by Guy Churchward, VP and General Manager of WebLogic Products, BEA Systems

Extreme Agility? Try Event-Driven SOA

Jan 11, 20086 mins
DeveloperIT Leadership

Event-driven SOA allows companies to anticipate or predict customer needs, make faster decisions, and take action that benefits the business and its stakeholders.

No matter what your industry, business velocity continues increasing exponentially. Experts estimate that the average large enterprise is inundated with as many as one million events per second. To keep pace and stay ahead of the competition, today’s CIO must be able to respond to changing conditions on a dime, even in the face of today’s massive data volumes. Each enterprise must be able to handle high volumes of data from disparate sources—data that arrives in continuous streams, shows complex patterns and demands immediate response.

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Merely processing this information is insufficient. CIOs must strive to create an instantly responsive enterprise—one that addresses these huge volumes of information in real time, creating immediate and valuable insights that can be acted on at a moment’s notice. In today’s competitive environment, IT must rapidly recognize trends and patterns and proactively use the information to deliver strategic business knowledge and enable real-time decision making.

Making this transition requires a new approach. CIOs need event-driven computing capabilities that instantaneously filter, aggregate and correlate events. Although event-driven computing does exist in some limited niche deployments, it has until recently been unavailable on a broad scale. However, some vendors are now beginning to bring event-driven computing into mainstream IT environments by embedding capabilities into existing service-oriented architecture (SOA) deployments.

The result is a new approach called event-driven SOA. Event-driven SOA creates a foundation for applying processes, patterns and business logic to raw data. It combines the request-and-response paradigm of SOA with the publish-and-subscribe model of an event-driven architecture. Event-driven SOA also allows designers to map application design to the business problem, which typically consists of both events and request-response interactions. By combining service orientation and event processing with technologies such as business process management, business activity monitoring and enterprise service buses, event-driven SOA creates extreme agility.

In fact, in a recent survey of IT decision makers, more than 70 percent of respondents indicated that they were already considering event-driven computing in the context of these SOA technologies. Clearly these leading IT organizations are looking toward event-driven SOA as the next step in driving their business at light speed.

Creating the Instantly Responsive Enterprise

Event-driven SOA allows applications to react intelligently to changes in conditions, whether the change is the impending failure of a hard drive or a sudden change in stock prices. The degree of access and visibility that event-driven SOA provides allows companies to anticipate or predict customer needs, make faster decisions, and take action that benefits the business and its stakeholders.

The fictitious company “Acme Toys” could be used to illustrate an example of how event-driven SOA can increase visibility and revenue. As the holidays approached, the company continuously reviewed its customer order data in real time, using data feeds that were generated at point-of-sale retail outlets and fed into the central business activity monitoring system. On the first day of its holiday sale, Acme found that “driving” games were selling poorly and that demand for adventure games was almost double what had been predicted. Based on this insight, the retailer alerted its manufacturers, distributors and point-of-sale locations. These supply chain partners revised production orders, prepared to ship increased volumes of adventure game videos and got ready to stock adventure game videos.

As a result, the manufacture of adventure games was increased and production of driving games was decreased, making the better-selling games available for sale at the retailer’s outlets. The retailer also instructed its distributors to discount the price of the driving games, thereby increasing sales of an otherwise slow-moving product. In reading the signals in real time, Acme Toys was able to clearly understand market demand and respond instantly—maximizing profitability in the bargain.

The benefits of an event-driven SOA approach are clear. By enabling the instantly responsive enterprise, event-driven SOA can help increase revenues by boosting customer satisfaction, managing exceptions efficiently, enhancing product and service offerings, and improving competitive agility. Operating costs shrink through increased value chain visibility and reduced customer acquisition costs. As a result, market leadership grows through faster time to market and superior support and service.

Looking at Event-Driven SOA Holistically

To help their enterprises become instantly responsive, CIOs must begin making the transition to event-driven computing. The first step is to consider a complete event-driven SOA foundation that not only addresses today’s business problems but can also be scaled up and out to handle tomorrow’s challenges.

CIOs must build this foundation using a platform approach to event processing. Although point solutions can seem cost-effective, they may not scale to handle the increased throughput, responsiveness and complexity that will surely be required in the future. Only when a CIO creates the appropriate framework, infrastructure, architecture and data feeds can the IT organization support the enterprise and its revenue growth without pain.

Looking forward, enterprises must be prepared to cope with a rapid proliferation of data sources and the increased interconnectedness of these sources. When combined with the ever-tighter turnaround times demanded by customers—and often met by competitors—these forces will conspire to render traditional application development approaches inadequate and even counterproductive.

To prepare for this future, today’s CIO must embrace new elements within the enterprise IT infrastructure. Critical components include event processing technologies with both the right paradigm and the necessary performance to effectively model this new reality. Supporting applications that process millions of transactions per second will require an IT infrastructure robust enough to provide the higher levels of availability, security and throughput needed as business velocity continues to intensify.

Taking steps to become an instantly responsive enterprise requires strategic planning and commitment from decision makers. Fortunately, the technology and expertise to expedite this transition is coming to market today. When expertly deployed, these event-driven SOA initiatives can help real-time CIOs truly enable the business to operate at light speed.

Guy Churchward is vice president of engineering at BEA Systems, and oversees product strategy and development in the areas of virtualization/utility computing, and event-driven architecture (EDA), including real-time and complex event processing, portals and Java Virtual Machine technology.