Data virtualization masks what

Any CEO will confess that the single most annoying thing about technology is not being able to get a holistic view of data across the enterprise, said a data integration expert and author.

Whether it’s operational, accounting, sales, or historical data, that plethora of information often sits in disparate systems intertwined with hard-wired processes that the IT department is afraid will break when addressing the problem, said David Linthicum.

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Desktops, servers and storage aren’t the only things getting virtualized these days. Linthicum suggests data virtualization can address data woes. He said abstracting physical instances of databases as virtual entities will provide a virtual layer on which the user can interact with data regardless of where it resides.

“(Users can) access the database just as they would a physical database,” said Linthicum during a recent Webinar entitled Understanding and estimating the business value of data virtualization.

The end result is basically a representation of a combination of physical databases as it makes sense for that particular business user. And, as enterprises increasingly move to the cloud, this view of data is particularly important, said Linthicum.

Data virtualization won’t change or break the underlying infrastructure, Linthicum noted. If anything, he said it will help the IT department mask what the user doesn’t need to know about underlying data sources.

Data services, by loosely coupling services and applications from underlying databases, is a necessary part of services-oriented architecture (SOA) and creating an agile business, said Linthicum.

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“Look at your databases and ask yourself how much would go to the bottom line if (you) were more agile,” said Linthicum.

An efficient architecture leads to an efficient enterprise that in turns means efficient use of data, he said.

Bradley Wright, senior marketing manager for data services with Bedford, Mass.-based data integration technology vendor Progress DataDirect, said data virtualization can be whittled down to three Rs.

First, the user wants to get the Right Data from any data source – be it a relational database, Web service, packaged system like an ERP, legacy like mainframes, or just simply the data in files. “Let data live where it naturally wants to live,” said Wright.

Second, the user wants the Right Form of data presented in a user-friendly format, not fragmented data that betrays the structural and contextual differences between disparate sources.

Third, the user gets data at the Right Time, on-demand and in real-time, in order to make better business decisions.

The reason data virtualization is important, said Linthicum, is because while traditional data management systems do a good job storing data, they have limited management capabilities. 

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