Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Event Processing Research Challenges

This picture has been taken a year ago on the stairs to the old church in Schloss Dagstuhl, in that meeting we had people both from academia and from industry discussing the state of the art and future of event processing. I have returned to the conclusion of the Dagstuhl Seminar done by my colleague Peter Niblett from IBM recently, after my return to the IBM Research Division from spending several years in the product organization, I was asked about challenges to the research community, as seen by the product development community (or the industry in general), since we had a session about it in Dagstuhl, in which people from the industry expressed their opinions about the same questions, I just had to take it as a basis of a presentation in this area.
In Dagstuhl four major areas has been put as challenge to the Research community (adding my own interpretation and comments)
1. Event Processing Algebra and Meta-Language: Like the database area in the pre-relational era, the first (and probably second) generations of event processing are "engineering based", various vendors are building implementations based on the use cases they see and their innovative ideas, bringing to the table, not only a variety of languages, but also a variety of (typically - implicit) conceptual models behind this implementation. One of the indication for a maturity of an area is the existence of an agreed upon conceptual model. The relational model has done it for databases, the browser concept has done it for the internet, now we need the same for event processing. David Luckham's concept of EPN/EPA is a possible starting point, but more work is needed on this - the challenge is still there; after constructing the "relational model" for event processing we also need the "SQL" (not necessarily SQL extension - but this is a possibility) for it - in term of meta-language that describes the model and can be mapped to various implementation.
2. Software Engineering issues: This is a challenge from a different perspective. Event processing and Event Driven Architectures impose different thinking about computing. We are programmed to think in a certain way in all programming language, and the event based programming is somewhat different paradigm. Even the basic principle of decoupled asynchronous processing is something that is not easy to digest f0r people. We need software engineering tools, methodologies and best practices.
3. Implementation optimization: If we have done the analog of SQL, another analog come to mind - database tuning and query optimization. There are many optimization issues especially when the event processing applications are distributed and may have various QOS requirements - parallel processing, acceleration of hardware, inter-operability, support in illites in general - all are challenges. The goal function in this optimization is not unique, while in some systems it is maximal throughput, in other it may be scalability in number of rules/queries/patterns (there are applications in which the throughput is measured in millions, and others in which the number of rules, the number of producers, or the number of consumers is measured in millions...), the goal function can be a combination of multiple criteria.
4. Variety of "small issues" - examples: uncertain events, out-of-order events, retention and vacuuming of events etc....
It will be interested to look at recent research project to see how much progress has been done on these, and if the list should be modified after a year that has passed. The major research event of the EP community this year is DEBS 2008 , the program has not been published yet, and it will be interesting to compare the accepted papers with this list (I'll do it when surveying the conference itself in July). We also intend to do in the EPTS event processing symposium in September a session with academic people about it - stay tuned for further notice. I am also thinking about a follow-up Dagstuhl Seminar, may be in 2009 or 2010 - to re-discuss event processing in perspective. More - later.


Eran said...

Regarding the events algebra, were there interesting definitions in Dagstuhl?

Opher Etzion said...

Hi Eran.

In Dagstuhl there has been some discussion on the topic that started with Annika Hinze's proposal for algebra of composition languages.