David Luckham, inventor of CEP
Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

What is CEP?

Complex Event Processing (CEP) is an emerging technology for building and managing information systems. The goal of CEP is to enable the information contained in the events flowing through all of the layers of the enterprise IT infrastructure to be discovered, understood in terms of its impact on high level management goals and business processes, and acted upon in real time. This includes events created by new technologies such as RFID.

Visit the comprehensive CEP website.

Other articles by Dr. Luckham:

BAM And CEP: A Marriage Of Necessity Or: Why BAM Must Use CEP
BAM Providers As Online Banking Fraud Preventers
The Beginnings of IT Insight: Business Activity Monitoring
Grand Visions For e-Commerce Require Solving 'IT Blindness'
Avoiding Disasters Waiting To Happen
"/> Avoiding Disasters Waiting To Happen
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Managing the real time enterprise, grand visions for the future of e-Commerce, and RFID: What do they all have in common?

Corporations are becoming increasingly real-time by utilizing both private networks and the Internet. What we are witnessing is the emergence of the "event-driven real time enterprise" as Gartner calls it, in which the whole business structure, processes and applications are event-driven. While Internet-based automation helps streamline businesses, cut costs and make companies more profitable, it introduces a new problem -- managing in real-time.

The challenge of managing the real-time enterprise is increasing. This is amply illustrated by the Northeast power blackout in August 2003. As Congressional hearings uncovered, no manager had a global view of that event-driven situation. Here was an example of a collaboration among a dozen electric power companies across several states and Canada, aided by federally-mandated independent service operators (ISOs). The business processes of these companies, in which humans are very much part of the process, collaborate over the power transportation grid, SCADA control systems, and telephones. In a period of four hours, a sequence of grid events such as power lines failing and generation units disconnecting, built up to a cascading blackout across parts of the Midwest, the Northeast and parts of Canada. The regional ISOs took no active steps to stop the progression, largely because they had no global overview of the events that were unfolding. And no understanding of the significance of the events that their monitors did show them. The New York Times commented: “The ISOs were like air traffic controllers trying to keep order in the sky without knowing where all the planes were.” Meanwhile, power company business managers discussed high-level sales strategies by phone that they did not know would create grid events that only worsened an already critical situation. This was IT blindness, big-time.

IT Blindness

The problem with managing real-time operations is that enterprises don’t know from a business perspective what is going on in their IT infrastructures, minute-by-minute or day-by-day. Technology for monitoring IT traffic is stuck at the network level, and that is useless as business intelligence. Managers can’t figure out in real-time when events in their IT layer -- and it’s not just single events, but more generally patterns of many events -- are significant from a business perspective. This is IT blindness. It’s a real-time problem. It can’t be solved by storing events in databases and searching them later — that just isn’t fast enough.


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