A detailed overview of why real-time, event-driven applications are required to truly transform your business operations. Includes a demo of how to rapidly build and deploy one.
Blaine: Hello everyone and welcome to rapid digital transformation with real time, event-driven applications. I’m Blaine Mathieu, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at VANTIQ. And with me today is Brett Rudenstein, our V.P. of Field Service, who will be providing a demo toward the end of this presentation. We’re really excited to talk to you today about real time, event-driven applications and how they can power your real time business operations. So let’s dive right in.
Well, as you know, business is undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift these days, and this shift is being driven by many different technologies. Here’s just a few examples: IoT, the Shift from the cloud toward the edge, AI, machine learning. And, really, a long list after that. But fundamentally, the business shifts that are taking place include things like the move from products toward outcomes. What organizations like yourself are increasingly trying to do is to purchase outcomes, not things, but the result of those things.
You’re increasingly purchasing these outcomes as a service. You’re renting them. You’re paying for the outcomes as a service over time versus owning the core technology or the core systems that produce the outcomes. Obviously, there’s a move to add in the virtual world to the physical world. The physical world is obviously still very important to our businesses, but the virtual world, including virtual reality/augmented reality, the movement toward creating digital twins, physical systems, is becoming more and more a part of our everyday personal lives and business realities.
Finally, and I think this is really a fundamental part of all of this, is the move from a batch mentality toward the world of a real time; toward the world of real-time flows of data in and around your organization, the world of being able to take actions in real time based on that data – not bashing things up and taking action later which is how most business operations have been run classically.
If we can really take advantage of these paradigm shifts, we can truly drive growth and transform our businesses, not just technically and not just digitally, but transform the business models and the fundamental trajectory of the business itself. Of course, this is not easy. There are a lot of challenges, a lot of complexity. We need to be fast. We need to be agile. And the challenges come in the form of: first, over the last three decades, we and you have been building software for your enterprises. Now, you’ve got software everywhere: many systems, many applications, different platforms, languages, hosted in different places.
And increasingly, those systems are incorporating many different types of technology. We talked about AI/IoT, block chain, of course, is very hot these days, NLP (Natural Language Processing), and many, many more are coming at you at lightning speed. And then, fundamentally, one of your key goals is not just to create technical systems, but it’s to create systems that make your people more efficient and effective. Most of your organizations are fundamentally built on your people.
You need to figure out not just how to do things without your people, but how to make your people more efficient and effective; leverage their knowledge, experience, the wisdom of them using these technical systems. And then finally, as I mentioned before, you’ve got probably two, maybe three decades of legacy applications that you’ve built that you can’t just throw away. They need to be integrated in as part of the future, as part of your digital business transformation.
Your challenge is to bring all of this together, to integrate it all together. You need to figure out what the brain and/or the nervous system is that’s going to connect this together and who’s going to do it. Fundamentally, you need to be able to sense what’s happening in and around your business, analyze it in real time, and then, take action in real time. That’s a non-trivial challenge.
The challenge isn’t going to be met by the standard three-tier, request/response applications and architectures that are in your businesses today. For certain things like CRM and ERP systems, it’s perfectly fine to take data, put it in a database which then became data warehouses, which then became data lakes – just an ever growing, mountain/lake/ocean of data – then run a query against those databases, produce a report or a dashboard or an analysis, and then take an action later. That’s fine for some types of applications.
But for many of the kinds of applications that are moving away from batched toward real time, this kind of three-tier architecture just isn’t going to do it. If you’re trying to run your business creation in real time, your applications are probably not fundamentally going to be based on a three-tier, database-centric application architecture. That’s not the answer.
So, what is the answer?
Well, the answer, as we’re learning and as the analysts are increasingly telling us, is real time so-called “event-driven applications and event-driven architectures”. And at a really high-level how they work is, you have all the data flowing in and around your organization. It could be from IoT sensors, from your legacy business systems, from third party data sources, mobile devices, your employees doing things on their mobile devices, many different sources of data.
This is not just data about video files and audio files and Word documents. This is data about the events that are happening in and around your business: the status of systems and people in machines, your assembly line, your supply chain, the location of things in real time, alerts and notifications when a PO is approved or somebody walks in the door every retail store, a facial recognition system recognizes an employee or somebody who’s not an employee. These are all events; data about events that are happening in and around your business.
An event-driven application takes that data and processes it, analyzes it in real time as the data flows in. As it’s streaming into the application, it’s being processed in real time. And that application is using that data and analyzing that data inside of some context that you give it: some rules, some constraints, some conditions where the data is good. And others, where the data is outside of compliance, maybe of course you are applying some predictive analytics against the data streams that are flowing in. So, you’re adding some context that’s added to the data flows that are being processed in real time.
And then here’s the sweet thing because it’s not just about creating real-time dashboards or real-time reports. That’s pretty cool. But the important thing is to be able to take real time action based on the data. So as the events are flowing in, they’re being processed, and then you’re able to do things: relocate machines, assign technicians, stop an assembly line, reorder something, assist a customer (now that you know who that person is who just walked through the door).
And by the way, those real-time actions are all events in and of themselves. So, they are also event data flows which need to flow back into the real-time, event-processing application and then be acted on. So this is not a left to right flow. This is actually a continuous process where you’re always sensing the data, analyzing, and then taking the appropriate action as it’s happening.
Now let me take this down from the conceptual level to a bit more of a real-world use case of an event driven application. And let’s think of a standard field service example. Perhaps you’ve got some equipment or systems that need to be serviced from time to time.
In fact, let’s think about a company called Tujia which is the air BMB of China: ten million apartments under managership. And in those apartments, they’re setting them up with sensors for fire, smoke, temperature, water, presence of people, security systems, etc. All of this is wired, or being wired, into these homes increasingly. And the data about the events that are happening inside these apartments is being reported into an event-driven application.
Now, in this particular case, the event-driven applications are actually running on the edge. They’re running either in the building itself or in the city. You can imagine it wouldn’t make sense to be putting all this data in real time from 10 million apartments into the cloud. The bandwidth that that would take would be incredible.
So, you process those events in real time on the edge. And then, when an air condition or a problem is detected or maybe even predicted, that data just goes into the core application which is running either in the private cloud, in their case, or on premise. It could be running in the public cloud as well. That data is now used to compare against a list of third-party service technicians that are not employees of the company, but that are available to fix different kinds of problems, depending on what the problem is, depending on how severe it is.
The local technicians are found in the database, they’re pulled in real time, and then the ones that are able to respond to the job now via a mobile app, are taken to the location, they’re provided the information with the access code, and they’re provided what they need in order to begin to address the situation in real time.
Remember, this is while the data is continuing to flow in. It’s possible that the situation might even correct itself before the technician gets there, in which case, the service request is canceled. Or the situation might become worse and the person might need more information or a different set of tools before they get to the door.
You can imagine how different this example of field service is compared to the way it is mostly done today in more of a batch mode. Enabling a real-time, event-driven application in this use case creates much more powerful outcomes.
Of course, field service is just one example of a business operation that could and should be made real time. You can imagine the notion of a global supply chain where you have, not only your own company-owned elements of the supply chain, but third parties. You’re able to not only track what’s going on throughout that supply chain through your logistics operation in real time but be able to take action against issues or concerns in real time. Tracking fleets, I think a pretty obvious example, is not just about tracking. It’s about the actions you can take when issues arise or how you can optimize those in real time.
Smart manufacturing is another pretty common use case where you can imagine how easy it would be to apply real time principles. Smart cities is really incorporating many different elements of these all at once. And of course, there are many, many more. Frankly, almost any business process, any operational process, could be turned into a real-time process and made much more efficient, much more powerful, and much more actionable with a real event driven application.
Gartner thinks so! Gartner has said that basically, if you’re looking at digitally transforming your business, you must be looking at how to use event-driven architectures. That is the fundamental basis to become a digitally transformed business: to turn your business into a real time enterprise.
Up to now, we haven’t really been talking about VANTIQ itself, but let me spend a little bit of time telling what VANTIQ’s relationship is to this topic. VANTIQ is a real-time, event-driven application development deployment and maintenance platform and there are four key elements. I’ll spend just a little bit of time on each of those.
To preview them now, create mission critical applications that have the ability to run anywhere and also operate in distributed environments, enable powerful human machine collaboration, and then of course the ability to do this, rapidly, with agility, is obviously very important because of the need for speed in our digital transformation that we’re increasingly seeing. So let’s dive into each of those in a little bit more detail right now.
First, as we’ve been talking about really up to now, the notion of, fundamentally, you need the ability to have a platform that can do real-time processing of complex, asynchronous events, what’s actually been called building ‘reactive’ applications. Building these things is non-trivial. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in a second. And being able to have, at the core, a system that allows you to build and run these applications, do this processing, is obviously critical.
Back to Gartner, they feel that by 2020, which keep in mind is just a year and a half from now, half of new user-facing applications that are developed by companies like yourselves, will be event-driven applications. They will fundamentally have to be because, again, you will not be able to support these kinds of use cases using a three-tier, database-centric application architecture.
Of course, your applications need to be mission-critical. They need to be built with security in mind right from the start. Obviously, [this is] a very important topic for all of us that are listening to this. They need to be reliable and scalable. These applications can’t fundamentally go down. Most event-driven applications need to be running 24/7, and you need to be able to enhance them, upgrade them, debug them, do what is necessary while they’re running. [This is] different than how most three-tier, classic applications are deployed and managed. So, that’s very critical.
Again, our friends at Gartner have said that event-driven architectures are actually the way of the future for building mission-critical applications at web scale. They are geared, they were built to be able to do that. And that’s why they’re so critical for mission-critical apps.
We talked a little bit about the use cases that are distributed and/or run anywhere. Those are two separate concepts. First of all, ‘run anywhere’ is the ability to run the applications you build, maybe in a public cloud on a AWS or azure, in your own private cloud, and/or maybe in your data center. You need your system to be able to run the applications where they need to be run. And then, possibly, you need to be able to run them on the edge in distributed environments.
Right now, most companies haven’t yet fully embraced edge computing. It’s still at the POC stage. It’s in the science experiment stage at many companies. But that is changing very, very rapidly. And I think, with the advent of 5G in the next couple of years, it’s going to be accelerated even more. The ability, as I said in the Tujia use case, is to run applications close to where the data needs to be analyzed so issues of bandwidth and latency can be minimized. And then, you send the data – only the data that needs to be sent – to your core application.
Then, human-machine collaboration.
You’ll see a little bit of this in the demo in a second, but you can build autonomous systems. You can, of course, build applications that shut assembly lines down or, in the case of the field service example, shut off the water if there’s a water leak in the apartment. But, of course, it’s so much more powerful if you can do that. But, in addition to that, involve the people in your organization to address the condition in real time, prevent them from happening in the future to optimize the state of your assembly line or your supply chain, or whatever your scenario is.
So, [there will be] powerful human-machine collaboration especially as systems become more intelligent. We talk a lot about machine learning and artificial intelligence. As the systems we create become more capable and more intelligent, even more so there are going to be and have to be collaborative with the people in your companies to leverage their skill and experience, their wisdom and knowledge, to make them more powerful and for the people to make your systems more powerful; a true collaboration.
Obviously, the folks at Accenture have been doing a lot of work on this and they say that those companies that can really figure out how to invest and leverage human-machine collaboration will be dramatically more profitable than those that don’t over the next five years now.
All of that sounds great but there’s a catch. Building these kind of event-driven, real-time applications, which companies have been doing for years, going back to applications of mainframes, online banking, airport control systems, etc. Building these things has been possible for a long time, actually, and they are very, very hard. Building so-called reactive applications is non-trivial
Because you’re dealing with streams of asynchronous events coming into your organization. There’s no particular order. With standard BPM, you might have, if A happens, then B, then C, then two Ds. With asynchronous data flows and the use cases we’ve been describing, you might never get an A, there might be three B’s, C is not relevant, and you need to figure out how to do an E that you’ve never done before. This is very complex: to write software applications to handle these kind of use cases.
As I said, the data is continuously streaming in in real time. You have to take an action now, not batch it and figure out what to do later. In many cases, these are becoming distributed systems and distributed applications. And then finally, as I said, most of these applications will involve people in some way or other, and people are the most asynchronous generators of event data that you can imagine, and it can be very hard to incorporate their unpredictability into applications, as you all know.
So, this is hard to do. Companies have been doing it for decades. In fact, the middle part here is, effectively, a real-time, event-driven application that’s running the real-time supply chain of a global retailer who you all know very well. And you can just get a sense of the complexity of the ecosystem. All the tools: Bespoke and open source, all the integrations and connections; when one of these systems or applications gets a version upgrade, everything has to be retested again.
You can imagine what it would take to run this on the edge, on an edge gateway. You could never, frankly, run this system on the edge. This took a team of gurus years to build, test, and deploy. So, it works as I understand it. I’m sure it’s a very competent, real-time event-driven supply chain application. If you have the budget to create this, who has the time to do this any longer? Not many of you, I don’t think, with the speed the world is now changing.
So obviously, what you need is to incorporate the principles of low- code/no code, what Gartner calls, high-productivity application development to the context of real-time event driven applications. That’s really where the sweet spot is.
As Gartner says here, 2017 was really the first time that those two things were brought together, that you finally got the notion of low-code/no code, rapid application development, which has been around for quite a while, but finally joined to the notion of building real-time, event-driven applications, abstracting away the vast majority of the complexity of building these real-time reactive systems, and allowing you to, even a mid-level developer or maybe even somebody who’s not a developer like me, build these applications, mostly visually as you’ll see in the demo in a minute.
As a before and after comparison, with the real-time supply chain example I showed, you’ve got multiple tools and applications that you have to integrate together using a team of highly-skilled developers, experts in each of those technologies, writing thousands of lines of code, taking months, if not years, to fully build and deploy, and then you have to maintain it – compared to doing it with VANTIQ: one platform abstracting away the complexity not guru-level developers, virtually no code, and days or weeks to deploy versus months or years.
We’re actually very excited to have been recognized recently by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) with their CODiE award as the best platform as a service, recognized by 800 of our software application peers. So, very, very cool.
Speaking of cool, Gartner also recently recognized VANTIQ as a cool vendor. So definitely, you can see the before and the after here is quite startling.
Now, VANTIQ was founded by two very experienced and successful software developers and entrepreneurs. In fact, VANTIQ is the fourth application platform that they’ve built either individually or together. They’re famous for founding Forté software in the late 90s which was really one of the first application development platforms that was used to build the first generation of web applications. The company is run by a very experienced team of professionals, global professionals who have had experience building and running, as you can see, numerous successful enterprise software companies over the last two decades.
VANTIQ has customers across many countries and regions: China, Japan, South America, Israel, Europe, and of course, the United States. Many of them have actually built applications in the area of field service, as we described the use case earlier, a very common source of applications that sense data coming in, do real-time analysis, and then take action in real time.
Supply chain monitoring, I also discussed that use case. We’ve got one of the largest shoe manufacturers in the world as a client that is using VANTIQ to monitor and protect their brand in real time as the shoes they produce are shipped and distributed around the world. And then, while many of these customers are B2B oriented, some more on the B2C side like Hoplite power which is using a VANTIQ application to manage their real-time kiosk business where they allow consumers to recharge their phones at a small service charge. So on the both the B2C and B2B side, many VANTIQ customers and we’ll be happy to talk to you more about that.
And so, that is the story of real-time, event-driven applications. That’s a little bit about the VANTIQ platform and how we fit into that ecosystem. And now, Brett if you’re ready, I’d like to ask you to do a demo and show us how you can build, deploy, and manage a real-time, event-driven application using VANTIQ. Brett, take it away.
To view the complete demo with Brett Rudenstein, please watch the video version.