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Welcoming the new era in data virtualisation

(Image credit: Image Credit: Pitney Bowes Software)

Organisations need to open their minds and take a leap of faith; it’s only then that they will enter the new era in data virtualisation.

Over the last few years, data virtualisation has become synonymous with deriving true business value from data. Regardless of size or sector, businesses everywhere are now utilising it to navigate and master the complex world of data management.

And it’s no wonder! Data virtualisation grants organisations with a single, logical view of all the information they store - whether it be structured or unstructured, in the cloud or on premise. This means that any data can be accessed easily through front-end solutions such as applications and dashboards without having to know its exact storage location or how it is formatted.

Ultimately, this single management layer will result in faster access to and better visibility of data across the entire business which – in turn – will lead to more informed decision making.

Yet, although certain benefits of data virtualisation are well publicised, many organisations are still missing out on its full potential by limiting its use to within the logical data warehouse.

Traditionally – thanks to their power and flexibility - these warehouses have been viewed as the primary vehicle for data virtualisation technology. But there is a bigger world out there; one full of countless possibilities for those implementing data virtualisation.

Times are changing: the redefinition of data virtualisation

Since the term ‘logical data warehouse’ was first coined by Gartner’s Mark Bayer over a decade ago, it’s become widely used to represent the natural evolution of analytical systems. Over the years, data virtualisation has become a key part of this process. So key, in fact, that today some organisations find themselves almost restricted when it comes to the way that they think about data virtualisation.

The truth is that the potential of data virtualisation goes far beyond the logical data warehouse. You see, this type of technology has the power to bring together not only all the information stored in data warehouses but also in data lakes, data marketplaces, streaming data and any other data delivery system.

In other words, data virtualisation can act as a ‘unified data delivery platform’ - tearing down silos and making all data more accessible across teams within an organisation.  It can also allow users to consume this data in a self-service manner, wherever, whenever and through the applications of their choice – whether that is a reporting tool, data science tool or enterprise, mobile and web applications.

The improved accessibility and heightened visibility of all data across an organisation ultimately grants a business the ability to make better, more informed decisions, which will help to improve overall productivity, reduce overheads and increase profit margins.

But, whilst many organisations are benefiting from using data virtualisation in a traditional sense, by failing to think outside the box they are missing out on its true value and potential. They need to re-consider their way of thinking about ‘data virtualisation’ taking on board its new definition as a unified data delivery platform, which can operate across different architectures. It is only then, that they can begin to see the bigger picture.

Needless to say; it’s time to break the mould.

Reaping the rewards

Once organisations have gone through this change in mindset and are able to think about data virtualisation beyond the traditional logical data warehouse, they open up the door to a whole new world of possibilities. When thought about as a unified data delivery platform, data virtualisation can add real value to other architectures within an organisation.

For example, under this way of thinking, data virtualisation can help organisations to enable data service layers. Data service layers can help organisations to maintain more control by preventing project teams from creating their own siloed data sets or using non-certified data sources. Instead consistent data sets are published and made discoverable to developers throughout an organisation. This means that, whilst data is both visible and easy to access, it is also effectively secured and governed.

Data virtualisation can also help companies on their journey to the cloud. For many businesses today, a modern digital strategy includes cloud in some way or another. But modernising an organisation’s infrastructure by adopting cloud applications is not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, businesses can face a myriad of obstacles. Migrating legacy applications to the cloud takes time and data can often become even more fragmented during the process.

This is where data virtualisation can help. Its abstraction capabilities can enable cloud adoption and facilitate the migration of legacy architecture to this new landscape, then the evolution of this migrated architecture to more modern cloud analytics platforms, offering simplified access to data in hybrid architectures.

Another area in which organisations should start thinking outside the box is big data adoption. Data virtualisation can help here by opening up the data residing in big data platforms, enabling it to be more easily exploited – even by those with no experience in the area. It does this through an easy-to-access and discover logical model. Organisations can also offload historic data from expensive data warehouse infrastructure to less expensive storage and combine big data with other data to enrich is using data virtualisation. 

Be a pioneer of data virtualisation

With Gartner research predicting that through 2022, 60 per cent of all organisations will implement data virtualisation as one key delivery style in their data integration architecture, it’s time for organisations to decide whether they will be one of the beneficiaries of thinking outside the box when it comes to using this type of technology.

There’s no doubt about it, thinking about data virtualisation in a different light can help to give organisations the competitive edge. As a unified data delivery platform, it’s no longer limited to the logical data warehouse. Instead it can be used as part of the wider environment, enabling businesses to derive real value from all of their data.

It can be challenging to change a mindset and try something new, but being a pioneer in this next chapter of data virtualisation could also open up the door to a whole new world of possibilities. Be brave. Take a leap of faith. After all, businesses that embrace change and adapt accordingly are sure to come out on top.

Alberto Pan, Chief Technical Officer, Denodo

Alberto Pan is Chief Technical Officer at Denodo and Associate Professor at University of A Coruña. He has lead Product Development tasks for all versions of the Denodo Platform. He has authored more than 25 scientific papers in areas such as data virtualisation, data integration and web automation.