BAM, SOA & Big Data

Leveraging Big Data has become a commodity for most IT departments. It’s like the mobile phone. You can’t remember the times when you couldn’t just call someone from your mobile, no matter where you are in the world, can you? Similarly, IT folks can’t remember the days when files were too big to summarize, or grep, or even just store. Setup a Hadoop cluster and everything can be stored, analyzed and made sense of. But, then I tried to ask the question, what if the data is not stored in a file? What if it was all flying around in my system?

Deployment

Shown above is a setup that is not uncommon deployment of a production SOA setup. Let’s summarize briefly what each server does:

  • An ESB cluster fronts all the traffic and does some content based routing (CBR).
  • Internal and external app server clusters host apps that serve different audiences.
  • A Data Services Server cluster exposes Database operations as a service.
  • A BPS cluster coordinates a bunch of processes between the ESB, one App server cluster and the DSS cluster.

Hard to digest? Fear not. It’s a complicated system that would serve a lot of complex requirements while enhancing re-use, interoperability and all other good things SOA brings.

Now, in this kind of system whether it’s SOA enabled or not, there lies a tremendous amount of data. And No, they are not stored as files. They are transferred between your servers and systems. Tons and tons of valuable data are going through your system everyday. What if you could excavate this treasure of data and make use of all the hidden gems to derive business intelligence?

The answer to this can be achieved through Business Activity Monitoring (BAM-ing). It would involve the process of aggregating, analyzing and presenting data. SOA and BAM was always a love story. As system functions were exposed as services, monitoring these services meant you were able to monitor the whole system. Most of the time, if the system architects were smart, they used open standards, that made plugging and monitoring systems even easier.

But even with BAM, it was impossible to capture every message and every request that passed through the server. The data growth alone would be tremendous for a fairly active deployment. So, here we have a Big Data problem, but it is not a typical one. A big data problem that concerns live data. So to actually fully monitor all the data that passes through your system you need a BAM solution that is Big Data ready. In other words, to make full sense of the data and derive intelligence out of the data that passes through modern systems, we need a Business Activity Monitor that is Big Data ready.

Now, a system architect has to worry about BAM, SOA and Big Data as they are essentially interwined. A solution that delivers anything less, is well short of a visionary.

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