Friday, October 24, 2008

On EDA and maturity model

This is the first postings I am writing on my new Laptop, Lenovo T61p. New laptops are a trauma, since with the new laptop one gets new versions of all software, that somehow not always behave in a familiar way. I still did not succeed to convince the new laptop work with my home wireless network (it succeeds to connect, and then disconnects after a few seconds), so I have arranged workplace near the router and works wired, catching up in reading Blogs.
Jack Wan Hoof in his Blog claims that the market does not understand EDA, since people when talking about EDA are really talking about CEP, in a previous posting he makes a distinction between EDA that is about business events and CEP which processes messages.
It is true that people are often mix the terms of EDA and CEP (both TLAs) which are not quite the same, however, the "message" vs. "event" is something the needs some discussion, as well as the relations between all these, and why should a customer of these technology care anyway.
First of all - I agree that EDA is an architectural pattern, where various services/components/agents/artifacts are communicating in a decoupled way by sending events to some mediator which routes it based on subscription or other type of routing decision, such that the source and sink may not know each other, while CEP is a functionality of detecting patterns among multiple events and deriving new (derived/synthetic) events as a result.
To the question of "messages" vs. "events" -- CEP is called CEP since its inputs and outputs are events according to the definition of event as "something that happened" (with all its variations - see the EPTS glossary), message is in this case a way to represent event (not the only one - CEP can also process events represented as objects that are not messages).
The claim that messages in general may not represent events is valid, I can send my picture as a message and of course some smart guy can find event in it, but it is not intended to represent an event. However, if we apply pattern detection on messages that not represent events, then it is not CEP, since CEP assumes, by definition, that it inputs are events. This can be pattern detection on messages, and one can invent some name for it, if it makes sense.
Interestingly, people also realized that the same type of patterns may be useful for data and not only for events, which makes is detection of patterns on data and not CEP again, and we have started to see some works on patterns in the database community, although they are still quite complex.
EDA by itself has a value to the architectural thinking, recently I came across a plan made by an IBM big customer looking at their future architecture as a combination of SOA and EDA, in the sense that services will communicate among themselves in an event-driven way, but they have not yet discovered CEP at all. In fact, observation on various customers that are in different phase of thinking about the "event" issue leads me to think on a kind of maturity model in this area :
  • phase I -- simple event processing: determine what events are important, how they can be obtained, who should receive these events, how these event should be transmitted etc.. This in some cases is a major effort, teaching the customer to "think in events", and building the way to emit and consume events, in some cases that by itself can be a big investment, since it can affect running systems, and invest in development of instrumentation/adapters/periodic pull mechanisms. The type of "event processing" that is being provided by basic EDA is typically routing (including subscriptions) and filtering. This phase should have a business benefit by its own right to justify the investment.
  • phase II - mediated event processing: to bridge semantic and syntactic gaps between the event producer and consumer, there are additional mediators that provide ESB type functionality: transformation (including split and aggregation), enrichment (from external sources) and validation - this is often needed, and since many of these features are pretty much common, it may make sense to use COTS for it, although in simple cases, hard-coding may be cost-effective enough, this phase is optional, it may make sense to unify it with phase III.
  • phase III - complex event processing -- this is a step-function towards looking at "event clouds" instead of events one-by-one, and typically built on top of the phase I, possibly I +II. I have seen cases in which phase III has been implemented as first step and included step I and II -- this makes step III much longer, but makes sense if the customer has a business problem for which it needs step III, but really did not think in event before.
  • phase IV (optional) -- This extends the functionality towards intelligent event processing - which I already discussed in the past.

More about maturity models and event processing - later.


Marco Seiriƶ said...

What strikes me is that much of the functionality needed is more or less in place already using a different name.

The EAI - Enterprise Application Integration - (or any favorite integration TLA) people have more or less solved much of these problems. They just call the entities they transport, route and otherwise process for messages. Many of their messages are already event, without them ever thinking of them as such.

I think the vendor's which create an offer which all the integration companies can add to their integration offering are about to see lots of sales.

Opher Etzion said...

Hi Marco. You are right, messaging has mature products 15-20 years or so, event processing is typically layer above. However, messaging can be synchronous and do not necessarily imply decoupled architecture.