In an emerging BAM world, FirstRain wants to last
- By Peter Bochner
There are certain limitations to the traditional data
warehouse-oriented type of business intelligence. For instance, a call center
manager can rely on traditional BI software to look at historical trends and
find out when to expect high volumes. But if they wanted to be alerted the
moment call volumes exceeded a certain threshold, and then drill down to see if
it were common for this time of season, they would need
something more sophisticated.
That sophistication is now available via an emerging
category of software known as Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). BAM helps
companies discover, extract, classify and route information to employees who
need it, when they need it. It differs from classical BI in that it enables companies to compare real-time
data to historical trends.
Last week, New York City-based FirstRain (http://www.firstrain.com) announced Version 2.0 of its
BAM platform, which consists of tools that can find and bring new data and
event sources into the BAM environment, and then link this intelligence
to other corporate applications.
According to Gaurav Rewari, CEO at FirstRain, a lot of end users are like the
aforementioned call center manager. ''They need the kind of BI that comes from
constant monitoring of operational systems in real-time.'' Some of FirstRain's 15
customers (Rewari said he expects to have 60 customers by year's end) are people
who never needed to access reporting tools before. These people now use BAM
software to keep them up to date on key events, through channels such as e-mail,
pagers, hand-held devices or personalized Web-based portals that the company
refers to as portlets.
As Rewari sees it, BAM software overcomes some of the
limitations of the Internet. ''Right now, the Internet is a one-way bus,'' he
noted. ''With HTTP, I can go to CNN.com in the morning and log back in at the end
of the day. But in between, if something of interest happens, CNN has no way to
let me know that.''
BAM Platform 2.0 allows users to do this through its
eventServer component, a piece of middleware that employs a publish-subscribe
messaging system to route personalized content to users. The other three
components are viewServer, which enables users to extract applications or
content and reuse them as portlets, mobile apps or even Web Services;
discoveryServer, a webcrawler that navigates the Web for a topic and then builds
and monitors a database of links for it to pull events from; and PaCK, a kit
that allows users to build personalized event panels that they can place on
hand-held devices or browsers.
FirstRain isn't the only company trying to solve the
problem of two-way messaging over the Internet; Rewari acknowledges that a
number of companies are trying to do so with a technology similar to
eventServer. The difference, he said, is that eventServer delivers actual event
notification to users. ''Events are different from e-mail, in that they expire,'' he said. ''They need to be sorted by
importance, not just chronology.''
The other key difference between FirstRain's products and
those of its competitors, Rewari said, is ease of use: viewServer and
discoveryServer permit the ushering in of events into the system through a point-and-click interface. ViewServer, he noted, allows you
to 'componentize' any Web-based application.
In some ways, BAM is as much of an evolution of EAI as it
is BI. EAI vendors are also targeting users who need real-time information. But
according to Rewari, EAI is geared ''to the heavy iron aspects of a business,
such as processing orders and transactions. EAI is zero-latency, but it's geared
to application-to-application messaging. BAM is application-to-human messaging.''
EventServer, he noted, sits on top of an EAI system, finding events of interest to a particular user. ''In actuality, EAI is a great
source of events for us.''