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Head: Peering over the event horizon

Ram Menon
Friday, February 1, 2008
Ram Menon
As human beings we intuitively understand the importance of events. But in an IT environment, understanding business events – and analysing what actions should be taken as a result of a certain train of events occurring – is a new development. The logical pathways which lead an application to interpret meaning are still being formed, and the understanding of how certain activities should ensue is growing.

A more complete understanding of the event stream comes at the intersection of the real-time event-driven architecture and the traditional world of business intelligence. It’s a border between two territories that we are only just beginning to cross, but it’s clear that business intelligence is going to play a key role in the predictive business. And it requires a completeness of vision and a level of usability that few solutions offer today.

So while event processing vendors have concentrated on looking for recognized patterns in the real-time event stream, the BI vendors’ approach tends to focus on looking at historical data, which has often been likened to driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror. Bring those two worlds together though, and you have a powerful new capacity for exploratory analysis in real-time. And make that functionality easy enough for business users to pick up and play with and for perhaps the first time, you are handing the tools to the people who really understand what’s happening, can react accordingly and plan for what may happen next.

Traditional BI products have often been used as a data source, with business users running reports, then dumping the data into Excel for further analysis in an environment they feel comfortable with. Once business people are given an intuitive environment that quickly spots patterns and relationships, and learn more about the application they want to monitor, then they will be in a position to interact directly with the data and build the rules themselves.

The next generation of business management must focus on this vision of being able to react (or predict), not just to today’s pressures but to understand what’s coming next and plan accordingly. There are some fundamental flaws in the approaches businesses are using to build applications that spot patterns in the events around and activities of their customers, employees and suppliers. These come firstly because of their inability to combine the right historical data with real-time events and secondly because most BI tools lack the rich and rapid discovery capabilities needed by business users.

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