Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009

Mark Palmer

Typically, CEOs can't stop talking about the coolest things their products do. Mark Palmer, president of StreamBase, a pioneer in complex event processing (CEP) that's based in Lexington, Mass., can't even start — because the most cutting-edge applications of his product are highly classified.

CEP allows users to analyze information as it streams in, a huge step up from relational databases, in which data first need to be stored before being processed. Whereas most databases can handle hundreds of bits of data per second, StreamBase's platform can process hundreds of thousands of pieces of info, or "events," per second: e-mails, Facebook posts, signals intelligence, audio and video streams — or a combination.

Pair brute processing power with real-time analysis, and you get a sense of how CEP can be useful to an intelligence agency. The platform can search for specific combinations of words or numbers, so if an al-Qaeda suspect whose e-mail address is known started getting messages that included, say, bomb and Washington and martyrdom, an alert would go off. "Terrorism is run by communications through the Internet," Palmer says. "The ability to tap into that stream of data and make real-time decisions is one of the uses of this technology."

It's the commercial applications that will most likely make Palmer's fortune. But it's the things he can't talk about that will help him sleep better.

—Bobby Ghosh