“Our purpose in life is to help innovators move the world forward by becoming event-driven,” says CEO of Solace, Les Rechan. According to him, business (and pretty much everything that a business can be built around) is a series of events — from the opening of bank accounts and cellphone subscriptions to the birth of a baby.
The idea is technologically expressed in the form of PubSub – wherein an event is published by a party and subscribed to by another entity, enabling event-driven customer experiences. The foundation of Solace as a company is tied to this principle — “we were doing PubSub before people knew what PubSub was,” says Rechan. “As you look to the future, 70-80% of all transactions are going to need to be event-driven.”
Solace began by providing high-speed, ultra-low latency messaging in capital markets, and has now taken its technology to other industries: to transportation, for example, where a fleet of Daimler’s always-on 20-million+ connected cars are enabled by the same messaging system.
Asia, says Rechan, has been a leading market for Canada-headquartered Solace — the company’s customer base is distributed almost uniformly over the globe, which is unusual for a North America-based firm. In India, for example, telco giant Airtel moves nearly 100 billion events a day, “a big chunk” of which is through the Solace platform, according to Airtel CIO Harmeen Mehta. “The way we have architected our solution, Solace also gives us a bit of a buffer and an almost infinite queue depth as well, so that in case there are problems upstream or downstream, I’m isolated from those,” she says.
Singapore’s Next-Generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, being built by a consortium led by NCS and Mitsubishi, is also using Solace’s data movement technology.
We sat down for an interview with Solace CEO Les Rechan to know more about how it’s enabling real-time messaging in enterprises.
How does Solace fit into the customer experience journey?
If I have a disrupted flight, I want to give you your refund before you ask for it. It used to take 8-9 days to do that — I want to do it tomorrow and process everything for you. If I’m going to listen to a customer, personalise the offer, engage the customer and do it in real time, this event-driven capability enables that.
When we talk about an event-driven customer experience, there’s a lot of pieces that you have to implement from the process perspective — it’s not just messaging. In India, the ability to recharge your phone now takes seconds instead of 30 minutes. With hundreds of millions of customers and subscribers, telcos need to be able to handle all that volume. Solace is virtually enabling Digital India with the capability to scale to that degree.
With any business, it’s not just about the technology, but the people, the process and the culture. To be truly customer experience journey driven, businesses have to reimagine themselves to be complementary to the technology; the real time technology just underlies that.
In the area of transport, we’ve dealt with air traffic management, moving all kinds of critical data in and out of an airplane in real time. If you have a disruption with a flight, you have to dynamically reroute the plane in real-time. Most of the stuff we do are mostly real time examples across different verticals like logistics (track and trace) and manufacturing. Although with this product, we’ve scaled it down and scaled it out so that it can deal with any use case whether it’s ultra low latency or volume.
What separates Solace from its competitors?
When you look at TIBCO or IBM, they have a much broader portfolio. They’re into everything from analytics to big data but Solace is solely dedicated to messaging or what Gartner calls an “advanced event-broker”.
We differentiate ourselves in several ways. SAP picked us because of out multi-cloud capabilities. They have their private cloud environment within SAP, but they also run across cloud services like Google, Amazon and Azure. In terms of our IoT capabilities, we are able to deal with huge volumes, as well as a command and control type capability. Our dynamic message routing, WAN optimisation and openness are other points of differentiation.
At the top level, the differentiation is that Solace is more dynamic, with the agility to deal with different use cases with a single product unlike IBM and TIBCO. Solace is more open, working across multiple clouds and supporting all the different protocols. It’s also simpler — it’s one platform.
What does the future hold?
It feels like our time has come. It’s not just the solution platform itself — we’ve announced Event Horizon, a sweeping set of new products, partnerships and community-building efforts that will make it easier for enterprises to adopt and benefit from event-driven architectures. We’ve put different layers on top of our advanced event broker- we’ve got an integration layer, a control and governance layer. It’s now a solution set which we call the event management platform. There’s the solution itself, around that there’s a whole culture and skills.
How do I make becoming event-driven easier? Because it’s not that easy to do, a lot of IT environments are still operating in batch mode, point-to-point, REST APIs. We want to really nurture the skills building and share best practices through our Event Academy. And then you also need open frameworks – we’re leaders in the AsyncAPI initiative. We had this service mesh capability in the synchronous world, and you need that same enablement in the asynchronous world, which is where the initiative comes in.
We need to embrace and understand open source. For example, we have the Kafka sink and source connectors which we want to embrace and extend. We want people to be able to contribute, even within our company, to the platform, to the academy, to the open frameworks, to the ecosystem.