Monday, June 30, 2008

My visit to Apama

I introduced the ideas of Event Driven Architecture (EDA) and event processing at Dutch Railways about 3 years ago. And finally at this moment in time we are building our first application that is based on dedicated off-the-shelf event processor software. I had some hurdles to take - earlier this year - to prevent our company from tumbling into the pitfall of having built custom software in a traditional way for this specific application.

We are doing event stream processing, not EDA. With EDA you are looking at your business as a collection of relevant events that need to be reacted upon by policy. The introduction of smart generic event processors enables convenient software development based on the EDA paradigm. We are not that far yet. We are doing event stream processing to track the logistic state of our trains and to feed our passengers and personnel with resulting information (like dynamic arrival-, departure- and delay tables). It is event stream processing, not EDA.

Not everybody quite understands what is going on. New tooling, new people, a new way of working, we are running fast and agile. The power of event processing was visible from the start of the project. Functions were finished even before test-data could be supplied, even before we got a project room allocated at all. We are delivering fast, very fast. For this specific project I am happy to be allowed to grab the role of development team leader beside my role as enterprise architect.

To my opinion every IT-architect and software designer should know how event processing supports the EDA paradigm and how EDA helps making complex business processes agile and transparent. Understanding the power of this paradigm really needs a mind shift from conventional thinking. That's why I was very pleased that an opportunity had been offered to me to invite some of my colleagues to pay a visit to the Apama office in London.

We shook hands with some very passionated and visionary academic people who have engineered and built a commercial event processor that they are continuously maturing at Cambridge University: John Bates, Giles Nelson, Mark Spiteri and Gareth Smith.

I learned about the role of "Vice President Algorithmic Trading". At the moment it's mainly the capital markets that make use of the event processor for intelligent and fast stock trading. The Apama crew appeared eager to apply their event processor in other industries. I think there is a golden future for them ahead.

Gareth Smith explained how Apama inverts the classic paradigm of traditional systems. Instead of entering a query to the system to match data, Apama introduces a mechanism to enter a data stream to the system to match queries. This was an eye-opener to me and I am eager to learn more on how the index structure and other internals are organized. If I were a few years younger I would definitely seek to get a position in their development team. Not only because of the interesting technology, but also because of the business- and IT relevance, and most of all because of the enthusiasm and passion these people spread. (And to improve my spoken English, which I noticed is getting very struggling since 20 years ago.)

Back to earth now: how does all of this relate to our SOA-hyped world? Listen to what Giles Nelson has to say about it:

[20 June 2008]

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