I was happy to do an architect-to-architect Webinar with David Lyle, which was more of an interactive conversation than a Webinar. The focus was on the ability to provide integration using data virtualization, but the message was perhaps more profound than that.
The core issues that many enterprises face are that information is largely an asset that they cannot access. The data is locked up within years and years of ill planned databases and applications where the core data, such as customer and sales information, is scattered throughout the enterprise. Most staffers and executives consider this to be “just the way it is.”
What’s most troublesome about this situation is that the ability to access data, and even place it into the proper context for the business, is within reach. Those in IT only need to consider the true value of data, and take the steps necessary to unlock the information as a true business asset.
Some of the problem has been around the way we’ve done data integration in the past. In my EAI book I called integration what it truly is: An architectural pattern that promotes the sharing of information between systems, or between systems and people. Within the concept of integration there are many sub-patterns, such as data replication, data migration, and data abstraction.
Considering the limitations of the technology in the past, most enterprises jumped right to data replication leveraging traditional data integration technology that merely consumed data on one side of the hub and produced it on the other. The core value of data was not considered, and the mere movement of copying of data from one system to another only served to exacerbate the problem. In many respects, one problem was traded off for another.
Today we have an opportunity to correct issues with information, and how we integrate and access information in the proper context of the business. The use of data virtualization is a key component that allows you to view your business information using abstract or virtual views of the information that hide the complexities of the underlying physical databases from the business users who need access to the information. In other words, data virtualization provides the ability to see the data how you need to see it, and within the proper business context, without having to migrate or alter the back-end physical databases.
The business benefit of leveraging both this approach and this technology is pretty clear. You have the ability to see the current data of record, such as a single view of customers, sales, inventory, etc., and other data entities that have long been difficult if not impossible to access by applications, tools, and users without a great deal of cost and latency.
The larger value here is the ability to finally move the business in the directions it needs to move, when it needs to move. The value of agility around the use of data virtualization will finally put the business information in the right context and make it accessible, and also allow the business to change to accommodate the changes that are required to stay in business.