Messaging and other key web services framework standards are universally implemented, the need for proprietary ESB protocol stacks will wither away."
CEP can pay off for investment services, says Gartner
Complex event processing (CEP) systems targeted at the investment services industry hold promise for firms struggling with the increasing speed of business and the growing amount of real-time data, according to analyst firm Gartner.
In a paper on the subject, Gartner principal analyst Mary Knox said CEP could aid algorithmic trading, trade routing, service level monitoring, real-time risk management, fraud detection and prevention, and compliance.
Gartner predicts that through 2007, CEP systems will provide a competitive advantage for investment services firms because they are able to analyse and react to market events in seconds.
By 2008, Gartner expects CEP to become a competitive requirement for investment services firms whose strategies rely on rapid detection and response, changes in risk, or unusual variations in high-volume and time-sensitive service levels.