Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Enterprise as a Network of Events

From the early days of SOA, we've talked about understanding the enterprise as a network of services, but clearly this is not the only possible viewpoint. Can we understand the enterprise as a network of events?

In a recent post SOA and Events - Two Sides of BAM?, Ramesh Loganathan (Progress) explained how a process view of the enterprise could be flipped into an event-oriented view. Ramesh's example is in governance risk and compliance (GRC), but it looks as if the same idea could be applied to a much broader range of business requirements.

Meanwhile, in Decision Management and software development, James Taylor wants to model the enterprise as a series of decisions. But of course a decision can be understood as a special kind of event. See Model Driven Engineering and Event Processing by Opher Etzion (IBM). See also SOA is dead; long live Model-Driven SOA by Johan den Haan.

In his post Event, Rules, Processes, Decisions, Paul Vincent (TIBCO) identifies an important gap in the notations (BPMN, BMM) available for modelling these aspects of the enterprise. He talks about decisions in terms of rules, but I presume he is associating the rule with the decision process (this is how we authorize transactions) rather than with the specific instance of decision (I hereby authorize this transaction).

At the strategic level, we need to understand the relationship between an external set of possible events and an internal set of possible events. Each enterprise is capable of responding in certain ways to certain classes of external events. Making an enterprise more agile means enabling the enterprise to mobilize more appropriate responses to a greater range of external events, without proliferation of unnecessary complexity. In system thinking this is called Requisite Variety.

So if we think about the enterprise as a network of events, this gives us a direct way to reason about strategic business improvement. But what are the CEP vendors doing in this space? I can see a lot of talk about specific event-driven applications, but where is the architectural thinking about the event-driven enterprise?

Update: After I posted this, Nigel Green drew my attention to something he wrote a couple of years ago on the case for a clear distinction between events and content, which he describes in terms of the wave-particle metaphor.

1 comment:

Paul Korney said...

Good posting! But I'm a little surprised anyone still argues this; hasn't it been long understood that organizations are formed to respond to events so as to create value?

An excellent reference is: