Whatever happened to iSpheres?

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iSpheres was an event processing vendor along the lines of StreamBase, Coral8 or Progress Apama. However, in the middle of last year it more or less disappeared, its web site went dead, you couldn’t find out any recent details about the company on Google: I assumed it went bust. But it turned out that I was wrong and sometime late last year I discovered that the company had been bought by Avaya.

So, the question was, what would a communications company want with an event processing engine? Well, I actually found out last year but wasn’t in a position to write about it, as Avaya’s new product is only released this week. And what the company is announcing is a CEBP (communications enabled business process) solution, which consists of the Avaya Communications Process Manager and the Avaya Event Processor (previously iSpheres) plus consultancy, integration, support and other services.

So, what is CEBP? Well, the idea behind CEBP is that we have put lots of effort into developing improved business processes but that the bulk of that BPM (business process management) effort has been focused on automating the processes involved and hasn’t done much to address the human elements in that equation. This is where CEBP comes in, with Avaya providing a series of pre-built “response services” with options such as ‘notify and respond’, ‘find and call’, ‘notify and conference’, and ‘notify with task list’. These should be fairly self-explanatory and it should suggest what CEBP does in the sense that it automates the human involvement processes: that is, how people are involved in the process.

The Avaya solution is built around web services and SOA (service oriented architecture) and has 5 of these pre-built, but customisable, response services. It looks like a sensible idea to me but how it stacks up with other CEBP solutions (Avaya actually claims to have the first complete solution on the market) I cannot say, since I don’t pretend to be an expert in this sort of collaboration.

However, what I can say is that there is no competitor in the CEBP market with an equivalent to the Avaya Event Processor. This is an optional part of the solution that does what event processors do (that is, recognise and respond to high volumes of complex data in real-time). Now, you can see why this might be useful in the CEBP environment: the whole emphasis of CEBP is to move closer towards real-time decision making and, in some instances at least, you will need real-time information to inform those decisions. Indeed, regardless of the latency involved in the decision making process, it may still be important to have real-time data regarding the current situation you are making decisions about.

Avaya has not finalised its plans for the future of its Event Processor, so the following is speculation, but I think it will in future offer two versions of its CEBP product, a basic version and an extended version, where the latter has the Event Processor embedded within it. Then you will also be able to license the Event Processor as a stand-alone product.

My personal view is that the event processing market in the future will be driven by embedded sales (that is, where event processing is embedded within an application solution so that the user does not see the event processing per se) rather than the stand-alone solutions that have characterised the market to-date. If Avaya does what I suggest then it will be tracking both parts of the event processing market, which looks like a sensible approach.