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October 28, 2010

SAS CEO says CEP, open source and cloud have “limited” appeal

Argues these 'hot' areas face limited use cases or customer demand

By Jason Stamper

Dr Jim Goodnight (c) CBR

Dr Jim Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of SAS Institute

The CEO and co-founder of business intelligence firm SAS Institute, Dr Jim Goodnight, told CBR in an exclusive interview that three seemingly ‘hot’ areas of BI – complex event processing (CEP), open source BI and BI in the cloud – have limited appeal or use cases in the real world.

Goodnight, who founded SAS in 1976 and has grown it into the largest privately held software firm in the world in the years since, said of CEP: "I would say it’s maybe only one or two per cent of applications that would require [CEP]."

It’s a view unlikely to be shared by the likes of Progress Software, which has built its entire Responsive Process Management (RPM) vision around the three pillars of its Apama CEP, Actional SOA management and Progress Savvion BPM.

CEP has also been pushed heavily by Sybase, an SAP company, which bought Aleri for CEP back in February this year. Streambase is a dedicated CEP firm, meanwhile, and Informatica bought low latency middleware firm 29West in March this year to compete directly in the CEP space.

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Event processing is also a core plank supporting Tibco’s vision of what CEO Vivek Ranadive calls "The 2 second advantage," by which he means analysing large, possibly federated datasets in real or near real-time to enable faster decision-making and more agile business processes.

Goodnight said that SAS does offer CEP, but that it is mostly used by intelligence services such as the CIA. But while he said CEP only makes sense in "one or two percent of applications," he did concede that, "With the volume of data coming in we need ways to process it quicker, and with so much information coming in from the web, Tweets, blogs, there’s a huge volume of stock exchange data flowing through – there are some applications where [CEP’s] important."

Goodnight was also dismissive of what some observers see as the growing footprint of open source business intelligence tools in the market. Asked whether open source BI and data integration software from the likes of Jaspersoft, Pentaho and Talend is a growing threat, he said: "We haven’t noticed that a lot. Most of our companies need industrial strength software that has been tested, put through every possible scenario or failure to make sure everything works correctly. That’s what you’re getting from software companies like us – they’re well tested and it scales to very, very large amounts of data."

BI in the cloud gets a similarly cool reception, despite the fact that SAS does have a number of hosted or on-demand business intelligence tools: "I think most clouds will be internal clouds, I don’t think there’s that big a demand for external clouds," Goodnight told CBR. "We use some here inside of SAS with a number of applications; one is our demo centre where we’re trying to show how a particular application on a particular machine and show it to someone out in the field somewhere in the world."

"We also use it for test – we can run all the tests we need to in a virtual environment. So I think there’s some need for it but I think for external clouds there’s a security issue for data, there’s a volume transfer issue for data," Goodnight continued. "Most people can buy a PC for $500 or $600 that performs similarly to the hardware in cloud, which is usually all Intel blades. It’s not like the old days when a mainframe used to cost three or four million dollars. To my view there’s not really anything new about cloud computing, it’s just a virtualised time sharing machine, and we’ve had virtualisation and time sharing since the Sixties."

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