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Chapter 2. Drools Fusion Features

2.1. Events
2.1.1. Event Semantics
2.1.2. Event Declaration
2.1.3. Event Metadata
2.2. Session Clock
2.2.1. Available Clock Implementations
2.3. Streams Support
2.3.1. Declaring and Using Entry Points
2.4. Temporal Reasoning
2.4.1. Temporal Operators
2.5. Event Processing Modes
2.5.1. Cloud Mode
2.5.2. Stream Mode
2.6. Sliding Windows
2.6.1. Sliding Time Windows
2.6.2. Sliding Length Windows
2.7. Knowledgebase Partitioning
2.7.1. When partitioning is useful
2.7.2. How to configure partitioning
2.7.3. Multithreading management
2.8. Memory Management for Events
2.8.1. Explicit expiration offset
2.8.2. Inferred expiration offset

Events, from a Drools perspective are just a special type of fact. In this way, we can say that all events are facts, but not all facts are events. In the next few sections the specific differences that characterize an event are presented.

An event is a fact that present a few distinguishing characteristics:

Drools supports the declaration and usage of events with both semantics: point-in-time events and interval-based events.

All events have a set of metadata associated to them. Most of the metadata values have defaults that are automatically assigned to each event when they are inserted into the working memory, but it is possible to change the default on an event type basis, using the metadata tags listed below.

For the examples, lets assume the user has the following class in the application domain model:

Reasoning over time requires a reference clock. Just to mention one example, if a rule reasons over the average price of a given stock over the last 60 minutes, how the engine knows what stock price changes happened over the last 60 minutes in order to calculate the average? The obvious response is: by comparing the timestamp of the events with the "current time". How the engine knows what time is now? Again, obviously, by querying the Session Clock.

The session clock implements a strategy pattern, allowing different types of clocks to be plugged and used by the engine. This is very important because the engine may be running in an array of different scenarios that may require different clock implementations. Just to mention a few:

Drools 5 provides 2 clock implementations out of the box. The default real time clock, based on the system clock, and an optional pseudo clock, controlled by the application.

Most CEP use cases have to deal with streams of events. The streams can be provided to the application in various forms, from JMS queues to flat text files, from database tables to raw sockets or even through web service calls. In any case, the streams share a common set of characteristics:

Drools generalized the concept of a stream as an "entry point" into the engine. An entry point is for drools a gate from which facts come. The facts may be regular facts or special facts like events.

In Drools, facts from one entry point (stream) may join with facts from any other entry point or event with facts from the working memory. Although, they never mix, i.e., they never lose the reference to the entry point through which they entered the engine. This is important because one may have the same type of facts coming into the engine through several entry points, but one fact that is inserted into the engine through entry point A will never match a pattern from a entry point B, for example.

Entry points are declared implicitly in Drools by directly making use of them in rules. I.e. referencing an entry point in a rule will make the engine, at compile time, to identify and create the proper internal structures to suppor that entry point.

So, for instance, lets imagine a banking application, where transactions are fed into the system coming from streams. One of the streams contains all the transactions executed in ATM machines. So, if one of the rules says: a withdraw is authorized if and only if the account balance is over the requested withdraw amount, the rule would look like:

In the previous example, the engine compiler will identify that the pattern is tied to the entry point "ATM Stream" and will both create all the necessary structures for the rulebase to support the "ATM Stream" and will only match WithdrawRequests coming from the "ATM Stream". In the previous example, the rule is also joining the event from the stream with a fact from the main working memory (CheckingAccount).

Now, lets imagine a second rule that states that a fee of $2 must be applied to any account for which a withdraw request is placed at a bank branch:

The previous rule will match events of the exact same type as the first rule (WithdrawRequest), but from two different streams, so an event inserted into "ATM Stream" will never be evaluated against the pattern on the second rule, because the rule states that it is only interested in patterns coming from the "Branch Stream".

So, entry points, besides being a proper abstraction for streams, are also a way to scope facts in the working memory, and a valuable tool for reducing cross products explosions. But that is a subject for another time.

Inserting events into an entry point is equally simple. Instead of inserting events directly into the working memory, insert them into the entry point as shown in the example below:

The previous example shows how to manually insert facts into a given entry point. Although, usually, the application will use one of the many adapters to plug a stream end point, like a JMS queue, directly into the engine entry point, without coding the inserts manually. The Drools pipeline API has several adapters and helpers to do that as well as examples on how to do it.

Temporal reasoning is another requirement of any CEP system. As discussed previously, one of the distinguishing characteristics of events is their strong temporal relationships.

Temporal reasoning is an extensive field of research, from its roots on Temporal Modal Logic to its more practical applications in business systems. There are hundreds of papers and thesis written and approches are described for several applications. Drools once more takes a pragmatic and simple approach based on several sources, but specially worth noting the following papers:

Drools implements the Interval-based Time Event Semantics described by Allen, and represents Point-in-Time Events as Interval-based evens with duration 0 (zero).

Drools implements all 13 operators defined by Allen and also their logical complement (negation). This section details each of the operators and their parameters.

The during evaluator correlates two events and matches when the current event happens during the occurrence of the event being correlated.

Lets look at an example:

$eventA : EventA( this during $eventB ) 

The previous pattern will match if and only if the $eventA starts after $eventB starts and finishes before $eventB finishes.

In other words:

$eventB.startTimestamp < $eventA.startTimestamp <= $eventA.endTimestamp < $eventB.endTimestamp 

The during operator accepts 1, 2 or 4 optional parameters as follow:

The includes evaluator correlates two events and matches when the event being correlated happens during the current event. It is the symmetrical opposite of during evaluator.

Lets look at an example:

$eventA : EventA( this includes $eventB ) 

The previous pattern will match if and only if the $eventB starts after $eventA starts and finishes before $eventA finishes.

In other words:

$eventA.startTimestamp < $eventB.startTimestamp <= $eventB.endTimestamp < $eventA.endTimestamp 

The includes operator accepts 1, 2 or 4 optional parameters as follow:

Rules engines in general have a well known way of processing data and rules and provide the application with the results. Also, there is not many requirements on how facts should be presented to the rules engine, specially because in general, the processing itself is time independent. That is a good assumption for most scenarios, but not for all of them. When the requirements include the processing of real time or near real time events, time becomes and important variable of the reasoning process.

The following sections will explain the impact of time on rules reasoning and the two modes provided by Drools for the reasoning process.

The CLOUD processing mode is the default processing mode. Users of rules engine are familiar with this mode because it behaves in exactly the same way as any pure forward chaining rules engine, including previous versions of Drools.

When running in CLOUD mode, the engine sees all facts in the working memory, does not matter if they are regular facts or events, as a whole. There is no notion of flow of time, although events have a timestamp as usual. In other words, although the engine knows that a given event was created, for instance, on January 1st 2009, at 09:35:40.767, it is not possible for the engine to determine how "old" the event is, because there is no concept of "now".

In this mode, the engine will apply its usual many-to-many pattern matching algorithm, using the rules constraints to find the matching tuples, activate and fire rules as usual.

This mode does not impose any kind of additional requirements on facts. So for instance:

On the other hand, since there is no requirements, some benefits are not available either. For instance, in CLOUD mode, it is not possible to use sliding windows, because sliding windows are based on the concept of "now" and there is no concept of "now" in CLOUD mode.

Since there is no ordering requirement on events, it is not possible for the engine to determine when events can no longer match and as so, there is no automatic life-cycle management for events. I.e., the application must explicitly retract events when they are no longer necessary, in the same way the application does with regular facts.

Cloud mode is the default execution mode for Drools, but in any case, as any other configuration in Drools, it is possible to change this behavior either by setting a system property, using configuration property files or using the API. The corresponding property is:

KnowledgeBaseConfiguration config = KnowledgeBaseFactory.newKnowledgeBaseConfiguration();

config.setOption( EventProcessingOption.CLOUD );

The equivalent property is:

drools.eventProcessingMode = cloud

The STREAM processing mode is the mode of choice when the application needs to process streams of events. It adds a few common requirements to the regular processing, but enables a whole lot of features that make stream event processing a lot simpler.

The main requirements to use STREAM mode are:

Given that the above requirements are met, the application may enable the STREAM mode using the following API:

KnowledgeBaseConfiguration config = KnowledgeBaseFactory.newKnowledgeBaseConfiguration();

config.setOption( EventProcessingOption.STREAM );

Or, the equivalent property:

drools.eventProcessingMode = stream

When using the STREAM, the engine knows the concept of flow of time and the concept of "now", i.e., the engine understands how old events are based on the current timestamp read from the Session Clock. This characteristic allows the engine to provide the following additional features to the application:

All these features are explained in the following sections.

Negative patterns behave different in STREAM mode when compared to CLOUD mode. In CLOUD mode, the engine assumes that all facts and events are known in advance (there is no concept of flow of time) and so, negative patterns are evaluated immediately.

When running in STREAM mode, negative patterns with temporal constraints may require the engine to wait for a time period before activating a rule. The time period is automatically calculated by the engine in a way that the user does not need to use any tricks to achieve the desired result.

For instance:

The above rule has no temporal constraints that would require delaying the rule, and so, the rule activates immediately. The following rule on the other hand, must wait for 10 seconds before activating, since it may take up to 10 seconds for the sprinklers to activate:

This behaviour allows the engine to keep consistency when dealing with negative patterns and temporal constraints at the same time. The above would be the same as writing the rule as below, but does not burden the user to calculate and explicitly write the appropriate duration parameter:

Sliding Window is a way to scope the events of interest as a the ones belonging to a window that is constantly moving. The two most common sliding window implementations are time based windows and length based windows.

The next sections will detail each of them.

The classic Rete algorithm is usually executed using a single thread. Although, as confirmed in several opportunities by Dr. Forgy, the algorithm itself is parallelizable. Drools implementation of the ReteOO algorithm supports coarse grained parallelization through rulebase partitioning.

When this option is enabled, the rulebase will be partitioned in several independent partitions and a pool of worker threads will be used to propagate facts through the partitions. The implementation guarantees that at most one worker thread will be executing tasks for a given partition, but multiple partitions may be "active" at a single point in time.

Everything should be transparent to the user, except that all working memory actions (insert/retract/modify) are executed assynchronously.

One of the benefits of running the engine in STREAM mode is that the engine can detect when an event can no longer match any rule due to its temporal constraints. When that happens, the engine can safely retract the event from the session without side effects and release any resources used by that event.

There are basically 2 ways for the engine to calculate the matching window for a given event: