The Opportunity for Business Intelligence: Is it Evolution or Revolution?

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Old 10-20-2007
The Opportunity for Business Intelligence: Is it Evolution or Revolution?

John Trigg
Fri, 19 Oct 2007 09:14:07 -0500
Some recent newson improvements and changes in approaches to BI architectures caught my eye.New technologies suggest that there maybe alternatives to traditional BIarchitectures (see the recent posting by Curt Monash on in-memory BI and Philip Howard of the Bloor Group on datawarehouse appliances). Though I amnot intimately familiar with these new approaches, they seem to suggest thekind of blazing speed and application to some areas, (for instance in-memoryanalytics and activity monitoring) that overlap with the capabilities of CEP applications.

Maybe a new turfwar is on the horizon.

In an article inDM Review earlier this year, Larry Goldmanof AmberLeaf took on the daunting task of whether a new event processingtechnology is required to support a more responsive BI architecture. Larry poseda series of questions for determining whether you should go the CEP route orcan make do with existing technology. Inlight of the new commentary referenced above, I'd like to augment/question someof the thoughts in the Goldman article to show that there are other criteriathat argue for going the CEP platform route and that, as we are fond of saying,it's not just about ‘feeds and speeds.'
(Excerptedfrom DM Review January 2007, Customer Intelligence: Event Processing AlphabetSoup) with comments interspersed:
1. Do I already have competencies inreal-time messaging and streaming? Ifyou do, you may not need an application [specifically designed for CEP}. If youdon't, these products may decrease the learning curve.
Agreed that one may havecompetencies in real time messaging and streaming in terms of accepting thedata and storing it, but are you processing it as it arrives? You mustalso consider what benefit you can draw from handling this data ‘in flight' vs.persist, query and analyze?
2. Can my reporting infrastructure handleoperational BI, scalingto hundreds or thousands of users? If it cannot, these tools may be able toscale without forcing you to be a performance guru.
Can my infrastructurehandle operational BI? What isoperational BI? I believe it's the notion that traditional BI tools do great atmining vast quantities of captured, processed and transformed data to producegraphs, charts and metrics. But how doyou transform those graphs and charts and metrics into actions - this is whatoperational BI is looking at. And this is where the intersection withBAM, CEP, and EDA comes into play.
3. Can users easily identify or specify eventsto track? If they can't,these tools may help you identify and monitor events without IT involvement.
Can users easily identifyor specify events to track? One of the things that I think is on theforefront in CEP is technology that can determine or detect meaningfulpatterns, rather than be programmed or setup to react to known/definedpatterns. We see this as a major wave for CEP evolution.
4. What does real time mean to me? How fastdo I need to make decisions? Do I have the people or the processes to react inreal time?
I don't disagree withthat. This was central to the recent Roy Schulte presentation on BAM atthe Gartner CEP conference in Orlando (September 2007). Roy has created strata to show that there are different applications and verticals that have different perceptions of real-time,ranging from those measured in milliseconds (e.g. trading) to those measured inminutes and hours (e.g. supply chain management).
5. Perhaps there is a 5thquestion here and that is one that presents the unique capabilities of CEP tothe audience. Do I need to monitor event data across time windows (A andB happen within X of one another [or not])? Do I need to monitor largenumbers of permutations of each rule simultaneously? Do I need to deriveor infer activity from my event flows? Traditional query based approachesstruggle with these issues especially if the demand or query refresh rate ishigh.
As the world oftraditional BI architecture evolves and users look to determine whether CEPbased architectures are appropriate, it is important to note that there may beadditional benefits to the use of CEP rather than just ‘trading up'. Why notlook at the two technologies as two parts to a greater solution? Augmentingan existing BI infrastructure with CEP is one approach (in which one appliesevent processing logic to the streams before they are passed into the datawarehouse/analysis layer) as is augmenting a CEP solution with analytics/KPIfrom an existing BI infrastructure. There are opportunities for both sets of technology and collaboration inthis instance may help to clarify rather than obfuscate for the target user.

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