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IBM buys AptSoft, firmly positions EDA inside SOA

With its acquisition of AptSoft Inc. this week, IBM's SOA team is working to re-brand CEP as business event processing to accent the business user's role in the technology.

When you hear complex event processing (CEP) in the context of service-oriented architecture (SOA), IBM wants you to think business event processing (BEP).

AptSoft brings a business focus to complex event processing in the SOA context.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC.

That was made clear this week when IBM executives explained why Big Blue purchased AptSoft Inc. yesterday for an undisclosed amount, which in its six year history has specialized in creating a user interface that allows business analysts to work directly with its event processing tools.

At a press teleconference on Wednesday to explain the acquisition, Sandy Carter, vice president for SOA and WebSphere strategy at IBM, repeatedly referred to the AptSoft technology as business event processing.

When asked if CEP and BEP were the same or related, she explained that IBM is actively trying to supplant the engineering-oriented "complex" term with the more business friendly name.

"In the marketplace today everybody talks about complex event processing," Carter explained. "We actually are trying to rename that category because we believe the real value is in business event processing with the focus on the business. We believe we are elevating something for customers, which was a deep technology capability that only engineers understood, to something the business can leverage, which for us is really where it belongs. So we focus on the business side with the business tooling."

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., applauded IBM business focus on CEP within SOA.

"IBM's positioning of the AptSoft acquisition as solidly within their SOA strategy refreshingly puts a nail in the coffin of the idea that event-driven architecture should be separate from SOA," he said. "Instead, AptSoft brings a business focus to complex event processing in the SOA context, where business services can easily be the source of business events that line-of-business personnel can work with and mash up with other information. Furthermore, BEP complements IT event processing, which is a more technical use of events that IBM has already had strength in."

Although IBM already had event processing technology in its SOA-focused WebSphere product line, it lacked the business user interface that AptSoft offered, said Frank Chisholm, former CEO and founder of AptSoft.

Explaining what IBM is gaining in the acquisition, Chisholm said: "The AptSoft technology provides the ability for the line of business people, analysts and business management, to define business events that are actionable, define the correlation of patterns, which they want to identify, and then define the actions that they want to take place as a result of recognizing those patterns. So it's a matter of detect events, correlate events, discover actionable patterns and take action. That is the capability that business event software provides."

As an example of this, he said an unnamed AptSoft customer runs an SOA-based exchange for supply change management where the events technology monitors compliance with service-level agreements (SLAs).

He explained, "Our exchange management client needed to be able to detect complex events coming across the buyer and seller sides, detecting patterns of services that they are providing to that group of buyers and sellers, and determining when those services may be close to the boundaries of the SLA, alerting people so exchange measures can take place before they are out of compliance with their SLA. All this is driven by events occurring, patterns of events occurring, identifying events that indicate a risk and taking action."

When Carter was asked how the AptSoft technology will fit into the WebSphere product family, she said it would fall under the business process management (BPM) companion to SOA.

"You can think about business process management, which is where this capability will fit in with your process," she explained. "How do you manage your process? How do you optimize your process? The event capability from AptSoft will help customers know when to make changes. What events, triggers or signals will allow them to make changes to those processes? That will occur on the business side. It all fits together."

In the IBM view BPM and BEP fit into SOA.

For more information
IBM CTO sees CEP as "next big thing" in SOA

CEP + SOA = "new physics of computing"

"The underpinning is SOA from a technology foundation," Carter said in explaining how the technologies work together. "The process side is managed by BPM. That's what helps you determine when to make changes, optimize that process, based on what's happening in your environment."

Chisholm and his team of event processing developers will become part of IBM's research and development for the technology, Carter said. They will work on the linkage between event processing and SOA and develop templates to make it easier for business users to configure the tools for their specific industry.

AptSoft was a privately-held company and IBM is making no disclosures of the financial terms of the deal, Carter said.

A more detailed roadmap of where the AptSoft BEP tools will fit into the WebSphere family will be available by April when IBM holds its IMPACT conference for SOA architects and developers, she said.

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