SAP is set to challenge Oracle, IBM and Microsoft in the small but growing market for CEP (complex event processing) software with a product called Event Insight, which it planned to announce Wednesday at an event in New York.
CEP software sifts through information from sources such as transactional systems and sensors, looking for patterns and correlations and potentially triggering actions depending on what it finds.
SAP gained CEP capabilities through last year's acquisition of Sybase. It will go up against CEP technologies like Microsoft's StreamInsight and IBM's InfoSphere Streams, as well as ones from startups like StreamBase.
Financial companies have been a primary user of CEP for purposes such as rapid-fire stock trades or fraud detection, but SAP and its competitors are hoping to expand its use in other areas, such as logistics and transportation.
At least one transport company, Canadian National Railway, is in negotiations to start using Event Insight.
"I think [CEP] is going to be a game changer for many industries," said Alan Capes, director of IT business development & strategic planning at the railroad.
CN is a long-time customer of both of SAP's ERP and Business Objects software, and has built out a BI portal that delivers executives a wide range of KPIs (key performance indicators) and other data about the business' operations.
Users say they "love the BI platform, but what I need is near real-time information," Capes said. The portal delivers "fantastic information about how the railroad did yesterday."
CN has been working on a real-time BI project for some time, and in the course of doing so evaluated a number of CEP engines, Capes said. Last year, the company met with SAP officials, who came back eight weeks later with a proof-of-concept that "blew our socks off," he said.
In order for the railroad to get value out of CEP, the system must also incorporate geospatial data, he added. CN has a slew of assets, "and many of them are moving," he said.
One of CN's most hoped-for results from the use of Event Insight is near real-time visibility into fuel consumption and train handling, according to Capes.
CN sets guidelines for the throttle positions its trains should be kept in, he said. Other factors, such as train horsepower, weight, prevailing wind and weather also affect fuel consumption.
While CN currently collects telemetry data from most of its locomotives, that information resides on hosted services, he said. "That's just it. You have these islands of telemetry data ... some web service-enabled, some not."
But if CN could funnel that information along with related data streams through a CEP tool, it would be possible to make real-time operational decisions, such as whether it would be cheaper to have a train refuel at the next refueling station, or to send out a refueling truck, he said.
That scenario is just one of many CN hopes to realize through CEP. Since discussions began with SAP, users have contributed an "explosion of ideas for how we could use this environment," Capes said.
SAP is planning to discuss Event Insight on Wednesday as part of an event featuring the new Business Objects 4.0 suite of BI applications, which has been some three years in the making.