Jason Stamper sits down with Progress Software CTO of Enterprise Infrastructure, Hub Vandervoort, to discuss the firm’s Responsive Process Management (RPM) vision and whether we are witnessing the end of the SOA era.
Hub Vandervoort, Progress Software CTO
You are the only firm using the RPM acronym. Do you think Progress has created a new category?
Well Gartner calls it IBO – intelligent business operations. Often the target buyers for a new category come from well established categories — people who bought into ESBs [enterprise service buses] were EAI [enterprise application integration] buyers. It’s all about what the next generation of technology needs to look like. In the case of RPM, a lot of the buyers would have been in the APM [application performance management] camp previously — the CA Wily, HP, BMC type space. More and more I’m hearing that those products are letting them down.
How do you describe RPM?
I’ll give you a three-part answer. The question is, what are you trying to do? First, it helps you create visibility. Next, sense, and then respond – to make inferences and connections, and use those to inform how you do your business process improvement. It’s like a three-step plan to better living. You get a very fast feedback loop for process improvement. You can solve a new problem with an old tool or solve an old problem with a new tool. But for us it starts with BPM [business process management] and then we add business transaction monitoring and improvement.
What does this create? Two things. With classic BPM you model the business processes, the model executes and you feed it into a simulator to see if you can optimise it. But what if you also have a legacy environment? The answer has been to rip it out and replace it. We thought, what if we bring BTA [business transaction assurance] into the triangle? What if you could short-circuit the model to measurement stages? We leveraged the capabilities in the [acquired] Actional technology so that you can see the process whether it’s already in BPM or still in legacy.
So now I get to see everything that passes across that membrane. I can discover any transaction in real-time, not only after the transaction has completed. Two of our key patents are in this area and Will Capelli [Gartner research VP] has said Actional will circumscribe the market for 10 years because no one else has been able to find an alternative way of doing it.
How has your RPM strategy resonated with customers?
We’re getting on to ship version 2.2 and so far it has resonated exceedingly well. It’s the strongest story I have had to tell in my time here. I felt that we always had technology stories to tell, but I think RPM can reach beyond an IT audience to the business.
We’re also gearing up to launch a new feature for RPM called Monitor Process. It will enable companies to monitor faster from ‘the shadows’, allowing firms to optimise not only their business process but better understand the role played by people – staff – in business processes.
What do you see as the key benefits to customers then?
Well it used to take months to get a picture of your business processes and then they were only 80% accurate. Now it can take two guys two weeks and it is 99% accurate.
No business runs on a single process. So monitoring a single process does not give you everything you need to know to monitor the customer’s experience. That’s a very different view from IT’s view of the transaction. You need to instrument the supply chain as well as the delivery chain. For example when you turn the crank to try and optimise one process you often find you de-optimise another.
These processes don’t look like they are optimised in any way. What you really need is a Z axis, which is where our CEP [complex event processing] comes in, to correlate across all of the discovered processes. Manage multiple processes in 3D not 2D. RPM can see in 3D. It’s like 3D glasses are built in. Customers like BA, Medco, various government agencies — that’s why they bought into RPM.
I hear less and less about services oriented architecture [SOA] these days. Has it gone off the boil?
I’m starting to hear the term BEP — business event processing. It’s like BPM but with event processing too. But to answer your question there were some epic failures in first generation SOA, largely around data semantics. Progress also now talks about RBI – responsive business integration. Visualise, sense and respond, optimise. But in any event you need context if you are not going to fall into this data semantics trap. You need the underpinnings in place in terms of data, and then you can move into the Responsive Process Management discussion.