Is Sybase buying Aleri?

Marc Adler and Marco Seiriö seem to think so.

Such a deal would seem a little strange coming less than a year after Sybase licensed the underlying complex event processing (CEP) engine for Sybase CEP from Coral8, immediately prior to Coral8’s acquisition by Aleri.

The terms of that licensing agreement provide a clue as to why Sybase would consider opening up its wallet again to snap up Aleri, however.

As Aleri insisted last March, “The licensing arrangement allows Sybase to embed CEP capabilities within and ONLY WITHIN Sybase products such as RAP”.

Sybase later confirmed (clients only) to us that this was indeed the arrangement and maintained that its strategy for CEP was to embed it within larger platform products.

As well as RAP – The Trading Edition, the company’s risk-analytics platform, Sybase also had plans to target opportunities in the telecommunications, healthcare and government sectors.

One justification for the acquisition of Aleri would be that it would allow Sybase to target those markets and other opportunities with a standalone CEP offering based on Aleri’s next-generation engine codenamed Ohio which is slated for roll-out in 2010 and is designed to include the best features from Aleri Streaming Platform and the Coral8 Engine and be backwards-compatible with both.

Then of course there are the Aleri/Coral assets beyond the core CEP engine, including the Aleri Studio visual modeling application, as well as dashboard and OLAP server capabilities, and packaged applications for risk and liquidity analysis and management.

As for why Aleri would sell out to Sybase – we certainly noted some trepidation from the company when we caught up (clients only) in September last year. While the company was buoyant about its plans for Ohio it was reticent to discuss details of customer wins/successes.

The only thing the company would say was that it had more than 80 customers, the number of combined customers when the merger closed.

At that point it was somewhat more confident, claiming (clients only) to be the largest pure-play CEP vendor in terms of headcount and customer base and revenue (although with none of the CEP vendors disclosing revenue figures, that last claim was always highly debatable).

Sybase places its bet for CEP

And then there were four again. Sybase’s announcement of its new complex event processing product is interesting, not least since it sheds some new light on the merger of Aleri and Coral8.

Sybase had previously hedged its bets on CEP by partnering with Aleri, StreamBase and Coral8, although we suspected that wouldn’t last forever. Rather than acquire a CEP vendor, the announcement provides a clue that Sybase has elected to license the technology for its new Sybase CEP product from Coral8: “SQL-like CCL language for application development”.

When Marc at the Magmasystem blog noted that “a large database company had purchased a source code license for Coral8” Sybase was always the likely candidate, and that deal no doubt had a significant influence on Coral’s decision to sell and Aleri’s decision to buy.

Coral8 is the complementary choice given its focus outside Sybase’s preliminary target of financial services (only 45% of Coral8’s customers are in capital markets), although Coral8’s recent acquisition by Aleri means Sybase will be using the CEP technology to compete directly with its new owner.

I am still somewhat surprise that Sybase decided it didn’t want the technology and sales expertise that it would have got from an acquisition rather than a licensing deal, especially since Sybase also plans to use the CEP technology to target the telecommunications, healthcare and government sectors.

Additionally, Aleri insists that “The licensing arrangement allows Sybase to embed CEP capabilities within and ONLY WITHIN Sybase products such as RAP. Sybase is NOT allowed to offer or sell a standalone CEP product. A Sybase customer can use the embedded CEP engine ONLY within Sybase RAP.”

CEP consolidation begins as Aleri acquires Coral8

Covering the the complex event specialists just got 25% easier. We noted in September last year that the complex event processing (CEP) specialists StreamBase Systems, Aleri and Coral8 were attractive acquisition targets and that it would only be a matter of time before we saw consolidation in the event processing sector. Consolidation among those vendors wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, but that is what has come to pass as Aleri has announced the acquisition of Coral8 for an undisclosed fee.

The combined entity, which continues to use the Aleri name, is now claiming to be the largest CEP specialist on the market, although that is debatable and we expect it to be strongly debated by StreamBase and Progress Software’s Apama division.

Here are the numbers to be debated: All of Coral8’s 45 employees are joining Aleri, which will have a combined headcount of 95 and will boast 80 paying customers, less than five of which are existing customers of both companies.

We will have a full assessment of the deal and its implications out later today, but our first impressions are as follows:

While the acquisition of Coral8 by Aleri may appear at first glance like a combination of near-equals the resulting business stands to benefit from complementary product and sales strategies that should bring about cost savings via reduced duplication of effort and enable further expansion outside financial services.

CEP is becoming a core enabling technology for data processing and analysis and the new Aleri is well positioned to build on its established position in capital markets and exploit partnerships with business intelligence and data warehousing vendors for wider adoption

Defining the language of complex events

The Event Processing Technical Society, an organization formed in June by Complex Event Processing bigwigs to collaborate on the future direction of event processing, has announced its first deliverable: a glossary of terms designed to provide “a common language for developing applications and software infrastructure that use event processing concepts”.

The glossary is available for download (PDF) while EPTS members can also comment and make suggestions on its wiki. It is based on an initial glossary published by David Luckham and Roy Schulte in late June. The glossary has three goals:

  • “to accelerate the learning of the event processing concept;
  • to further community communication by enabling practitioners to utilize common concepts and terms; and,
  • most importantly, to provide a foundation for analysis and the development of best practices, publications and industry standards.”

The glossary should also useful in defining the CEP sector for outsiders given the widespread use of apparently interchangable phrases such as Event Stream Processing, Event Processing, Stream Processing and Complex Event processing.

Here’s some edited highlights for the uninitiated.

Event: Anything that happens, or is contemplated as happening.”

Event (also event object, event message, event tuple): An object that represents encodes or records an event, generally for the purpose of computer processing.”

Complex event: an event that is an abstraction of other events called its members.”

Complex-event processing (CEP): Computing that performs operations on complex events, including reading, creating, transforming or abstracting them.”

Event stream: a linearly ordered sequence of events.”

Event Stream Processing (ESP): Computing on inputs that are event streams.”

Simple really. For the full context, you are encouraged to refer to the full glossary.

On the maturity of complex event processing

How mature is complex event processing technology? That is the question that has been doing the rounds among the great and the good of the CEP industry in recent weeks following an article in Wall Street & Technology in which Ivy Schmerken noted that attendees at the Accelerating Wall Street conference indicated it was a myth that CEP technology is mature.

StreamBase’s Mark Palmer responded with the argument that an increasing number of publicly announced deployments indicated the opposite. Then Tim Bass agreed with Ivy, before mentioning the Gartner Hype Cycle and it all went off. So who is right? Without wishing to be accused of fence-sitting, I would offer the suggestion that they all are, thanks to a couple of quirks of CEP.

For example, as the product of academic research at Cal Tech, Cambridge, Brown, Stanford and UC Berkeley (amongst others) it could be argued that the concepts that underpin CEP products are mature. Additionally, given the adoption of CEP by relatively conservative businesses in financial services, it could also be argued that the technology itself is mature.

However, CEP to date is a niche technology that has been targeted specifically at those customers, so holding them up as an example of its maturity is somewhat self-fulfilling. There are a number of potential markets for the wider adoption of CEP, but they are so far untapped. As Opher Etzion put it: “In the CEP area we certainly have mature applications, we also have some maturity in the products of the first generation, but we are somewhat far from the maturity of the entire area.”

I think Mark’s comment at the end of his post “we shouldn’t feel compelled to thwart that growth with a claim that the products are not ‘mature’ when they actually are in a lot of ways” is quite revealing. The fact that such a level of debate about CEP’s maturity is taking place, and the fact that Mark is concerned that the debate might stifle growth, is itself indicative of an immature market segment in my opinion.