October 20, 2008

Coral8 proposes CEP as a BI data platform

It used to be that Coral8 and StreamBase were the two complex event/stream processing (CEP) vendors most committed to branching out beyond the super-low-latency algorithmic trading marketing. But StreamBase seems to have pulled in its horns after a management change, focusing much more on the financial market (and perhaps the defense/intelligence market as well). Aleri, Truviso, and Progress Apama, while each showing signs of branching out, don’t seem to have gone as far as Coral8 yet. And so, though it’s a small company with not all that many dozens of customers, my client Coral8 seems to be the one to look at when seeing whether CEP really is relevant to a broad range of mainstream – no pun intended – applications.

Coral8 today unveiled a new product release – the not-so-concisely named “Coral8 Engine and Portal Release 5.5” – and a new buzzphrase — “Continuous Intelligence.” The interesting part boils down to this:

Coral8 is proposing CEP — excuse me, “Continuous Intelligence” — as a data-store-equivalent for business intelligence.

This includes both operational BI (the current sweet spot) and dashboards (the part with cool, real-time-visualization demos).

Technically, this adds a layer of complexity – since the persistent data store isn’t going away, CEP is just additive to the environment. And if an enterprise has invested in an operational-style warehouse with sufficiently low latency, it’s not always obvious how much CEP adds. But how low is sufficient? Consider the use cases:

The latter seems to require true sub-minute latency, and the former isn’t that far behind. It’s quite conceivable that CEP could be a faster and easier way of implementing this capability than would a full operational warehouse build.

There’s one more point in CEP’s favor – it’s really good at sharing intermediate results among multiple queries. Of course, there are multiple ways of doing something like this, from Teradata’s query optimizer to various DBMS vendors’ results caches to various BI vendors’ ways of querying against report results to Oracle’s and IBM/Applix’s MOLAP accelerations. Still, at least in theory, the CEP approach to KPI (Key Performance Indicator) tracking has a lot of merit.

Coral8 has identified three groups of apps where there seems to be customer traction or recognized need for these capabilities, to wit (my names, not theirs):

Perhaps not coincidentally, those areas comprise a significant fraction of the vibrant use cases for analytic technology overall.

Comments

12 Responses to “Coral8 proposes CEP as a BI data platform”

  1. Neil Raden on October 20th, 2008 2:37 pm

    Kurt,

    The supposed link between CEP and something happening would have to be some kind of extremely fast decision engine. Do you have any idea how these above-mentioned vendors supply that? Should it be embedded with the CEP capability or abstracted? BI always promised better decisions, but it never really got past just informing those decisions, leaving the loop open.

    Business Rules Engines are usually the stock answer to this question, but they can be slow and complicated to build and maintain. For repetitive decisions like underwriting or regulatory issues, that’s probably OK, but for competitive business operations, the tool latency is a bigger issue than the data latency.

    -NR

  2. Curt Monash on October 20th, 2008 6:31 pm

    Neil,

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Coral8 and StreamBase have SQL metaphors, unlike CEP competitor Progress Apama, which is rule-based.

    Beyond that, I think it’s case by case. If you look for news/blogs (I forget which) on Coral8, you quickly come to an Intelligent Enterprise article which mentions “35” anti-fraud rules. When the rule count is that low, rule implementation technology isn’t that huge an issue.

    In many cases, the point of the app is to alert a human being, who then is the decider.

    I can imagine levels of complexity that conventional programming languages can’t well handle, but I don’t think these apps are at that point yet.

    CAM

  3. Paul Vincent on October 22nd, 2008 10:18 am

    Neil/Curt: CEP’s role in “*** Intelligence” is nothing new – we at TIBCO call it Operational Intelligence.

    See http://tibcoblogs.com/cep/category/bi/ for some other thoughts on the overlap.

    FYI TIBCO’s CEP engine is also rule-based, and indeed uses the same type of Rete engine used by the business rule vendors, but in a low-latency event-driven distributed data + processing grid format.

    Cheers

  4. Curt Monash on October 22nd, 2008 2:48 pm

    Paul,

    RETE engine? That *is* serious rules processing!

    Unfortunately, TIBCO never seems to get around to briefing me, except occasionally on minor UI technologies.

  5. Neil Raden on October 22nd, 2008 6:07 pm

    Curt,

    Yeah, they use the Rete algorithm. Corticon claims to use an even faster one, citing limitations to Rete. JESS, JRules, DROOLS also use enhanced versions. Even Microsoft claims this for BizTalk. Blaze does, of course. In fact, I can’t think of a rules engine that doesn’t, but it isn’t whether there is a Rete implementation, it’s whether it actually improves things.

    -NR

    -NR

  6. Curt Monash on October 22nd, 2008 6:29 pm

    Neil,

    I’m old enough to recall when Rete/forward-chaining was the exception, not the — as it were — rule.

    CAM

  7. Neil Raden on October 23rd, 2008 11:34 am

    Curt,

    You and me both, brother.

    -NR

  8. Paul Vincent on October 29th, 2008 6:15 pm

    Curt / Neil: AFAIK (and apologies for the apparent trumpet blowing) TIBCO is the only Rete engine used for CEP at present – ie event-driven rule engine – the others are query/process based or EventConditionAction based. But there are plenty of non-Rete “rule engines” embedded in BPM tools that are but simple script engines.

    All the Rete vendors, of course, have custom optimizations. But Rete is only for declarative production rules, hence is not needed for decision tables or graphs (so: those vendors don’t use it). Funnily enough, you can map a table / tree / graph to a bunch of production rules, but not (easily) vice versa. Hence the trend to use Rete. Indeed, the tech is so cool, Oracle just bought a 2nd Rete rule engine!

    Cheers

  9. Curt Monash on October 29th, 2008 10:18 pm

    Paul,

    I contacted TIBCO suggesting they brief me. Once again, I’m being ignored.

    So I for now I think I’ll just take your word for it and move on. ;)

    Best,

    CAM

  10. Paul Vincent on November 4th, 2008 10:18 pm

    Curt – oops!
    Cheers

  11. CEP market consolidation – Some thoughts « Only Decision Management, Technically Speaking on February 4th, 2010 2:21 pm

    […] But much more dynamism needs to be achieved by the products themselves. At one point, there was some talk about CEP as a “real-time” OLAP replacement – it may well be that a positive path forward is the extension of OLAP into real time, leveraging […]

  12. Aleri update | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on May 12th, 2010 7:45 pm

    […] forthcoming efforts outside the financial services market. John sees these as being focused around Coral8’s old “Continuous (Business) Intelligence” message, enhanced by Aleri’s Live OLAP. Aleri Live OLAP is an in-memory OLAP engine, […]

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