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Some thoughts on SAP/Sybase, CEP and decisioning


There have been a number of twitter conversations around the recent SAP/Sybase news that make me want to write more than 140 characters in response. These fall into three main categories:

  1. Does the announcement have an impact on those considering decision management strategies
  2. What, exactly, do mobile workers need and does Sybase deliver this for SAP
  3. Given Sybase’s focus on Complex Event Processing (CEP), how does CEP relate to business rules and decision management

I started the first of these by arguing that the announcement has no impact on decision management – that the products/solutions SAP was emphasizing would not change the ability of SAP customers to deliver decision management applications. SAP already has a couple of business rules management systems (BRMS) – one for NetWeaver and one for ABAP (see Business Rules and Decisioning for Process Experts for example). What SAP lacks is an integrated data mining/predictive analytics solution (asked about this recently the co-CEOs talked only about an emphasis on in-memory analytics). Sybase has been doing some work with Fuzzy Logix to provide in-database analytics but this did not come up in the announcement so it is not obvious that SAP will be continuing this push nor is there anything about how this would work with the BRMS products. I also did not think that the Sybase portfolio really had any decision management applications.

This caused @bevelson (Boris Evelson of Forrester) to ask “What about Sybase’s Aleri?” and @DanVesset (Dan Vesset of IDC) to say “Sybase RAP could be considered a type of decision management / business navigation systems example”. I have not been briefed in detail about Aleri or RAP but both seem to me to be examples of event correlation plugged into real-time dashboards and BI. Both are designed to support people making decisions, albeit with real-time streaming data. While there is a sliding scale from decision support to decision management (or action support, these products both look to me like real-time decision support systems not true decision management systems – there seems little support for and no focus on taking action automatically, specifying the rules that will use the analytics to take action. So I will stick to my assertion – there is no sign that this announcement changes SAP’s support for decision management.

Moving on to mobile workers. @merv (Merv Adrian) quoted SAP as saying “Many of our customers have mobile workers who need information in real time”. This prompted me to argue that, in fact, these mobile workers probably need DECISIONS in real time and not just information. I have blogged over on ebizQ about the power of decision management in the context of mobile devices. While Sybase has some interesting mobile technology I personally don’t believe that mobilizing an application like the one’s SAP builds is enough – we need to add decision management to those applications and then see what needs to be mobilized. Clearly you could do this with SAP’s business rules products and a focus on decisioning but I don’t think the Sybase acquisition changes this dynamic all that much.

Finally the conversations around Sybase brought up the comment (from @bevelson) “but isn’t CEP a key component of any BRE?”. Well no, I don’t think it is. I think business rules-based decisioning is highly complementary with CEP. After all, one of the most useful things to do having correlated a bunch of events is to take action on the resulting complex event – something business rules are good at. The problem is that lots of CEP is just about correlating events/processing streaming data and then displaying it to a use – streaming BI if you will. This is not a requirement for a BRMS nor for decision management. Decision management and CEP are highly complimentary but they are not the same and I don’t believe that a good decision management solution must support event correlation – I think it is enough that it is easy to build decision agents as well as decision services.

Hopefully that all makes my position clears. As suspected it took me more than 140 characters.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paul Vincent May 17, 2010, 3:13 am

    Given Sybase’s focus on Complex Event Processing (CEP), how does CEP relate to business rules and decision management

    Hi James – I’m not sure Sybase’ recent aquisition of small CEP vendor Aleri constitutes a “focus” per se. An interest, for sure, though. CEP did not appear in any of the SAP press comments on the Sybase takeover. So you are almost certainly right on – there is no sign that this announcement changes SAP’s support for decision management.

    Note: this does not of course mean that SAP does not have any interest in CEP…


  • Djebar Hammouche May 19, 2010, 7:30 am

    What are the impacts related to SAP BPM/EA portfollios : an switch from IDS scheer tools to Sybase tools ?

    • James Taylor May 19, 2010, 8:50 am

      That’s a really good question. Given SAP’s investment in IDS Scheer I would have said no. But, of course, IDS Scheer is owned by Software AG and so it is a valid question – will SAP move to Sybase’s modeling tools so that it controls its own analysis environment. I will try and find out!