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IBM releases complex event processing software to enable real-time analytics

IBM has released a form of complex event processing software that the company claims will let customers integrate and analyze huge volumes of event data in real time.

IBM will release complex event processing (CEP) software that it says lets customers integrate and analyze huge volumes of data in real time to make faster business and operational decisions.

The so-called "stream computing" software, called IBM System S, is the result of more than five years of work and utilizes a unique streaming architecture and advanced mathematical algorithms to achieve what IBM calls perpetual analytics, according to Nagui Halim, director of stream computing at IBM.

IBM has also established a stream computing center in Dublin, Ireland, to continue researching and advancing the technology, the company said in a statement.

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Thanks to its parallel pipeline architecture, System S can simultaneously access and analyze thousands of data streams from both inside and outside the corporate firewall – including stock prices, traffic sensor readings and weather reports, for example – and deliver the results directly to business applications, Halim said. It can then trigger applications to make automated responses to certain events or combinations of events, he said, or notify workers of potential events through associated visualization technology and dashboards.

The software can help manufacturers monitor expensive machines equipped with sensors, for example, and alert workers when a component has malfunctioned or is otherwise behaving unusually. The idea, Halim said, is for System S to alert workers to potential problems before they occur, so preventative measures can be taken.

Besides manufacturing, he said, System S can also help banks better monitor credit card use to detect possible fraudulent activity at the outset, assist energy companies with managing electricity as it flows through power grids in real time, and provide nurses and doctors up-to-the-minute patient information, for example.

"By looking at more of the data that is available, you can be warned much earlier of something that's important to you," Halim said. In addition to the new algorithms and streaming architecture, Halim and his team borrowed data integration technology from IBM, including extract, transform and load (ETL) technology, to help develop the new software.

CEP technology itself is not new, but most tools are specialized for very specific functions, Halim said. With System S, IBM is hoping to provide a single approach that can cover all or most CEP needs.

"What's new about this is it's really IBM putting a stake down that this is their low-latency, high-volume streaming technology not only within their InfoSphere portfolio but their entire SOA architecture stack," said Jim Kobielus, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

What remains to be seen, Kobielus said, is how IBM will integrate System S with its other data management technology, including its existing CEP technology acquired from Apt Soft in 2008, as well as change data capture and business intelligence technology that IBM acquired when it purchased DataMirror and Cognos, respectively.

Still, Kobielus said this was a positive announcement from IBM, as the CEP segment of the BI market has significant growth potential over the coming years thanks to growing expectations by end users for real-time data integration and analytics -- an assessment supported by other analysts.

He also expects other vendors to release new or enhanced CEP products. Just this week, Microsoft announced that the SQL Server 10, codenamed Kilimanjaro, will include new CEP capabilities.

System S will be made available on May 15, though IBM declined to disclose pricing information.

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