Saturday, November 17, 2007

CEP Vendor Thoughts

Recently, I came across an article on Streambase in Windows in Financial Services magazine. One of the questions to the head of Streambase went like this:

WFS: Does StreamBase have any competitors?

BM: The major players have not yet delivered anything in this space. IBM, for example, does not have a project to build a technology like this. We are IBM’s solution in this space.

In my opinion, this answer totally evades the question. What happened to companies like Aleri, Coral8, Esper, Apama, Skyler, Truviso, Kaskad, etc? How about the IBM offering that Opher is working on? Alll of these companies freely acknowledge Streambase as a worthy competitor, and rightly so. It would be nice to see Streambase acknowledge the same. Brown University certainly was not the only university doing CEP research and not the only one to commercialize their offerings.

And shame on Microsoft and Windows in Financial Services magazine for letting this slip by. Are you a journalistic effort or a fluff rag?

In our evaluation of CEP vendors, we chose not to evaluate Streambase for various reasons. Streambase might have the best technology of all of the CEP vendors (for example, look at Tibbets comment from a few weeks ago on a question about cancelling events), but we will never get to find out. The people who I feel badly for at Streambase are the dedicated development and support staff who have probably come up with a really good product.

(In the interest of fairness, Bill from Streambase told me recently that they had reduced the price of their offering, which was one of our concerns.)

And, if anybody from Streambase reads this blog ---- doing an end-run around me and trying to market directly to the business will not earn you any points. The business people rely on me to make the right decision, and all of your email to the business side (as is any email from information technology vendors to the business side) gets forwarded directly to me. And, I guess that we will end up paying real dollars to your imaginary competitors.

Meanwhile, let's take the attitudes of Coral8 and Aleri. One of these companies JUST hired its first salesperson. Their mantra was that the product should be the best that it can be before it was pushed by a salesforce. The other company has a low-key sales approach too. They have gone beyond the call of duty to incorporate our suggestions into their product and to come up with a POC that really impresses us.

Both vendors have come up with FIX input adapters at our behest. Aleri has incorporated some of our suggestions into their FlexStreams, and has cleaned up some of their visual development studio. (With FlexStreams, you can use a procedural programming language to create custom processing for streams). I am impressed in what these companies have done to earn our business. I feel that, in exchange for these companies doing some of what we want, they get to expand their offerings for the capital markets communities, and bring themselves out of the narrow focus of algorithmic trading and pricing engines.

Kudos to Mark, John, Henry and Gary of Coral8, and to Don, John, Jerry, Jon, David, etc of Aleri. All very nice people, and all trying compete honestly for a piece of the pie.

In my opinion, the Coral8 and Aleri offerings are so close that we will eventually be choosing one vendor as primary and the other as hot backup. What needs to be done is performance evaluation. Pushing multiple streams of fast moving data into the CEP engine and seeing their performance under heavy load. Let's see if they can handle the data rates that come at 2:15 PM on a Fed decision day.

One message that we have been hearing from the CEP and messaging vendors is that they perform better under Linux than Windows Server 2003. This is probably not a surprise to most people on Wall Street. But, I wonder what Windows Server 2008 has to offer in comparison to Linux. The November 8, 2007 article at Enhyper has some interesting things to say about Microsoft's marketing of the London Stock Exchange deal. We will most likely be running our CEP engine on Linux unless Microsoft comes up with a real compelling reason to the contrary.

©2007 Marc Adler - All Rights Reserved


Robert Maldon said...

How did Esper/Esper.NET come out in your evaluations?

Most of the big vendors (Apama, Coral8, etc) offer a whole "enterprise" package (core engine + server + authentication/authorization + GUIs + admin tools + etc). Large investment banks, however, typically have home grown frameworks to handle the enterprise stuff, so I imagine a drop-in library like Esper has less integration challenges.

marc said...

There are actually some pockets of Esper use in my company, mainly by established Java-based systems that need to do some ad-hoc CEP work.

For my efforts, an eco-system around the CEP engine is important. For example, alliances between market data vendors, messaging vendors, and CEP vendors is important. I look to a company that is a bit larger than Thomas B to provide this kind of service. Maybe, soon, Thomas will grow his company a bit and give Coral8, Aleri, and Streambase a run for the money.

Thomas said...

Thanks for pointing out Esper and EsperTech - indeed we come up with a full featured CEP engine that is fully embeddable in existing
processes without requirement for an external server process unless
you need to. Our technology can also leverage 32/64bit natively and real time system if you need to.

EsperTech is definitely a small
startup but that is - we believe - the best way to build up a leading
edge technology at full speed with a stellar team that is listening to actual needs. Part of the model to ensure an unbound growth is precisely to enable a
self-service model with an open source yet commercially supported
approach, with HA option shall you need to, backed by key
partenerships thru OEM to CEP-enable existing middleware in severalwell known areas. There are already a number of customers and partners who trust us for that. They started from self-served and now are growing their deployments worldwide. I assume the vendor "size" should only be part of your requirements, and that "size" does not imply "sustainable" nor guarantee your own competitive advantage at the end.
You may check out to stay tune with our next milestones.

Hitesh Sarda said...

Hi Marc, good to see you are tackling the CEP space. We will need to start looking at it early next year as well. So we might be consuming more than Ventana from you. BTW, are you also evaluating the BEA Weblogic Event Server? At least the vendor is certified :)

marc said...


I *think* that the BEA Event Server is based on Esper. I am sure that Thomas can comment on this.