There's good evidence that Complex Event Processing is transitioning from interesting but niche software technology into a more powerful theme within the software industry.
Let me present some evidence for this from a number of angles. Firstly, the analysts. Although Gartner is being somewhat reticent about publishing anything explicitly on CEP, they did hold the first analyst-hosted dedicated event processing summit in September 2007. Earlier this year, Forrester Research published a report on CEP. One of the surprising results of their research was that 71% of the decision makers they surveyed were aware of CEP (particularly surprising was that there is reportedly greater awareness of CEP than another software TLA, Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), a term that has been around for some years). Forrester sees that the market is currently small but, without putting any figures on it, has much potential for growth. IDC has been talking about Event Processing and Correlation software (which, for the sake of argument, we can treat as being equivalent to CEP) having a compound annual growth rate of 70% for the next few years. AITE Research, specialists in financial services, highlight the tremendous growth potential of event processing in financial services, arguing the market may be shortly worth $1B. Bloor research have also been publishing in the event processing area. The point about this is that not only are analyst firms now talking and making predictions about the size of the market, but that they've done pretty much all of this in the last year. Rewind the clock 12 months... the amount of analyst coverage around event processing was virtually zero.
Much vendor activity has also taken place in the last year. In addition to those that have been around a while with offerings - Progress, Tibco, Streambase, Coral8 and some others - other established vendors are getting on board. BEA launched their Event Server product last year. Oracle has now got a CEP product (in addition to that acquired from BEA), and IBM acquired Aptsoft in January. Vendors are also increasingly seeing CEP as fitting into their wider enterprise offerings, not just as a niche. Usually this will be in the context of an event-driven SOA, sometimes termed an Event Driven Architecture or EDA.
This wider context for CEP is being seen by potential users of it. The best known area of event processing applications is in the finance domain, in particular in relation to high-frequency trading applications. This is still really the only domain with significant commercial traction. From our perspective at Progress, we're now seeing a broader set of application domains take an interest in it - logistics, telco, insurance and retail. Also we're seeing requests for information from end-users which have CEP as one of several enterprise architecture capabilities that they're looking for - a reflection again of the beginnings of CEP maturity. Forrester observes that CEP is very closely aligned to the business, because "it's the business who understands events." This is the case now, but I predict that increasingly the acquisition of a CEP capability will move from the business to architects and CIOs as its appeal broadens and the understanding of it in a wider enterprise architecture context becomes better understood.
On a closing point, we're very fond of TLAs in the software industry, CEP being one of them. CEP will probably stick - there's a fair amount of momentum behind it now, but I reckon that plain old EP, or Event Processing, would be better. "Complex" is rather a regrettable word to describe something which is hoped, by vendors at least, to have widespread market acceptance. Business Intelligence has done alright after all. Perhaps there is time to change - according to Google, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is presently a far better known user of the acronym CEP.
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