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Is Now the Right Time for Data Virtualization?

Leading BI analyst says “Data virtualization: the time has come”

A Tectonic Shift - Think Data Virtualization First!
Wayne Eckerson, Director of Research at TechTarget and former head of research for TDWI, "used to think that data virtualization tools were great for niche applications, such as creating a quick and dirty prototype or augmenting the data warehouse with real-time data in an operational system or accessing data outside the corporate firewall."

But in his October 17, 2011 article entitled Data Virtualization: The Time Has Come, he now believes "that data virtualization is the key to creating an agile, cost-effective data management infrastructure.  In fact, data architects should first design and deploy a data virtualization layer prior to building any data management or delivery artifacts."

This tectonic shift in thinking demonstrates how dynamic business model changes including innovative new offerings, changing competitive landscapes, M&A activities  along with new information technologies such as big data, cloud computing and data virtualization are breaking traditional IT architectures and approaches.

Data Virtualization Seen Through a Second Lens
As the marketing leader for a data virtualization software company, Composite Software, it is gratifying when a well-regarded IT analyst such as Wayne takes a firm position in favor of one's category, and at the same time be so articulate in communicating this message to the business and IT community.

Further, such an article provides a great opportunity to contrast Wayne's description of data virtualization's business benefits and technology with my own.  Let's do this comparison together to see what we can learn from his new insights.

Business Benefits a la Composite Software:
In my recent book, "Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility," I defined data virtualization's business benefits in the context of the universal challenge of business agility.  From our customer case studies, we at Composite Software have seen data virtualization used by innovative organizations to achieve business agility in three ways:

  • Business decision agility - Data virtualization delivers the complete high-quality, actionable information required for agile business decision making.
  • Time-to-solution agility - Data virtualization uses a streamlined approach, an iterative development process and ease of change to significantly accelerate IT time to solution.
  • Resource agility - Data virtualization directly enables greater resource agility through superior developer productivity, lower infrastructure costs and better optimization of data integration solutions.

Another Take on Data Virtualization's Business Benefits
In Wayne's article, he too addresses these business decision, time-to-solution and resource agility points using slightly different terminology.  "With data virtualization, organizations can integrate data without physically consolidating it. In other words, they don't have to build a data warehouse or data mart to deliver an integrated view of data, which saves considerable time and money. In addition, data virtualization lets administrators swap out or redesign back-end databases and systems without affecting downstream applications.

The upshot is that IT project teams can significantly reduce the time they spend sourcing, accessing, and integrating data, which is the lionshare of work in any data warehousing project.  In other words, data virtualization speeds project delivery, increases business agility, reduces costs, and improves customer satisfaction. What's not to like?"

My Data Virtualization Technology Description
To describe data virtualization technology, in the book I described it as "a form of middleware that leverages high-performance software and an advanced computing architecture to integrate and deliver to both internal and external consumers data from multiple, disparate sources in a loosely-coupled, logically-federated manner.

By implementing a virtual data integration layer between data consumers and existing data sources, the organization avoids the need for physical data consolidation and replicated data storage. Thus, data virtualization enables the organization to accelerate delivery of new and revised business solutions while also reducing both initial and ongoing solution costs.

Most front-end business applications, including BI, analytics and transaction systems, can access data through the data virtualization layer.  Consumption is on demand from the original data sources, including transaction systems, operational data stores, data warehouses and marts, big data, external data sources and more.

High performance query algorithms and other optimization techniques ensure timely, up-to-the-minute data delivery.  Logical data models, in the form of tabular or hierarchical schemas, ensure data quality and completeness.  Standard APIs and an open architecture simplify the consumer-to-middleware-to-data source connections."

Data Virtualization Technology Described Another Way
In Wayne's article, he describes data virtualization technology in a similar fashion.

"Data virtualization software makes data spread across physically distinct systems appear as a set of tables in a local database.  Business users, developers, and applications query this virtualized view and the software automatically generates an optimized set of queries that fetch data from remote systems, merge the disparate data on the fly, and deliver the result to users.

Data virtualization software consumes virtually any type of data, including SQL, MDX, XML, Web services, and flat files and publishes the data as SQL tables or Web services. Essentially, data virtualization software turns data into a service, hiding the complexity of back-end data structures behind a standardized information interface."

Data Virtualization's Time Has Come!
Critical business issues such as new product innovation, completion, M&A and more put increasing stress on IT to respond faster with new information solutions.  Old approaches and technologies won't keep pace.

The decision-making, time-to-solution and resource agility benefits of data virtualization in addressing these business needs are undeniable.  And as you can see, while not always described 100% consistently, data virtualization's value and solution are being increasingly recognized by IT mavens such as Wayne Eckerson.

Wayne said it best. "Data Virtualization: The Time Has Come!"

More Stories By Robert Eve

Robert Eve is the EVP of Marketing at Composite Software, the data virtualization gold standard and co-author of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility. Bob's experience includes executive level roles at leading enterprise software companies such as Mercury Interactive, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. Bob holds a Masters of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

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