Partha Sarathi

Partha Sarathi Sengupta

Biography

Partha Sarathi Sengupta is presently working as Solution Architect for Ericsson India Global Services. He has prior experience on different domains like telecom, healthcare, insurance, capital market, investment, credit scoring, airlines, and engineering. He has have worked in multiple roles such as enterprise architect, integration architect, solution architect, designer, developer, analyst, project manager, onsite-coordinator and a COE lead throughout his career.

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Business Activity Monitoring: Capabilities & Applicability - Part II Published: February 27, 2014 • Service Technology Magazine Issue LXXXI PDF

Abstract: This is the second article in a two-part article series. Read the first part of this article here.

Integrating Intelligence

A typical business process is influenced by both internal and external sources of information. The BAM model described so far only takes the internal sources of influence into account. The same model can be extended to include external sources of information like weather forecasts, selective news feeds and customized dashboard for manually feeding in intelligence information collected offline. Figure 5 shows the manner in which this system can be extended.

For instance, when the model depicted above receives some critical weather information about an incoming cyclone, it can update the inventory system to stock appropriate items in the store. Considering another example, the administrator can pull up the list of best selling items during a festival season from the BI system and manually feed it in using the Admin dashboard. At times critical news items can also influence the business process. For instance, in case a popular news source publishes the reviews of a movie with a rating of 5 stars, the systems can send out an alert to increase its inventory. Alternatively, if a stocked movie has really got a bad review, then the stock reorder requests can be put on hold without any manual intervention.

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Figure 1 – BAM integrated with external systems and feeds for intelligence

Considerations for Implementation

Rolling out a BAM process takes a considerable amount of effort and commitment from the business side. Here are few things for the stakeholders to consider before deciding to go ahead with BAM implementation.

BAM is a Business Solution, Not a Technology Solution: A systematic study of the business processes in context is required as the first step to BAM roll out. Once the study is over a process matrix (table 2) has to be created to outline the key stages in the lifecycle of a business entity as it goes through the business process. After the matrix is defined, it will be used to configure the BAM solution to monitor the appropriate significant signs and take the right corrective action. This is purely a business activity and does not have much of technology dependency. It has to be ensured that the required time and effort is committed by the business personnel to make this activity successful.

The idea might need to be sold: A number of existing important business applications might require to get modified for a BAM rollout to be effective. It is important to get the accurate data out of the applications and analyze the same to get precise meaning out of them so that they can be used properly during the BAM implementation. The applications those are architected to be extensible or that follow SOA paradigm will not have many issue in incorporating changes. For the rest, willingness and preparedness to accommodate the changes has to be explained and understood. Most of the time this would require selling idea to all the parties involved and explaining them how the investment will bring in greater benefits to the business.

Compatibility Aspects: Though it sounds very exciting, there is a problem at the last lap of BAM rollout. Since BAM works as a information aggregator, it needs to interact with multiple systems based on the diverse platform and technologies. To avoid the complicacies caused by the heterogeneous platforms and technologies it's recommended to use web services and SOA paradigm wherever possible during the integration. This would bring in compatibility among the applications running on a heterogeneous environment. While planning for a custom built BAM solution it is very important to consider the needs of the existing applications and the time required to integrate the BAM into the existing environment.

To Start on a Large Scale or Not: For an effective BAM roll out it's very critical to integrate it with all the systems that participate in the business processes. Before planning for the roll out the complexity of all the candidate systems should be evaluated. Typically all enterprises will have a combination of small and large scale business processes. Small ones will have lesser issues for integration than the large ones. Time and effort required for each of the business processes should be estimated properly. Once the estimation is done the business processes should prioritize based on their sizes otherwise this can put a hold on the business operations for a long period. For example, if the Shipping and CRM systems are found to be the most active ones among the other systems participating in a business process, they should be targeted as the initial candidates for BAM roll out. Once they are integrated with BAM and start to produce results on the BAM reporting interfaces the rest of the systems can be integrated gradually. Another option of the roll out is to break up the business processes in small segments and start the integration in an incremental manner.

On The Way to an Agile Enterprise

In many ways BAM can be considered as a key enabler for achieving agility in the business processes across the enterprise. Agility is all about the sustenance to change. It's the ability of a business to accommodate and respond to a change faster. BAM can address the key pre-requisites to achieve agility in the enterprise:

  • Visibility into daily operations and faster response to variations from the normal trend
  • Awareness of change both from external and internal sources
  • End-to-end view of the processes with important signs, corrective and proactive measures to be taken by the stakeholders.

Figure 2 shows how the BAM solutions and the agility pre-requisites are mapped to the example stated in this article. It's important to identify the key factors that can increase the agility of the business. For example, the business should focus on external sources that are applicable to the domain and identify the stakeholders who need to get notified on the change and also the people who can act effectively. The more quickly the respond state is reached, the more agility the business will gain.

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Figure 2 – BAM for Agility

Optimizing Business Processes

In a conventional technical way BAM does not have capabilities for performance modeling and application tuning which are the key features of performance engineering. But if BAM is considered from the business process point of view, it provides an approach on how to monitor, tune and track the business processes for performance improvement. This feature in turn adds up in achieving agility, responsiveness and resilience to the business. Eventually these are the vital ingredients needed to optimize the performance of a business process.

Solutions and Implementations

There are several distinct Business Activity Monitoring Solutions present today. Some of them are offered by vendors which are focused exclusively on the Business Activity Monitoring sector such as Systar. Most of the realistic Business Activity Monitoring applications in the market come from the primary enterprise software vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, TIBCO and Oracle. These companies were able to sense the future need of BAM in the marketplace and stapled Business Activity Monitoring capabilities with some of their existing software products. For example Microsoft introduced Business Activity Monitoring features to its BizTalk Server suite, IBM added them to WebSphere; and Oracle enhanced its application server offering with Business Activity Monitoring features. Some popular BAM solutions available today are briefly described below.

TIBCO BusinessFactor: TIBCO BusinessFactor™ software enables the development and delivery of performance visibility and business activity monitoring (BAM) solutions that let users quickly understand current operational performance in context of business objectives, past performance and related activities. It collects and correlates data from across the organization, presents information via customizable interactive dashboards, and alerts users when thresholds are exceeded. By performing these functions, the software helps users more quickly and accurately identify and address risks and opportunities.

It Visual representations of data – including maps, blueprints, technical drawings, charts, or graphs – give users the ability to analyze current conditions and performance for any level of location specificity or timeframe to quickly identify trends and predict likely outcomes. BusinessFactor's intuitive user interface shows critical performance indicators and supporting contextual information so users can perform quick historical analysis, drill into data, and take action. BusinessFactor also gives users the ability to collaborate with other users and interact with systems and processes to take appropriate action.

TIBCO SpotFire: By the way, nowadays TIBCO is promoting a more dynamic product in this area called SpotFire. SpotFire Operations Analytics is designed not only to monitor real-time business events but also to create and deliver root-cause analysis applications in response to those events automatically. Unlike reporting or dashboard based tools, those can only provide alerts on operational problems, SpotFire helps in solving problems, by automatically merging real-time monitored data with contextual information from multiple sources into applications designed to find outliers, trends and relationships.

Oracle Business Activity Monitoring: Oracle BAM is a key technology component of Oracle Fusion Middleware and SOA stack of products. It satisfies a rising need to enable Business Executives and particularly operations managers, to make decisions by making real-time actionable information available 24x7. Visibility into key business metrics empowers managers to improve the efficiency of their business processes in a step-by-step approach to process optimization.

Features of Oracle BAM

The proposed Business Activity Monitoring is Oracle BAM. By deploying the SOA framework and using BAM for monitoring the services, business users can derive actionable timely intelligence on their business operations by monitoring the flow of data, service requests, and process invocations. All the components of Oracle SOA Suite including Oracle BEPL Process Manager (Oracle BPEL PM) and/or the integration adaptors can be configured to sends Oracle BAM information emanating from the various integrated application processes using the JMS protocol. With Oracle BPEL PM this can be achieved by leveraging the built in "sensor" technology wherein a part or the entire state of an instance transaction at a process node can be sent to Oracle BAM as a JMS message for further analysis. Oracle BAM can then correlate disparate events that it received, as messages, within the context of pre-defined monitoring models and rules that can relate to business process KPIs to alert business users of process problems and opportunities.

Architecture Overview of Oracle BAM

The Oracle BAM architecture utilizes messaging, data integration, advanced data caching, analytics monitoring, alerting, and reporting technology to deliver requested critical information within seconds of an event or change in status. Because the primary source of data is messages, Oracle BAM is able to update reports and generate alerts at speeds that traditional architectures simply can't match. Oracle BAM can accept tens of thousands of updates per second into a memory-based persistent cache that is at the center of the Oracle BAM architecture. Any application can send events using Web services or over any JMSbased messaging protocols. Legacy application can integrate with Oracle BPEL PM using custom created adaptors and can in turn integrate with Oracle BAM via the Oracle BPEL PM native sensor architecture. Oracle BAM can additionally also send alerts to external web services when specified threshold conditions within the analytics engine are met. The figure 3 shows the Oracle BAM architecture.

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Figure 3 – Oracle BAM architecture

Business process data can be monitored and tracked using by Oracle Business Activity Monitor. Oracle Business Activity Monitoring (Oracle BAM) is a complete solution for building interactive, real-time dashboards and proactive alerts for monitoring business processes and services. Oracle BAM gives business executives and operation managers the information they need to make better business decisions and take corrective action if the business environment changes.

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Figure 4 – Oracle BAM and surrounding components

IBM WebSphere Business Monitor: IBM WebSphere Business Monitor (WBM) offers real-time insight into business processes.

WBM extends the extensive distributed platform for monitoring of events native to the mainframe platform. It provides business users with a real-time, end-to-end view of business process performance on user-friendly and customizable dashboards, corporate portals and mobile devices, as well as on the desktop. It can improve business results by enabling business users to preempt problems with predictive KPIs and to detect and manage business situations. It boosts up productivity by empowering business users to create new dashboards, KPIs and alerts with minimal IT involvement. It accelerates continuous process improvement and business innovation through a tight integration with other IBM BPM products.

WebSphere Business Monitor V6.1 provides two types of dashboards: Web-based dashboards and portlet-based dashboards. Web-based dashboards are implemented as Web pages. Portlet-based dashboards are a component of WebSphere Business Monitor V6.1 that operates within the WebSphere Portal V6.0.1.1 environment. Figure 3 on and Figure 4 illustrate the runtime architecture respectively. As indicated by the flow in both figures, you follow this sequence:

  1. After you finish the development of the monitor model, export the resulting monitor application that is deployed into the runtime environment (WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus, or WebSphere Process Server) by using the WebSphere Administrative Console. Ensure that you configure the WebSphere Business Monitor server application to link appropriately to CEI to be registered to consume events from the emitting application.
  2. On another server (for example, WebSphere Process Server or WebSphere MQ Workflow), deploy the application that emits events to a CEI server.
  3. Upon receipt of the registered event types, the CEI server sends the appropriate Common Base Event to the server registered in step 1.
  4. The monitor model executes. It polls for events waiting on the queue, processes them according to the monitor model instructions, and stores business measures to the Monitor database.

Optionally, the monitor model application can obtain real-time event-related data from the event or data source through code that you can provide and invoke as a user-defined XPath function.

  1. Optionally, in addition to receiving events as in step 3, the monitor model application can detect business situations (for example, thresholds) and emit events that can be consumed by the WebSphere Business Monitor action services.
  2. The CEI server routes events received through the event or data source or the monitor model application to the action services.
  3. The action services component takes action such as sending notifications, calling Web services, and invoking Service Component Architecture (SCA) components to perform actions.

Independently, the business user uses the dashboards, which invoke Representational State Transfer (REST) services to return data from the Monitor database and show monitoring results through different views.

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Figure 5

Figure 5 shows usage of the lightweight Web dashboard, which is implemented as Web pages. DB2 Alphablox package installation is optional and is only the prerequisite for use of the dashboard's dimensional and report views.

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Figure 6

Figure 6 shows usage of the Portal dashboard, which uses WebSphere Portal Server to invoke a REST service. DB2 Alphablox package installation is optional and is only the prerequisite for use of the dashboard's dimensional and report views.

Systar Business Activity Monitoring for Telecom: Systar Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) enables telecom firms to go beyond simply monitoring network and IT infrastructure processes, instead delivering a clear, 360-degree view of how incidents affect the health of critical business services that must seamlessly flow together.

Systar BAM enables organizations to improve operational efficiency and service quality through unprecedented real-time insight into core telecom business processes, including: Order fulfillment, Service Activation, Revenue Assurance and Supplier and Partner Service Assurance.

Microsoft Business Activity Monitoring: Pro Business Activity Monitoring in BizTalk 2009 focuses on Microsoft's BAM tools, which provide a flexible infrastructure that captures data from Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, .NET applications, and BizTalk Server.

Microsoft BAM allows the user to manage aggregations, alerts, and profiles to monitor relevant business metrics (called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs). It provides an end-to-end visibility into the business processes, providing accurate information about the status and results of various operations, processes and transactions so the users can address problem areas and resolve issues within the business.

CEP: A Brainier BAM

Complex Event Processing (CEP) is a rising rule-based technology that combines real-time information from distributed message-based systems, applications and databases. CEP dynamically searches for patterns and trends that would otherwise go unnoticed. CEP allows enterprises to identify and predict opportunities represented by outwardly distinct events across complex, heterogeneous IT environments. Figure 7 shows how CEP extracts these insights. Businesses capture hundreds of thousands of business events to form an event cloud. These events include, updates to customer records in a CRM application, sales in a point-of-sale application, orders scanned upon shipping or delivery, GPS data for delivery trucks and even weather information. Key features of CEP implementation is the ability to model business activities, specifically the dependencies among servers, network infrastructure, applications, people, and processes. CEP uses these models to identify constraints or patterns that map formal or informal processes to expected outcomes. These models provide a framework for designing, automating, and managing intelligent decisions across the enterprise.

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Figure 7 – CEP delivers insight from enterprise events

Implementing CEP

The steps below are required to implement a CEP solution.

  1. Enable the enterprise IT infrastructure to capture events.
  2. Correlate/match these events to business objects for context and to determine causality.
  3. Create the capability to recognize event patterns.
  4. Once patterns are recognized, aggregate pertinent event patterns into higher-level event structures also known as "complex" events.
  5. Provide business process models and state-based timing expectations (e.g., timeouts/lack of event support) to represent meaningful process transitions.
  6. Create the capability to act/react to drive the business object state to mitigate problems or take advantage of opportunities.
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Figure 8 – CEP Systems are noted for their ability to provide insight into operations in real time. They are iterative and can create new events as patterns of activity from employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders.

Oracle Complex Event Processing (OCEP)

Among the real-time process monitoring and event processing tools Oracle has offered Business Activity Monitor and Complex Event Processing. One can perform real-time detection of specific patterns, across multiple data streams and time windows, through Oracle Complex Event Processing (CEP). One can also gain real-time visibility into operation and performance of business processes, along with the ability to respond to specific situations, through Oracle Business Activity Monitoring (BAM).

At its core, Oracle Complex Event Processing is a Java container implemented with a lightweight, modular architecture based on the Open Services Gateway initiative (OSGi™). It provides a complex event processing (CEP) engine and Continuous Query Language (CQL), as well as a rich development platform without sacrificing performance.

Architecture Overview of OCEP

Oracle Complex Event Processing is architected as a set of relatively fine-grained software modules. Each module contains a set of Java classes that implement some aspect of the server's functionality. A module may act as a library for other modules by exporting classes for client modules to use. A module may also register services in a service registry for use by other modules. The figure below shows the high level software architecture of an Oracle Complex Event Processing instance. At the lowest level there is a Java virtual machine with deterministic garbage collection (DGC). The JVM provides the foundation for support of applications that demand deterministic latency by limiting the length of garbage collection pauses. The next layer is composed of the modularity framework which allows modules to control the import and export of Java classes. The modularity layer also handles class loading and provides versioning support for classes. The service framework is responsible for instantiating the classes that implement a service and for resolving dependencies between services.

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Figure 9 – OCEP Architecture Overview

Conclusion

BAM is still not matured enough to be used smoothly in an enterprise. It requires the implementer to take more responsibilities to fit with the business in context. But the promises that BAM brings in is really very beneficial to all the industries and businesses. If implemented in a proper way that fits with the business strategies it can bridge the gap between the business and the technology. The enterprises those roll out BAM will have an obvious advantage over their competitors with respect to the performance of the business systems.

As far as the agility is concerned, the best option for an enterprise to get the maximum benefit out of a BAM solution is to have centralized control over the business processes using a BPM platform and complement the same by a BAM framework. BPM will help the enterprise to have an end-to-end view on the business processes and their control while BAM will bring in the capabilities to monitor the changes, foresee a variation from the normal trend and act accordingly.

The changes that can be monitored by a BAM could be anything that happens in the market but the real intelligence that can earn a greater profitability for a business. This can be done with a continuous mining of news feeds and analyzing them to find out which are relevant to the business and can potentially change the landscape of a business. This is how technology can be employed to watch for the business opportunities like a hawk and enrich the business to proceed toward a profitable growth, operational efficiency, reducing operational costs and adaptability. CEP is a brainier and improved BAM that tracks the real time business events and figure out a business pattern based on the same. In case of a deviation from the normal pattern the CEP notifies and enables systems to resolve issues automatically.

References

[REF-1] Mark Hellinger and Scott Fingerhut, Business Activity Monitoring: EAI Meets Data Warehousing, 2002. http://www.businessactivitymonitoring.com/docs/bam.pdf

[REF-2] The CEO's Tech Toolbox, Business Week, 2005.

[REF-3] David Luckham, Can we Bring Some Order to the Business Activity Monitoring Space? Complex Event Processing, 2005. http://complexevents.com/?p=5

[REF-4] Complex Event Processing.

[REF-5] Gary Anthes, Eyes Everywhere: Business activity monitoring offers a constant watch on business processes. ComputerWorld, November 2003.

[REF-6] http://tibcoblogs.com/cep/

[REF-7] Business Activity Monitoring by Jiri Kolar. Spring 2009. http://is.muni.cz/th/72655/fi_m/dp.pdf

[REF-8] Leverage Complex Event Processing to Improve Operational Performance by Alan Lundberg.