Why business process management and complex event processing are converging

The combination of BPM and complex event processing means 'process monitoring on steroids.'

Complex Event Processing, or CEP, takes event processing to a whole new level -- but it is not something to be undertaken by the untrained.

The BPM and CEP combination means 'process monitoring on steroids'

Roy Schulte, analyst with Gartner, points out that "architects and developers who are building [CEP] systems should have an understanding of the whole world of event processing," he says. "Its not enough to know what an event is and how to use it subconsciously. There's a lot to know about how the concept of events, and where something may be event driven, but not necessarily a full implementation of an event-driven architecture."

I recently had the opportunity to join Roy and Oracle's Maneesh Joshi in a new ebizQ Webcast on the business value of event processing, and the growing role of continuous intelligence. Roy is also co-author of a new book on event processing, titled "Event Processing: Designing IT Systems for Agile Companies," with Dr. K. Mani Chandy of the California Institute of Technology.

CEP, Roy explained, is about "discovering patterns -- and then detecting instances of those patterns that you have discovered." And this is becoming a huge part of business process management, he says. CEP engines may either feed data to BPM engines in more automated scenarios, or provide analysis directly to a user dashboard. In CEP, event data may be streamed in from both internal and external sources to provide a holistic picture on what's happening with the business.

"The combination gives them process monitoring on steroids," he said. "Its a very rich type of process monitoring because its combining both internal and external views of data." The CEP engine provides pattern matching to help predict impending events as well. The CEP engine "is listening to the events as they come streaming in, looking to detect matches, and instances where the pattern has been matched. And based on that, triggering the appropriate response."

Both BPM and event processing professionals have a stake in this emerging world, Roy also pointed out. In fact, both may be looking at the same thing from two different perspectives. "An entire business process instance may be known to a BPM person as a transaction, but would be known to an event processing person as a business event," he says.

Roy pointed out that within a BPM-enabled environment, focused on workflow, orchestration, and rules, events take the form of steps within business processes. "A business process.. will be started by an event, something happening in the real world that will trigger the execution of the first step in the business process." Events may also trigger other steps along the way within the process, he adds.

But he also made it clear that these are the same things to both BPM and event managers -- just different definitions. "Whether you look at an event process from a BPM point of view or event point of view -- in many cases it depends on your background and what you're most familiar with -- but you are describing the same thing. This doesn't mean that all business processes use events in the same way. Some business processes make use of event driven architecture and event objects in different ways."

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