Saturday, December 29, 2007

Aleri Evaluation

Just a small word about the Aleri evaluation. Several of you have repeatedly pinged me to find out what I thought of Aleri, so I am going to write down some of my impressions. The usual disclaimers apply, such as this is my opinion and does not necessarily represent the opinions of my employer.

My impressions were formed after a superficial evaluation of Aleri against some of the other vendors. I have not gotten to the point yet where I am testing the latency and throughput of the CEP engines. I have not soaked and stressed the CEP engines to see if any of them are leaking memory. I have not tried them on a variety of processors, and I have not examined their performance under multicore processors.

In a nutshell, my biggest area of concern with Aleri was the "spit-and-polish" of the product. They very well might have the fastest CEP engine out there. However, I was stymied by the quality of the documentation, and my perceptions of their Aleri Studio. It also seemed that they were more of a "system integrator" that some of the other CEP firms, taking separate products like OpenAdaptor and JPivot and trying to fit them into a holistic offering.

An example of this was reflected in the difficult time I had in getting Aleri integrated with SQL Server 2005 through Open Adaptor. The documentation was non-obvious, and it took many hours with their sales engineer to finally get it connected. I compare this to Streambase and Coral8, where it took all of 5 minutes to hook up an SQL Server 2005 database to their systems (disclaimer: there is a problem getting Streambase, Vista and SQL Server to work together, although Streambase has not yet released an official version for Vista).

That being said, the salient points are:

1) Aleri's management team (Don DeLoach and Jeff Wootton) fully realize their short-comings in the department of aesthetics, and have promised me that they are actively addressing it. I would highly recommend that Aleri look at Streambase, whose total package is good with regards to documentation and tutorials. (However, I still find a lot of pockets of geekiness in the Streambase documentation.)

2) The Aleri sales engineering team, led by Dave, got a variant of my initial use case to work. However, there are features that Aleri does not yet have, such as jumping windows and pattern matching, that make Coral8 and Streambase stand out.

3) Going through Open Adaptor is not fun. Streambase and Coral8 make it simple to write adapters in C#. The Aleri sales engineer told me that he usually has to help clients to get adapters to work. That is really not the message that a company wants to hear if they have many legacy systems to interface with.

4) Aleri has real-time OLAP, using JPivot. To my knowledge, they are the only CEP company to offer real-time OLAP. I did not really get to see this feature, but true real-time OLAP is something that a lot of financial companies are interested in. We want to be able to slice and dice our order flow in real time over different dimensions.

5) The Aleri Studio uses Eclipse, just like Streambase, and the icons even look exactly like Streambase's icons. However, the user interaction seemed a bit shaky at times, and there were moments when I got myself into "trouble" with the Aleri Studio by clicking on one thing before clicking on another thing. Again, Streambase seems more solid. And, Coral8 does not try to impose a GUI builder on the developer. The guys at Aleri told me that they are addressing these issues.

I was really pulling for Aleri, since the development center is about 15 minutes from my house in New Jersey. They are right down the block from the hallowed halls of Bell Labs in Mountainside, and some of the developers live in the next town over from me. You couldn't meet a company of nicer guys, and the CEO is a very low-key guy compared to other CEOs that I have met. I was impressed by the fact that, at the Gartner conference on CEP, he stood up in front of the audience and exhorted us to try different CEP products.

I anxiously look forward to the 3.0 version of Aleri's offerings, and to see tighter, easier integration between their various components, enhanced documentation, enhanced support for .NET, and a cleaner version of their Aleri Studio. Given the quality of the developers there, I am sure that this version will kick some butt.

©2007 Marc Adler - All Rights Reserved

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