Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On small vendors, big vendors - individual view and industry-wide view

If you want to have a pet animal, you might prefer the little kitten over the big dog; if yo want to have somebody to guard your house, a big dog might be more effective, there also people who prefer big dogs as pets, a matter of personal taste.

Marc Adler responded to my previous post about consolidation and pure play in the EP market. Since Marc is in blog reduction mode, I will not be insulted if he'll not react to this posting, but I would like to provide further perspective.

There is nothing in Marc's response that I don't agree with, in fact when I have been 30 years younger (having 30 kg less from today, and this is after I've reduced 21 kg in the recent year).
I have worked in the IT shop of the Israeli Air-Force, I have been working with a new product that was called DB/1 and later renamed as Sapiens, at that time positioned as application generator for data-driven programming (there has been evolution in positioning over the years as well), it was a product in its beginning, I have done the first project with this product on the premises of the product developers, went with them to lunches, and went to their family weddings and funerals, thus, I got excellent service for them, could ask to add features, when there was any bug or problem I know exactly who is the responsible developer and could call him, or even invite him to solve it in our site. This has worked well since I had good personal contacts with them, but moreover, at that time the number of customers they had could be counted on the fingers of a single hand, and they could provide much attention to every customer. As said, for me, it was the ideal product to work with, and I fought some of my colleagues and superiors who thought that this is a too big risk for the Air-Force to depend on them in critical application, which was of course true. I guess that Marc had somewhat similar experience with Coral8 in his previous work; I also feel sympathy to the claim that big corporates have an inclination to come to customers with more people than the customer expects to see, and has less intimate atmosphere with customers, this was always been true.

Fast forward 30 years, I have somewhat different perspective on the universe; it was somehow surprising for me to find myself being hired by a big corporate, from an employee's point of view there are pros and cons to be employed by a big corporate, there is a nice posting on this topic.
People whose small companies are acquired by big corporates sometime dislike the culture of big corporates and move on, sometime they adjust, I know stories of both types, it is not black or white.

My perspective now is more on the macro level and looking at the question of: Is the current wave of consolidation good or bad in general for the event processing area, its assimilation into main-stream computing, and the ability of play a significant role in current and future enterprise computing?

My own view is that the market moves to the right direction. As I believe that the larger market is not in stand-alone event processing applications, but as a pervasive technology embedded in enterprise computing in general, there is some benefit to companies like - IBM, Oracle, TIBCO, Sybase, Software AG, and now we also see that Progress Software is making event processing as part of a more general platform. Some applications may not need it, but many others do, and getting event processing in the mainstream enterprise software infrastructure, can be done through owners of such existing infrastructure.

One other potential benefit that I see is that with a market that is more dominated by bigger vendors there is stronger probability to get to standards. Standards is one of the signs of maturity for an area (e.g databases, web services), and will be vital to get event processing into the mainstream. We started to discuss standards in the pre-EPTS meetings in 2006, and at that time the dominant startup companies were very much against it, since they both did not see the value for themselves, and also feared that standards will distract their limited resources. Bigger companies have more standard oriented culture, and experience in other areas of how to do it right. I think that the current developments in the market provides a good opportunity to raise the standards issue again, and this will be one of the topics planned to be discussed in the upcoming Dagstuhl seminar on event processing. I'll write more about standards follows the conclusion of the Dagstuhl seminar.

Back to the original theme --- there are times in life in which one prefers small cats, and other times that one prefers big dogs. Small cats may be more cute and pleasant, but in this phase in my life I am going to hunt, and big dog will probably be more effective for that task.


Rainer von Ammon said...

Perhaps it does not really fit in, but do you know the fairy story of
"The wolf and the seven little goats"

Sometimes a big dog who has eaten too many cats is too
clumsy in order to react on events and on the environment on time and in
an appropriate way. Sometimes the big dog is then doing badly and pukes
them up and looses a third or the half of his weight and size - just to
survive. Sometimes a bit later he has eaten a lot of cats again and is
as big as before or even more.

Yesterday I had an interesting event because my neighbour Anna visited
me with a form that I should sign. I should confirm that her young dog
does not disturb me, is kept appropriate to the species (hopefully you
understand my English, I looked in the dictionary...). The reason was
that a craven anonymous neighbour reported her to the police that her
young dog would have too many false positives and would bark too often.
I signed because I like learners and young dogs.

(Waiting for project approval I have a bit time, so I will send the rest later...)

Rainer von Ammon said...

(continued, because I'm hanging around and have still time waiting for the project approval from the EC...)

In the next days I will become double grandpa because two of our
daughters get a baby. It's a great pleasure to see young children learn to process simple or complex events adequately. The older we are the more we react unconsciously and automatically on events. It's a bit boring if we have the feeling that we have already seen everything what
could happen. How Jeff Hawkins says On Intelligence: our neocortex is layered and on the deeper tiers we have stored invariant event patterns
which were unconsciously used when we process new events or new event
types. Simply said.

When I was working at universities or for a consultancy or for customers of the professional service of a middleware vendor hundreds of kilometers far from my
home in the last decades and I was travelling every week the same
route, I arrived after hours and did not know what was happened on the way - except there was an accident or something special.

This means: the bigger and older the dog, the more often he does react automatically on the basis
of stored invariant event patterns and if some of these dogs are too
big, they are mostly lying around, sometimes for many years, dreaming about standards for a better life (BTW I like standards in many situations but not always) and perhaps they don't anymore learn new events or event types and to react on them adequately and early enough.

But anyway, some big and old dogs are nice and homy guys.

(if I will have time waiting for the project approval, I will send you some more philosophical thoughts about big dogs and young cats later...)

Rainer von Ammon said...

(continued, because nothing happened in the meantime and I'm still hanging around and have still time waiting for the project approval from the EC; perhaps you must be a big dog to sit it out, but I'm a VSME means Very SME, nonetheless accredited as SME by the EC ...)

BTW: Our brain is actually a lazy CEP engine, only processing around
120.000 events per second unconciously by one half of the brain and less
than 10 events consciously or logically by the other half, allegedly.
Also detecting events or event patterns is only the one thing, we must
also react on them and trigger a (modelled or learned) process
(respectively trigger our protein machines because it must not always be
a Business process) and this is the (B)PM part; so I agree with you that
CEP alone is not the whole story. But I'm not so sure that a big dog
digests all the eaten cats quickly enough or even that he always eats
the right cats or only the appropriate parts of them (and let the rest lie)

The reason why our brain seems to work quite effectively and efficently
in our environment is this kind of layered event processing and the
not-again-correlating of stored event patterns. The inventor of this
idea was not a big dog but the evolutionary process of billions of years
since the beginning of the earth or even since the Big Bang or even
before. Or perhaps time is only an invention of the humans. Who knows.
Some intelligent guys were/are thinking about space-time continuum,
parallel universes, wormholes as gateways between the universes and stuff like that and some people will invent a
lot in the next years, when we connect the people to new event types of
the so called "smart dust" as cyborgs and let them react on more event
patterns and let them see the universe in a new way etc.; they will
probably mostly found an SME to realize their idea and are or let
themselves be eaten by a big dog later when money is gone or potential
customers typically tell them "sorry, you are too small for me and
perhaps you will not be alive in 10, 20 or 100 years..." although the
life cycle of applications is much shorter and this is not really an

(if I will have time waiting for the project approval, I will send you some more philosophical thoughts later...)

Rainer von Ammon said...

(dog and cats continued, I still have time...)

When I started my working life around 35 years ago, I got an offer from
a big dog, but then a colleague who was already eaten told me that if
you would have an idea you would have to walk through the floors up and
down until you would have forgot it. So we founded an SME as a start up from a university project and bankrupted
11 years later:-) Although it was actually not our fault because the
customer of the SME was a big dog and we had an exclusive contract and
could only work for him although he was already in his agony and does
not allow us to work for his competitors. Then I was eaten by a big
consultancy which does not exist anymore in the meantime and which was
eaten by another one, without me. After some years again on the university side I joined BEA Systems because
there was a story about the founder Bill Coleman that he has tried a
start up company three times after he left Sun and was not sucessful
until he founded the BEA middleware idea for the future internet
applications (BEA means Bill, Ed and Alfred, the founders, nice idea
from no big dogs, I also like the TIBCO acronym from "Thousand Indians Build a COmpany", also not a big dog actually) and Bill told that he would like to work with guys who
tried start ups and were not successful. Then BEA was eaten by
Oracle and this is a big dog, but already before that I switched back to the
university side for a while. A bit later we founded an SME again, on the idea "From student to entrepreneur - based on the profile of edBPM and U-CEP", we will see...

Rainer von Ammon said...

(continued, in the meantime my wife offered me a job in her pychotherapy practice to make her a website, boiler plates etc.)

Now it was a long story, it might also be a positive side of the coin - having time for philosophical thoughts about dogs and cats when waiting for a
project approval...


P.s: I just got an email from the European Commission regarding our
sketch of a flagship proposal "Ubiquitous Complex Event Processing
(U-CEP)" for the European Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship

and our idea to merge some proposals which fit under the U-CEP umbrella
like Integral Biomathics, S-Gaia, SensIT etc.:

"...In June 9/10 some possible mergers may take place; the best thing to
do probably is to come with an already merged presentation, if that is
what you want to do. As I always saym weight up your options; as you
think you will be better and stronger like this, go for it! If you
definitively want to go for a merge let me know and we will take that
into account for the June meeting..."

As you know, we will discuss this topic at the CEP Dagstuhl seminar in
May 16-21 (http://www.dagstuhl.de/wiki/index.php/10201). I count on you
as a big dog! We must establish a PPP (means Public Private Partnership) which should generate the budget of 1 billion € for a flagship for ten years. If some of your readers will support
our U-CEP idea, please write us an email, to Opher or me because we will
have to generate a list of supporters.