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.