Real-time processing is prevalent in several everyday systems, and it plays an integral role for such systems to fulfil their intended functions.
From the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system in Singapore, which allows for real-time fare charging based on distance and route taken via real-time information sent from approximately 1.2 million onboard vehicle units; to financial markets, where real-time and events-driven processing results in the instant availability of information which aids timely decision making.
According to analyst firm Gartner, the top strategic technology trends for 2021 centre around data correlation, real-time processing, analytics and integration between various systems and technologies - on a global scale and in a secure manner.
Digital transformation and business agility
The global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting drive toward remote working and business interactions have dictated that digital transformation in organizations occur within months instead of years.
Attendees at one of the first face-to-face roundtable discussions for the year 2021, hosted by Solace and CXOCIETY, hailed from a variety of industries, with diverse IT setups within their organizations. The common goal: how best to operate with business agility in mind and discovering whether Event-driven architecture (EDA) could help achieve this goal.
Participants shared the digital transformation goals of their respective organizations, as well as the challenges faced in attaining these milestones.
For DonSeok Ahn, head of global medical technologies at consumer goods firm Reckitt Benckiser, digital transformation at his organization involves building a medical channel ecosystem with its numerous partners. Key challenges of building such a system include integration with partners’ external systems and evaluating how EDA could possibly drive the interaction between systems. Ahn also expressed an interest in knowing how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could benefit his organization.
Chief technology and solutions officer at Solace Sumeet Puri shared how EDA and real-time processing could greatly aid the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. Real-time processing in fact plays a major role for healthcare in India, a country with a high patient-to-doctor ratio, Puri shared.
According to Puri, EDA has enabled clinical and patient data captured from various endpoints across India to travel in real-time to healthcare facilities or AI-driven medical applications for processing, diagnosis, and payment.
“AI only works if you have the mesh that connects these hospitals and having the data float in real-time allows for multiple systems to process it, leading to efficient outcomes,” said Puri. “EDA forms this mesh. It is the nervous system that makes things work.”
An APAC vice president for technology and change at an international bank shared how his organization was trying to implement end-to-end payment security in an environment that is extremely sensitive about client data. The bank has launched a digital bank feature for its ultra-high net worth clients and is working to create value and enhance the client experience. Further plans include creating more actionable insights from the data that could translate into revenue streams.
Puri pointed out that mass adoption of small payments is reliant on lowering the cost per transaction and having a real-time event mesh supporting the payments system is an eventual benefit.
Several participants, meanwhile, expressed challenges associated with operating silo-ed legacy systems.
The APAC vice president for technology and change at an international bank put forward issues surrounding data ownership, particularly after multiple acquisitions. Data lineage, data consistency and correctness were cited as challenges to be overcome. In one of his earlier organizations, data lineage posed serious challenges - one particular data set extended for more than 29 levels and required a transformation of the organization’s data governance and ownership framework. It was a transformation that took more than two years to complete.
Meanwhile, the regional head of IT at a financial securities firm shared how data across disparate systems at his organization has led to difficulties with getting customer information up to date. Although the technology side of this data lineage problem could be solved via APIs, legal and compliance issues could prove barriers to digital transformation in the financial services industry, he shared.
This regional IT head recommends putting a wrapper atop all legacy systems and layering instantaneous architecture above it. Sales and revenue generating opportunities could result from such a deployment, he said. Start with small projects, he advised. Foster a culture of data ownership so terms such as “event-driven” and “straight through handling” become a buzzword within the company and everyone understands the culture and concept. Over time, it would not matter which department is spearheading a project because it will become a fully end-to-end process, he said.
As a qualified programmer, Eric Sim, corporate head for the technology office at ST Logistics expressed a preference for EDA but also questioned how one should get started from a legacy standpoint.
Puri recommended picking a project and making the stance clear that it would be approached differently.
“First, question if it would be beneficial if real-time was implemented for this project. If the answer is yes, then get started. You might have to utilize adapters to first make it event-driven,” said Puri. “From there, keep adding systems to the mesh over time. Once the organization sees rich event data flowing and realizes the benefits, things can get going from there.”
“We’re starting out on a fresh sheet of paper, and in the cloud,” said Lee Boon Shim, director of operation and technology at Pick Network, who shared that Pick is currently designing a system that may leverage a messaging platform.
The organization, which aims to deploy and operate a parcel locker network across Singapore to support e-commerce growth, provides the infrastructure and connectivity for this service. Lee shared that his organization had contemplated deploying EDA but realized there was no urgent use case for real-time and high availability due to the nature of the business.
No silver bullet
According to Gang Li, head IT and lead solutions architect at Manulife Singapore, EDA simply tells you the history of events in the organization but does not tell you what to do. However, it is this availability of real-time information that ensures proper actions can be taken in response to an event.
Puri concurred, adding real-time has enabled next-generation digital factory systems to react more quickly to product demand changes from customers, so processes that used to take 24 hours can now occur in a fraction of the time.
“Everything is an event,” said Puri, adding that the science of determining how best to react to an event has become mainstream.
While EDA may have had its roots in capital markets, other industries are now realizing that batch processing is insufficient to meet their needs, hence demanding real-time processing, added Puri.
“When an event happens, it needs to flow through the systems that can make sense of it, with end-to-end encryption if necessary,” shared Puri. “With more and more systems becoming event-driven, the ability to work with different adapters is the philosophy any EDA project should abide by. Simply put, if your plumbing is not good enough, there’ll be seepage all over.”