Business activity monitoring gets boost

Promising to speed data analysis and decision-making across the enterprise, vendors are beginning to embrace a technology trend that marries the worlds of application integration and business intelligence, according to industry observers.

Business activity monitoring (BAM), a term coined by research firm Gartner Inc. in a recent report, got a shot in the arm this week from webMethods Inc. and Informatica Corp. The EAI (enterprise application integration) stalwart and analytics giant announced plans to ratchet up an existing partnership to promote their respective products as a one-two punch for instantaneous monitoring, delivering, and analyzing of information across the enterprise.

The co-selling deal involves webMethods’ integration platform feeding application and business-process data in real time to Informatica’s PowerCenter platform and analytics tools, which will then funnel analysis of the data to users. In addition, a new tool called webMethods Manager will be used to extend the capabilities of systems management software such as Computer Associates International Inc. (CA)’s Unicenter beyond infrastructure monitoring to evaluate the performance of business processes, according to webMethods officials.

“Our Manager works with the other monitoring tools so that they not only know when a server is down, but what business processes are affected by the outage,” said Jim Ivers, director of platform marketing at Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods. “Manager provides a window into business processes through data integration.”

The combination of traditional BI tools and EAI’s real-time integration brokers is the driving force behind nascent BAM initiatives, according to Gartner. At its core, BAM is intended to give enterprises “instant insight” into their systems and business processes through a dashboard-type UI. The monitoring is unique in that it cuts across multiple applications, data formats, and systems, and explores the boundaries between applications where business processes intersect, according to Gartner.

And unlike traditional analytics carried out by ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) tools, data warehouses, and BI, BAM lacks information latency, claims its proponents.

“Things are happening in the enterprise and we don’t see them in real time, or we receive old data and we suffer for it,” said David McCoy, vice president and research area director at Gartner, in Atlanta. “If your car is broken into, you expect the alarm to go off immediately. Well, business transactions die and we are not finding out about it until later.”

BAM is a feature that enhances business process management, taking it beyond ensuring the smooth flow of processes across multiple applications to allow analysis and monitoring of that information in the moment, McCoy said. Giving enterprises the opportunity to react faster to internal and external events will be critical to certain business domains, including the supply-chain system.

Gartner predicts a wide range of software and infrastructure companies will eye BAM as a new growth area, including packaged apps players such as SAP AG and systems management specialists such as Tivoli Systems Inc. On their own, however, most do not own the necessary technology pieces; hence partnerships such as the one between webMethods and Informatica.

Meanwhile, a number of smaller pure-play companies are mining the market, and are likely to become ripe targets for acquisitions, according to McCoy.

And yet, not everyone is sold on the necessity for all-the-time, instantaneous data analysis.

“The ability to pull data from different places and provide a view of different operational systems at once is a really nice thing to do. But do we really need it for every type of decision we make in business?” said Henry Morris, an industry analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., who argues that on-the-spot functionality could lead to poor business decisions made in haste.

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