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iSpheres hopes EPL becomes the SQL of event processing

Seeking to provide programmers with the open-standard, copyright-free, event-processing equivalent of SQL, iSpheres announced last week that it has developed the Event Processing Language (EPL).

The language spec, along with the company's event server that supports it, will be released this quarter by the Oakland, Calif.-based company that emerged out of a 10-year research project at Cal Tech in Pasadena.

Programmers experienced with SQL will have little trouble understanding EPL, Gary Ebersole, iSpheres marketing VP, tells Programmers Report.

"Unlike databases that use hoc SELECT-FROM-WHERE queries against a persistent data store, EPL employs a time-based persistent ON-WHEN-THEN query against asynchronous data flows and historical context data," according to the company's announcement. "The result is a real-time application that uses event processing to monitor, correlate, detect and respond to actionable conditions."

Ebersole says the original Cal Tech research that all this is based on was done for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense. The Pentagon is interested in event processing for command and control apps but, as Ebersole puts it, "business needs command and control, too. Event-driven applications are everywhere."

He lists IT systems management, fraud detection and the new area of RFID-enabled applications, such as "ON the beer overheating WHEN arriving at the dock THEN turn up refrigeration," as examples.

While event-driven examples are easy to give, Ebersole cautions that writing apps is not a snap. "Event processing is not easy to do," he says. "You can event-enable an application today, but you have to effectively do all the event processing yourself. You have to write custom code."

He argues that hand-coding ON-WHEN-THEN can be a lot of work with a limited result.

"You'd end up writing a lot of Java code, assuming you're working in a Java environment," he says. "You'd use services from the messaging middleware people, different connector technologies, analytics, libraries that you have available, write your own rules or use rules engines. Wrap this together and you'd have a custom event-enabled application. But you can't reuse it. It's probably taken a long time to do. It's probably not a very fast application. It hasn't really been optimized for high-performance event processing. It's always expensive. Custom code is rarely a low cost way to go."

This is where EPL comes in: It's a standard way to write event-enabled applications that run on any event server compatible with the standard. This is where iSpheres is looking for cooperation from other vendors in the events space.

"We want this to be an open programming language for event-driven applications," Ebersole says. "We're not interested in a closed proprietary language. We want to work with other partners and customers to make this an open language. We're not trying to protect it at all because like SQL as an open standard language, other vendors can build servers that support that language."

iSpheres will publish the specification for EPL on its Web site sometime between now and the middle of this quarter, Ebersole says. He adds that his company has had discussions about adopting EPL as a standard with database and server vendors he says he's not at liberty to name.

The company's own iSpheres EPL Server/05 is scheduled to be GA by mid-December, he says.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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