Saturday, October 31, 2009

More on responsive, reactive and proactive computing

Earlier this week, I've posted in this Blog short definitions of the terms: responsive computing, reactive computing and proactive computing. Somehow, terminology always gets questions and responses, and there has been a thread in the Complex Event Processing forum that started to discuss it. So as a follow-up to this discussion, some clarification. The computing modes (responsive, reactive, proactive) are indeed mutually exclusive, however a single system may have combination of all of them.

Active databases are example that start with responsive computing, the basic operations are: insert, modify, delete or retrieve from a database. Then the active database engine takes these database operations as events, and apply reactive computing to execute rules reacting to these events.

The opposite direction is a reactive system, doing some kind of event processing, which during the event processing operations need to consult a database in order to enrich an event with more information. The database query issued is a responsive computing.

Proactive computing may also be combined with reactive and responsive systems.

Hans Gilde has posted on the complex event processing forum an example that combines all three.

While responsive computing is the bread and butter of computing, and reactive is now being more understood, proactive is still lagging behind in terms of realizing the potential, maybe the next hill to climb.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On internal recognition

Today it has been announced that the "event processing" activity done over the years in the IBM Haifa Research Lab has been recognized, internally in IBM, as "outstanding accomplishment" in the category of "emerging market".

IBM Research has an annual process, as one of the way it is measured in IBM, for recognizing accomplishment (from various ranks and classes), most of the accomplishments are either helping IBM products or scientific accomplishment; the "emerging market" accomplishment in the "outstanding" level, was given, first time in the history, as far as we know, which made it quite challenging. This is not a personal award, but a recognition for an activity.

We have started working on event processing (not using this name, we called it "active technologies") in 1998, and moved through a long way inside IBM. Getting a big company to get into a new area is not an easy task, Lou Gerstner's book Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? provides some glance on how decisions are being taken in big corporates; I can write a book of my own about the event processing case.

Impact decisions, when you are part of the research part of the corporation, and is sitting in the back part of a big vehicle, is even more challenging. It was not many years ago when I've heard a senior architect in IBM saying about event processing: "this is just a hallucination of research people".

The recognition we achieved today is a recognition that we were critical factor in IBM's decision to get into an emerging market (recognizing that it is an emerging market). Even when this was done, getting official recognition about it is often not trivial.

Is it a reason for celebration --- not really, recall that I have stated that my motto in life is represented by the poem IF by Kipling. Quoting Kipling:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

Typically I don't tend to become depressed by the many frustrating moments, and also don't tend to be conceited by the few encouraging moments, it is all just a game.

While event processing has gotten over the years from being considered as "hallucination of research people" to an emerging market recognized by multiple analysts and all big software vendors, it still has a lot of challenges, so the work is far from being completed... there are more disruptive technologies ahead to conquer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the EASSy consortium

Back to regular work (and life -- I am trying now to contact the electrician to do some repairs in the house) after submitting the EASSy proposal for the EU project, waiting for evaluation and decisions (cometition is very tough).

Some more details about the EASSy consortium. EASSy is an acornym of: Event-based Adaptiveness of Service-based Systems. It consists of 16 partners, some of them are big commerical vendors (IBM, SAP, Software AG, Nokia Siemens Network, Siemens), some are system integrators (Thales, TXT, CITT, Corrvino), some academic/research institutes (FZI Karlsruhe, University of Trento, Aston University, National Technical University of Athens), and some public organization (Maccabi Helatchare and City of Genoa). The proposal itself is a very detailed document explaining the project approach, plan, management aspects, and planed impact. If this project is realized, I believe it will be of interest to the event processing community. Here is the proposal's abstract that explaines the idea:

The future Internet will play a major role as a medium for connecting service providers— with consumers in the supply chain (business-to-business connection), or with customers such as patients and healthcare organizations (business-to-consumer connection); thereby leading to the concept of the "Internet of Services".

Within service provision, the velocity of changing situations while maintaining the ability to adapt properly and proactively is becoming a notable factor in the ability to maintain business competitiveness, and can determine the survival of small and medium enterprises. The need to adapt arises in all areas. Examples include proactively adapting the treatment protocol for patients ("smart healthcare"), initiating changes to car-fleet delivery assignment based on travel conditions ("smart transportation"), adapting the working procedures of an emergency team in extreme conditions such as flooding ("smart emergency management"), and adjusting the plan and distribution of work between different parts of the supply chain when partial power failures occur in a specific region ("smart supply chain management").

During the past couple of years, Event-Processing Platforms have emerged as the fastest growing segment of application integration middleware (according to Gartner, Forrester, and IDC analysts). Many event producers are connected to the Internet (the "Internet of Things" phenomenon), and many business processes are instrumented to provide events from the service execution, so the combination of event processing and Internet services provides a tremendous opportunity to achieve the adaptivity described above.

The proposed EASSy project will take advantage of this opportunity and generate a solid framework that will revolutionize the capability of future Internet services to be adaptive. This framework will seamlessly provide both event processing capabilities and service adaptation capabilities. The event processing capabilities will determine when adaptation is needed, and the service adaptation capabilities will deal with the question of what adaptation should be performed, either autonomously or requiring human interaction; furthermore, the system should be accessible to business developers who do not possess programming skills.

Achieving this ambitious goal requires the project team to push the envelope beyond the current state-of-the-art and best practices, and will strive to contribute to the commercial world as well as to science in various areas, such as modelling, event processing, adaptation schemes, human-computer interaction, security, privacy, quality of service, and accountability. In addition, there are ambitious engineering challenges: to make the system function effectively and efficiently, be able to work on top of legacy systems, and deal with a variety of different types of event sources.

The EASSy consortium has built a well qualified inter-disciplinary team, which includes several world-class experts in the key research areas, as well as a strong engineering team, a test validation plan using strategic use cases, and a well established exploitation plan covering various software sectors and industry domains.