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
"/> The Beginnings of IT Insight: Business Activity Monitoring
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My previous articles describe our inability to manage real time event-driven enterprises, or make grand eCommerce visions happen, or fully utilize new technologies like RFID. This is due to IT blindness, an inability to understand how patterns of low level events in the IT layers of our enterprises will impact high level business goals, policies and processes.

All is not lost. People are beginning to understand the challenge of solving IT blindness. Those who do, view it as a goldmine business opportunity. Gartner lists well over a hundred vendors selling tools that build on top of the current generation of middleware to enable EAI and SOAs, or track the progress of business processes, or predict violations of high level policies, or analyze the impact of overloaded IT resources on executing business transactions. These are some of the things you can do, or claim to do, with just a little IT insight. In fact, Gartner leads the way in categorizing these various tools and applications.

This is a second generation activity building on first generation middleware. It tries to make business sense out of events in the middleware by using a little IT insight. This activity is gathering strength as can be seen by the recently announced proposed standards for a Common Event Infrastructure (CEI). This is a first step towards standards for middleware to support event processing. If middleware supports CEI it will be easier for vendors to build tools that tell us which high level business operations will be effected by the events in that middleware — as they happen. And if all the different middleware out there supported the same CEI, well wouldn’t that be nice! We could buy one tool and install it on all of our middleware, maybe.

But first, before we get into what event processing standards ought to contain, let’s take a look at the tip of this IT insight iceberg — something that became noticeable a couple of years ago — Roy Schulte of Gartner named it “BAM”.

Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)

BAM products are a first small step towards helping enterprises overcome IT blindness. This is a very active and expanding area. Gartner listed over 50 vendors of BAM products in 2003 ranging from small start-ups to the big guys, IBM, HP, TIBCO etc. And new vendors are appearing all the time.

If you survey the BAM market you'll find tools that claim to do some or all of the following:

  • Provide instant insight into how IT events at any system level (e.g., network failures, database access loads, Web site activity, and changes in metrics on all kinds of resources) will affect the progress of high-level business transactions.
  • Permit real-time business-level decisions in response to system events– e.g., rescheduling business process instances that have stalled as a result of a credit reporting service slowdown.
  • Automate real-time notification of violation or pending violation of business-level policies (e.g., SLAs).
  • Provide statistics on business process performance.


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