When Real-Time Is No Longer a Luxury

Arthur Cole

Time is money, and in an increasingly fast-paced economy, even microsecond processing by the world’s fastest machines can lead to millions in losses if opportunities are not seized quickly enough. So imagine the ramifications of broadly distributed data ecosystems that often require minutes to capture and load data, let alone churn out the results.

A new study by InterSystems put this issue in stark relief by pointing out the disconnect between traditional extract, transfer and load (ETL) and changed data capture (CDC) processes and the needs of real-time performance in the new digital economy. The survey showed that three quarters of IT professionals believe untimely data is inhibiting business opportunities, while more than a quarter say it has negatively affected productivity and agility. At nearly two thirds of organizations, ETL workloads are at least five days old by the time they reach analytics engines, while even “real-time” CDC tools require 10 minutes or more to load data.

To date, real-time performance has been an ideal that IT has always strived for but was never expected to attain under present technological and financial constraints. But as we move forward to the Internet of Things (IoT), says HPCC Systems’ Arjuna Chala, it will become a requirement. In a world of autonomous vehicles and AI-assisted medicine, delays in the data chain can be catastrophic. The IT industry has already recognized that pushing processing centers close to the IoT edge is one way to boost performance, but it needs to take the next step by recognizing that real-time must become a core competency in this new infrastructure, not a value-add.

One of the ways to do this is to stop thinking about application- or even data-centric processes and start thinking about event-driven architectures, says RT Insights’ Joe McKendrick. With EDA, the focus is on determining which events matter most and then targeting them with continuous data collection, real-time analytics and other tools to generate optimal outcomes. Gartner, for one, expects EDA to become a central component of most digital business strategies going forward, with the goal being not just to respond quickly to individual events but to identify opportunities amid a convergence of events.


But how will real-time be supported on a technological level? For functions like customer service, the triple play will consist of analytics, automation and artificial intelligence, according to Sethuramalingam Balasubramanian, associate vice president of technology and innovation at Servion Global Solutions. Developments like speech-to-text, for example, can quickly identify patterns and spot opportunities to support real-time engagement, while the ability to parse increasing amounts of unstructured data in social media can support mass market trend analysis. These and other tools are available here and now, which means the benefits will go to the firms that implement them in the fastest and most effective manner.

The need for speed has been a constant theme in IT for generations, but it is only recently that device-level capabilities and emerging machine-to-machine communications have pushed lag-time from being a mere annoyance to a performance inhibitor.

Now that the digital world is just as important to our daily lives as the real world, we’ll need consistent, real-time performance from both.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.


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