Using event stream brokers to integrate content with enterprise social platforms

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

With everyone now accustomed to the way social networks work, more and more enterprise applications are starting to look like social media apps. Once deemed a buzzword, "real-time collaboration" is becoming a reality as companies such as SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com and Microsoft deliver enterprise social network applications.

The foundations of these "social" applications are activity streams, or event streams. Once relegated to complex event processing applications like high frequency trading on Wall Street, these event streams are more and more common in enterprise social applications.

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In order to make social applications as integrated as possible, it's critical these event streams can synch up with existing enterprise applications. After all, if employees are collaborating in a vacuum without access to the company's enterprise data, making them use a social network isn't really useful at all. It's just one more thing they "have to do" rather than a tool to make them more productive.

For example, if the sales department uses Salesforce.com but the shipping and billing is handled by SAP, there will inevitably be a miscommunication when sales teams collaborate with Chatter but the finance, warehouse and distribution teams collaborate with StreamWork. These tools will not interoperate, making the promise of real-time collaboration impossible and forcing the staff to revert to e-mail or phone calls. It is necessary for interoperability between applications and ubiquitous access to key data.

As events take place, context is extremely important. It is not enough to capture events as they occur. When one considers all the events that an organization generates, as well as events from customers and partners outside the firewall, it is simply too confusing and unnecessary to funnel every piece of information through these enterprise social networks verbatim. What is needed is an ability to digest this deluge of information in something readable and actionable.

By using an "event stream broker" companies can address this challenge. These tools rely upon the raw data flowing through every information system in the company. As these events are captured, they are sorted, grouped, and aggregated into business process contexts. As business rules are applied to content throughout the enterprise, the broker can sort related data and feed it into multiple collaborative applications in real time.

Events can occur both inside and outside of the organization. Many companies have both legacy applications on mainframes, packaged applications, and SaaS/hosted applications -- all of which house equally important data in different formats and have explicit functions. Structured and unstructured data all exist in disparate locations -- the formula for quite a mess unless you have the tools to properly organize it. To be successful, an event stream broker must parse these various data types consistently across every source. Only when the data is accessible can the broker add value to a social collaboration platform.

Event stream brokers can be driven by simple or complex logic. For example, a user who is interested in orders over $50,000 can define a rule for the broker. The broker can then capture order events across different order systems to alert the user when her specific criteria is met.

Subsequently, the broker can allow the user to perform an action on the event and deliver her instructions back to the source system. For example, she may choose to reject a particular order awaiting her approval directly from within Salesforce Chatter. When a decision is made in a social networking platform, this "event" is fed back to the enterprise system to ensure that all information is updated and made consistent throughout the organization. In this example, the event stream broker would send this rejection message to the SAP system which processes the orders.

Event stream brokers that feature advanced complex event processing capabilities are able to analyze event streams further to funnel information to users dynamically based on context. For instance, users can be alerted to conditions that may indicate that fraud is taking place. Event stream brokers are uniquely positioned to deliver this kind of additional value from the existing integration of data sources and applications to these brokers.

Social collaboration platforms are more than just a way for people to communicate. The presence of these platforms in the enterprise allows us to integrate a variety of enterprise data and application assets using event stream brokers. This type of integration of social collaboration platforms across the organization deliver much more than just Facebook in the enterprise; complex event processing and two-way interactivity with applications are just the beginning.

Information Builders is an independent leader in business intelligence (BI) solutions, providing software and services that bring smarter decision-making and streamlined processes to companies worldwide. For more information, visit informationbuilders.com.

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