Progress buys Apama

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Progress has just announced that it has acquired Apama, whose software will now form part of the ObjectStore division of Progress.

Apama was founded towards the end of 1999 by two alumni of Cambridge University, who had been collaborating in the university’s computer lab for the best part of the previous decade. Originally, they had set out to try and resolve a number of telecommunications-based real-time mobile issues, but had then realised that there were commercial opportunities in a wider range of environments. As a result, the company historically focused on financial markets and specifically financial trading systems where real-time event-based trading systems are in high demand. However, the company always appreciated that its technology was suitable for use in a wide range of other event-driven environments such as telecommunications, supply chains, security and military applications and other areas. These are areas that ObjectStore wants to move the technology into.

Apama is squarely aimed at the so-called real-time enterprise and what it effectively does is to provide event-driven query and analytic processing (in the financial arena providing algorithmic financial trading solutions) in real-time. The company’s contention is that conventional approaches to these environments are only suitable for small scale environments or those in which limited numbers of data feeds are being monitored. In particular, its view is that these solutions cannot cope with environments where large numbers of data feeds need to be combined in a complex and dynamic fashion.

The company’s argument is that alert engines are only really suited for monitoring individual threshold events (and they can’t do things like predicting if it is likely that you will cross a threshold), while more comprehensive solutions such as conventional database approaches simply lack the capability for real-time processing. Even in-memory databases require the data to be committed to the database prior to query processing, and indexes to be updated, both of which inherently mean a time delay. Moreover, such approaches are expensive (much bigger processors would be required than are typically needed for Apama) and, in any case, these do not scale well.

Apama has taken a different route. Rather than committing data to a database and then processing it, data is directly processed as it is fed into the system, without recourse to a database. In principle, all the resulting database overheads are therefore omitted, resulting in better performance and significantly improved scalability.

You can see why ObjectStore would be interested in this sort of technology. With the RFID and Financial Accelerators that it provides with its ObjectStore database it is already addressing the event-driven market, but Apama potentially puts a proven front-end onto these systems.

Where there is a question mark is in how the existing Financial Accelerator and Apama work with respect to each other, since it would appear that there is an overlap between the two sets of capabilities. No doubt this will be resolved in due course. It will also be interesting to see the other environments into which ObjectStore extends Apama’s capabilities. No doubt RFID will be one.