Click here to close now.


Java IoT Authors: Anders Wallgren, Liz McMillan, Greg O'Connor, Tim Hinds, Bill Szybillo

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo

Containers Expo Blog: Case Study

Data Virtualization at Northern Trust: A Case Study

New integration approach accelerates revenue

Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility is the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. Along with an overview of data virtualization and its advantages, it presents ten case studies of organizations that have adopted data virtualization to significantly improve business decision making, decrease time-to-solution and reduce costs. This article describes data virtualization adoption at one of the enterprises profiled, Northern Trust.

Organization Background
Northern Trust is a leading provider of innovative fiduciary, investment management, private banking, wealth management and worldwide trust and custody services. Clients include corporations, institutions, families and individuals in more than 40 countries.

Based in Chicago, Illinois, the company has over 13,000 employees. At the end of 2010, the company had assets under custody of $4.1 trillion, assets under management of $643.6 billion and banking assets of $83.8 billion. Annual revenues in 2010 were almost $3.7 billion.

For this case study, we interviewed Leonard J. Hardy, Senior Vice President, Operations and Technology. Hardy is a member of Northern Trust's Rapid Solutions group, which provides a solution architecture and consulting facility to other Northern Trust application development groups.

Hardy also manages the company's Integration Competency Center (ICC), which helps other application areas figure out the best way to integrate data. The ICC supports several tools for this, including data virtualization, ETL and data integration best practices. Hardy participated in this case study project in his ICC role.

The Business Problem
An important line of business for Northern Trust is providing outsourced investment management operations for corporate customers, typically investment management firms and banks.

These institutional customers continue to provide front-office investment management functions for their end clients, but outsource all or some of the middle-office and back-office functions to Northern Trust. By contracting these functions out to Northern Trust, the institution does not have to invest in the resources, assets and skills necessary to provide the functions internally. In return, Northern Trust provides guaranteed levels of quality, service, resilience and value-to-cost criteria and management.

The Northern Trust line of business responsible for investment management outsourcing is called Investment Operations Outsourcing (IOO).

The business problem for IOO was the fact that it had a large number of new institutional customers in the outsourcing pipeline and simply could not implement them fast enough.

As Hardy stated, "If we could get customers on board more quickly, we would realize several key benefits. First, revenue would increase. Second, we could go down the pipeline faster. We had customers already signed up for outsourcing who were waiting to be converted and we had to find a way to do that faster. That, in turn, would allow us to open up the pipeline and take advantage of huge new business opportunities in the marketplace."

The Technical Problem
Existing IOO client reporting capabilities had evolved within a traditional systems infrastructure and were both inefficient and inflexible, thereby extending the time it took to set up the end client reporting function for each customer.

For example, value-added client data was stored in multiple separate databases, including legacy, mainframe systems. In addition, some of the business logic to interpret the data structures and create reports was embedded in stored procedure code. The only way to access the data and interpret it correctly was to go through the stored procedures. There was no data warehouse or data mart that consolidated all this data and business logic for reporting purposes.

As a result, according to Hardy, "the old way of reporting required technology intervention for every single customer implementation. As you can imagine, each institution has its own formats, labels, graphics and fonts. A technology expert proficient in our development tools had to get involved and make changes to our reporting process for every customer. The time-to-market on that was very long. We needed the ability to bring on new customers without having to make technology changes for each one."

Two Options Evaluated
IOO considered two solution architectures to meet their business and technical challenges.

Physical Consolidation: One solution for IOO was to physically integrate the data using ETL and data warehousing technology. But that would require pulling all of the business logic out of the stored procedures and figuring out how to get all of the data into one database and have the structure make sense, a massive project that could take up to a year and a half.

Data Virtualization: Instead, IOO took a more innovative approach and decided to virtually integrate the data using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform as a virtual data warehouse. Placing Composite in the middle between the client reporting tool and the back-end data sources would enable IOO to quickly abstract the data into the data virtualization layer, reuse the existing business logic to access the data and generate all of the data needed for end client reporting. This approach required just seven months.

The Data Virtualization Solution - Architecture
Northern Trust's IOO data virtualization solution is a virtual data warehouse implemented with the Composite Data Virtualization Platform combined with a new client reporting front end. The major architecture components include:

Data sources - There are several physical data stores in the IOO environment.

  • Transaction data includes all of the detailed transactions for each end-client account: buys, sells, interest income, dividends, etc.
  • Valuation data includes, for each end-client account, how much it is worth today, how much it was worth yesterday, etc., based on the transaction data.
  • Enterprise asset data is a reference file that contains data about each asset in the client accounts, such as ticker symbol and investment category (equity, bond, money market, etc.). This data comes from a number of different third-party providers.
  • Performance data includes very complicated investment performance calculations that permit performance comparisons between accounts, such as one account against accounts of similar value or with similar investment strategies.
  • Transaction, valuation and enterprise asset data is stored in IBM DB2 and accessed via COBOL stored procedures.
  • Performance data is in Oracle and accessed via web services that call C code.

Data virtualization layer: The virtual data warehouse built using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform abstracts the data in the IOO data stores and creates a unified, virtual view that makes them appear as a single physical data store.

When the reporting platform issues a query to retrieve data from one or more data stores, Composite queries the data by calling the appropriate stored procedures and/or web services, combines the data (for example, associates all of the transactions that make up a valuation and the important performance data that applies to that valuation) and delivers it to the reporting platform.

Consuming applications: The primary consuming application is the client reporting platform. This is the toolset that IOO's internal business/operations partners now use to build, format and produce the reports for IOO's customers and their clients.

Another benefit of the reporting tool is that it supports a data dictionary and business views of the data that directly map to views within the data virtualization layer. These business views, or building blocks, conform the data into reusable components that the business analysts can use to create custom reports.

A key point here is that the solution has enabled IOO to transfer the time-consuming report customization work that previously had to be done for each new institutional customer by very high-priced and very busy technical resources (applications programmers) to IOO's operations partners (business analysts).

As Hardy summarized it, "We have been successful in our goal of taking the technology out of the outsourcing equation. As long as we supply the right data through Composite, the reporting tool handles all formatting, graphing and other functionality that we used to have to hard code within the application program. One reason we had such a big bottleneck in implementing outsourcing customers was the fact that we didn't have enough programmers in our application development group to handle the customization requirements. Business analysts in our operations group can now easily process the building blocks necessary to customize reports."

By combining the capabilities of data virtualization and the new reporting tool, IOO has been able to navigate through and abstract a very complex set of layers of translation to connect the raw IOO data structures to business metadata and finished customer reports.

The Data Virtualization Solution - Best Practices
Hardy offered some best practices and lessons learn based on his experience working with IOO.

Start with a focused project: Hardy stated that a focused initial effort is a key to success. "Don't start with a project to make all enterprise data available via a service." To date, IOO has completed four institutional customer implementations with over ten more in progress or planned.

Centralize support for data virtualization and development: Giving ICC responsibility for the data virtualization technology provided economies of scale and enabled the company to accelerate up the best practices learning curve in effectively implementing the technology in business solutions.

Understand the data: According to Hardy, data virtualization is no different than any other development or physical data integration tool. "The design and architecture of the solution is where you need to spend time. The old carpenter's adage of ‘measure twice and cut once' applies here. Don't just dive in and start coding views. Make sure you really understand the data. This is the key to success in an effort like this."

Educate and support the business: Hardy said it is also important to allocate time to consult with the business and make sure they understand the data. "In our case, they are the ones designing the reports but they don't necessarily have in-depth knowledge about the data in its raw form. So we need to help them understand the raw data and make sure that when the data gets to the end tool, people understand what they are looking at."

Manage business expectations: Although data virtualization is a capability that can get the job done faster, the organization still has to go through the same steps to implement the solution: analysis, design and architecture. "In our case, we could say it saved us a year and a half, but it did take seven months. So it will take time no matter how you do it."

Summary of Benefits
Hardy described the major benefits Northern Trust has achieved with the new IOO client reporting architecture based on data virtualization.

Faster time-to-market increases customer satisfaction and revenue: Data virtualization has dramatically reduced the time it takes to implement a new outsourcing customer by 50%. Moving customers through the pipeline faster improves overall customer satisfaction and gives IOO the capacity to bring in even more business and revenue.

Single point of access simplifies work and cut costs: The fact that the reporting tool, or any consuming application, has a single data access point regardless of the format, access method (SQL, web service, stored procedure, etc.) or data source  significantly reduces application complexity and development and maintenance time and cost.

Reuse benefits grow with adoption: The ability to create reusable data services that can be shared by all applications also reduces costs.

Long run flexibility is improved: Northern Trust is embarking on a three-year project to replace all of its underlying data stores with modern data warehouses and data marts. By putting data virtualization in the middle, thereby decoupling the back-end data from the consuming applications, IOO will not have to change anything that has been defined in the reporting tool when it swaps out the back-end data stores. It will only need to change the views to consume the new data sources.

•   •   •

Editor's Note: Robert Eve is the co-author, along with Judith R. Davis, of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility, the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. The complete Northern case study, along with nine others enterprise are available in the book.

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.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.