Speed Readers

Stream processing tools monitor and analyze high volumes of data to spot trends and react to events in real time.

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"In our rules engine, we need to know who cares about [an event] and how long they are allowed not to get [the information]. You can always figure out if something has happened. That absence of events is what's difficult to capture," Tibbling says.

Con-way recently moved toward an SOA as part of an effort to better integrate its systems, and BusinessEvents plays a key role in monitoring some 8 million events a day on the company's enterprise service bus. Events are published on the ESB, where processes that need to know about specific events can subscribe to them in parallel. "All of them, not just one stream, need to complete within a two-minute service-level agreement. If one doesn't complete, we need to know which one," Tibbling says. Business-Events triggers that.

Cendant Corp. is deploying Celequest's Analytics Server to keep up with hotel reservation requests coming in from channel partners such as Orbitz LLC. "We wanted to know exactly what was happening with the business in real time," says Nick Forte, director of application architecture. With more than 6,500 hotels to book, Cendant's systems handle up to 500 transactions per second during peak times through various channels. Forte uses dashboards to monitor activity. Having an ESB architecture facilitated integrating the tool with data streams. "An ESB makes it much easier to pluck that information off and look at it," says Forte.

With the system set up on one channel, Cendant has already seen a benefit. During initial testing, the tool revealed that a few-hundred-thousand rate plans had no inventory allocated to them. As a result, requests against those plans received an error code. "We kept telling them the product is not available," says Forte -- a costly error. The dashboard picked up on the problem, allowing staffers to quickly remedy it and limit a potentially large loss of revenue.

The next step will be to expand the system to all of Cendant's channels, Forte says. He also hopes to use the system to automate yield management. "If we see occupancy rates going up on a property, we might want to trigger an event to send rates higher by some percentage," he says.

Forte describes stream processing and Cendant's move to an SOA as the first steps toward a more proactive approach to operations. "The wave of the future is predictive modeling," he says. But that's in the future. Right now, Forte says, "we're trying to get all of the plumbing into place."

The biggest challenge to stream processing may not be the technology but the change in mind-set that's required to effectively use the tools. "The barrier is changing the way you think about the problem," says Tibbling. "In this case, it's how you think about business problems in multiple dimensions. How do you externalize what your brain does automatically? To put that in software is a difficult matter."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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