Executives need a view across the enterprise, in order to discern properly
the results of external or interdepartmental occurrences. The dashboard metaphor
comes from an automobile. The driver mainly needs command of the steering wheel,
the gas pedal and the brakes. However, s/he also needs to be aware of what is
going on outside the car (road conditions, traffic, weather), as well as under
the hood (water, temperature, fuel, oil), and about the car (tire pressure and
wipers). The console provides internal and external information to driver, just
as it does to the corporate executive.
Information must not be delayed, no matter the source. Stovepipes, or islands
of automation, prevent meaningful interpretation of activities across the entire
scope of business. The isolation of information does not allow for automated
In order to use this information effectively, data on internal and external
activities needs to be correlated with rules for automated action: stop trading
if a certain condition demands, change interest rates of a certain customer
if a business condition changes materially, add another server if page loading
takes more than four seconds or if more than 12% of shopping carts are abandoned.
A bevy of departmental systems that are not connected or correlated may be operating
perfectly. However, without feeding each other essential information and displaying
it on a console, these "stovepipes" prevent a true enterprise view.
The lack of such a view inhibits an executive's ability to take proper action
when required. It's like having the oil gauge under the hood, the fuel gauge
near the gas cap, the light switch near the headlights, etc.
Stovepipes cannot make the necessary correlations to enable management to ascertain
what's going on across the entire business scope. The good news is that CEP
engines have the technical capabilities needed to deliver this kind of business
value. They allow businesses to achieve their agreed service levels, whether
it be transaction processing, information delivery or compliance reporting.
The time element is impacted most severely (positively or negatively) by a system's
ability to identify problems proactively.
For an internal IT shop, meeting a service level might mean performing a function
on time, within a certain budget constraint. For a customer-facing application,
it could mean accurately executing a stock trade within agreed limits, crediting
transactions and compliance restrictions.
When things are running smoothly, little attention is paid to system elements,
everything is assumed to be there. Identifying a problem and taking proactive
action are what distinguish exceptional companies from the rest.
Rules Are Rules
In todayís complex SOA environment, the enterprises that employ a CEP
engine to correlate all this information in time-independent manner go far beyond
Wall Street. Imagine an online retailer that can't keep up with orders: the
system may not just slow down, it could fall down or fail. Some of the largest
retailers have faced this condition by employing monitors that allow them to
proactively fire-up additional servers and adjust to deal with the extra business.
The system knew what the volumes were, and triggered a process that started
another set of web services to handle the load factor.
This notion of continuous load balancing and rules-based proactive action,
can be applied in many industries, particularly those with heavy consumer or
transaction traffic. However, it cannot be accomplished by simply watching one
monitor. In a complex SOA environment things happen at cyberspeed, human reaction
is simply to slow.
Besides real time information feeds, there is an additional important CEP function:
the establishment of trends. A series of financial transactions can be monitored
over time to discern patterns, which then serves to advise management about
actions to consider. What happens to online traffic on Monday when Christmas
occurs on a Thursday instead of Saturday? Temporal information: whatís
going on over time? Another gauge for the console.
CEP helps companies achieve their service level agreements in todayís
complex SOA or web service environments. They provide a correlation between
various information technology layers: within the IT department itself, between
IT and operations, and to those overseeing the line of business. Such technology
can help management meet its own SLA with the Board of Directors and stakeholders.
As systems get more complex incidents of degradation and failure grow dramatically.
Many IT experts and analysts are finding, that for varying reasons relating
to complexity, the rate of application and transaction failures can double when
converting to SOA environments.
Itís all about the Service
Service Oriented Architecture is on everybodyís mind these days, and SOA
adoption on many enterprisesí budgets. The move towards creating new services
from existing legacy resources defines complexity. And while the mantra of information
processing has often been cited as "keep it simple, stupid" (one of
the 1970s' favorite acronyms, KISS), thatís hardly todayís scenario.
Todayís challenges require solutions that may be complex in concept, but
must be simple to implement, deploy and manage.
While line of business and IT leaders are meeting those challenges within their
own area of responsibility, attention is increasingly being paid at the corporate
level to integrating processes and systems for improved competitiveness, better
Imagine the animal trainer who puts his/her head in a tigerís mouth, to
demonstrate how even this most wild of beasts can be tamed. The tiger might
be the information beast, something that needs care and attention from all quarters,
lest it get out of control and really ruin the moment.
The tiger is getting its information from the trainer, who would like to eliminate
the influence of the audience, the nearby animals, perhaps some interesting
aromas, and music. What is it that allows the trainer to command its attention?
Focus. The trainer has become the tiger's information dashboard, everything
channeled to and through that one resource. S/he has filtered-out the extraneous
and is managing the critical.
In this fantasy world of the circus, itís a matter of experience and training.
In a systems world, the tiger may be any sort of data that must be properly
channeled in order. The implications of disorderly data are fearsome. Conversely,
the benefits of an enterprise information console (enabled by CEP) are equally