Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: James Carlini, Sanjay Uppal, Peter Silva, SmartBear Blog, Charlotte Spencer-Smith

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Government Cloud

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Making the Case for Data Virtualization

Hard metrics for hard times

Achieving compelling value from information technology is critical because IT is typically an enterprise or government agency's largest capital expense. Increasing business complexities and technology choices create greater demands for justification when making IT investments.

Cambridge, MA-based analyst firm Forrester Research recently reported that, "Business and government's purchases of computer and communication equipment, software, IT consulting, and integration services and IT outsourcing will decline by 3% on a global basis in 2009 when measured in U.S. dollars, then rise by 9% in 2010."

With smaller budgets, IT must validate purchases by correlating tangible business and IT returns that align with corporate strategic objectives. This validation should come early in the acquisition process as well as after the implementation to demonstrate actual value and justify expanded adoption.

Evaluating data virtualization first requires understanding how it specifically delivers value. This understanding can then be used to calculate value and provide the hard metrics required for hard economic times.

Data Virtualization
Data virtualization is used to integrate data from multiple disparate sources - anywhere across the extended enterprise - for consumption by front-end business solutions, including portals, mashups, reports, applications, and search engines (see Figure 1).

Source: Composite Software, Inc.
Figure 1 Data virtualization at a glance

As middleware technology, data virtualization or virtual data federation has advanced beyond high-performance query or enterprise information integration (EII). As IT architecture, data virtualization is implemented as a virtualized data layer, an information grid, an information fabric, or a data services layer in service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments. It can also be deployed on a project basis, for business intelligence (BI) and reporting, portals and mashups, and industry-focused single views.

Data Virtualization's Five Value Points
The many ways data virtualization delivers value to business functions and IT operations can be categorized as:

  1. Sales Growth
  2. Risk Reduction
  3. Time Savings
  4. Technology Savings
  5. Staff Savings

Converting these to hard metrics requires an understanding of the relationships between specific data virtualization capabilities and the IT and business value they deliver. Value calculations are made using one or more forms of return-on-investment (ROI) calculators. Examples of the five value points and their metrics along with actual customer case studies are provided below.

Sales Growth
As an important indicator of an enterprise's success (or, in the public sector, as an indicator of service growth or mission effectiveness), sales growth results from business strategies such as improved offerings, better customer support, and faster market response. Data virtualization supports these strategies by providing data federation, on-demand data access and delivery, and automated data discovery and modeling.

More Complete Data
Data federation capabilities enable the integration of disparate data on-the-fly without physical data consolidation, making more complete data available to revenue-producing and customer-facing staff for better sales-related business decisions. Hard metrics include:

  • The number of decisions within the project's scope
  • The revenue-enhancing value of improving each decision based on the availability of more complete data

An energy provider used data federation to increase oil production from its 10,000 wells. The data included complex surface, subsurface, and business data in high volumes from many disparate sources. The data virtualization solution federated actionable information to automate maintenance and repair decisions made throughout the day, while relieving key resources for other value-adding tasks. This increased both staff and repair rig productivity, which were key factors in the 10% increase achieved in well revenue performance and efficiency.

Fresher Data
Data virtualization's on-demand data access and delivery capabilities reach difficult-to-access data and deliver it to consuming applications in near real-time. Fresher data means more timely and accurate decision-making, often yielding sales growth. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of decisions in the project's scope
  • The revenue-enhancing value of improving each decision based on the availability of more timely data

A leading marketing information company used on-demand data access and delivery to grow sales by providing its large consumer goods clients with more timely access to its huge collection of consumer trends and demand information. The data virtualization layer enabled simplified and rapid development of the real-time queries required by the customers' self-service reporting tools. This capability was the key factor behind a 2% increase in revenue.

Quicker Time-to-Solution
Data virtualization's automated data discovery and rapid modeling capabilities reduce the time typically wasted on searching for relationships among data tables. These capabilities automate many of the detailed modeling and validation activities. With quicker time-to-solution, new sales-impacting applications and their associated revenues are available sooner. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of months the project can be delivered earlier
  • The revenue-enhancing value associated with each month where value was accelerated

An investment bank used data discovery and modeling to increase revenues by improving its trade order management, debt/equity market research, and risk management applications. The abstracted data layer in the SOA environment enabled rapid modeling and complex query creation that was shareable across the bank. The resulting 60% reduction in integration design and development time on revenue-enabling applications and portals contributed to a 2% revenue increase at the bank.

Risk Reduction
Risk reduction has become increasingly important as a result of greater complexity and regulation. Becoming more agile in response to risk, improving predictability in light of risk, and ensuring compliance with changing regulations and reporting mandates are a few of the strategies to reduce risk. Data virtualization supports these strategies through its data federation, on-demand data access and delivery, and data discovery and modeling capabilities.

These data virtualization capabilities and IT benefits are similar to those driving sales growth. However, for risk reduction, the business benefit is better risk visibility and faster problem remediation. In both cases, quicker time-to-solution helps get new or improved applications online faster. However, in the case of risk reduction, these might be applications for risk management or compliance reporting, rather than sales or customer management.

More Complete Data
Data federation provides more complete data to risk and compliance management staff, thereby improving data visibility and reducing overall risk. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of risk decisions in the project's scope
  • The risk reduction value of improving each decision based on the availability of more complete data

A global pharmaceutical company used data federation to shorten lengthy R&D cycles and reduce the risk of new product delays. Its Research Scientists' Workbench solution combined disparate structured and semi-structured research data from across the enterprise. Armed with more complete information, researchers were able to resolve problems faster, resulting in 60% fewer new product delays.

Fresher Data and Quicker Time-to-Solution
Data virtualization's on-demand data access and delivery capabilities improve the timeliness of data so risk issues can be remediated faster. Data virtualization's automated discovery and modeling accelerates new risk management and compliance reporting application development, thereby delivering their associated risk-reducing benefits sooner.

Time Savings
New information systems must deliver the data needed while reducing the latency between business event and response. So IT is under constant pressure to provide these new systems and their associated information more quickly. Strategies for saving development and deployment time as well as decreasing data latency are crucial. Data virtualization supports these strategies by providing a data services library; installation wizard, manager and clustering; and query optimization capabilities.

Less New Code, Greater Reuse
The data services library holds complete collections of reusable views and data services. By using these existing objects, the need for new coding efforts is lessened, permitting greater reuse across multiple applications. This saves project development time for both new applications and existing ones when changes are needed. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of views or services planned
  • The savings per view or service
  • The percentage reuse factor for a specified time frame

A major investment bank wanted to build new applications faster, but it couldn't because key reference data, such as counter-party accounts, was duplicated across multiple applications. Other than slowing development, this proliferation contradicted good banking practices and data governance. The bank shaved 25% off its average development time by creating a shared data services library to house Web Services for sharing counter-party master reference data.

Easy Installation and Reliable Operation
Various installation wizards along with manager and clustering capabilities accelerate and automate the installation and runtime of data virtualization solutions. As a result, new solutions are deployed faster. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of months a project can be delivered earlier
  • The assignable value associated with each month the value was accelerated

A leading life sciences R&D organization needed to quickly prototype, develop, and deploy the new information solutions required to support strategic decisions by business executives. It used data virtualization to build and deploy virtual data marts in support of multiple data consumers including Microsoft SharePoint, Business Objects Business Intelligence, TIBCO Spotfire, Microsoft Excel, and various Web portals. This resulted in a 90% reduction in the time required to deploy new information sets.

High-Performance Data Delivery
Data virtualization's query optimization and caching capabilities help eliminate data latencies, speeding the delivery of critical information to users and applications, thereby shortening the time between business events and response.

A North American telecom chip maker targeted faster responses to customer requests. To do this, its sales force management analytics required up-to-the-minute data from the packaged Salesforce.com CRM application as well as other systems. The manufacturer used data virtualization to optimize query performance, ultimately cutting average report runtimes from four minutes to 30 seconds or less.

Technology Savings
Just as storage, server, and applications' virtualization have demonstrated huge technology savings, data virtualization has proven to provide similar savings by requiring fewer physical data repositories along with the systems required to operate and manage them. Many users find that these technology infrastructure savings alone justify the investment. This is frequently a natural place to start a data virtualization deployment.

Fewer Physical Repositories, Lower Hardware, Software, and Facilities Costs
Data virtualization doesn't require replication in intermediate physical data repositories. Fewer physical data marts and operational data stores mean less supporting hardware and software. This, in turn, means less rack space, electricity, air conditioning, management software, and other facilities' costs. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of servers reduced due to virtual federation rather than physical consolidation
  • The assignable hardware, software, and facilities cost associated with each server

A leading computer maker wanted to reduce the cost of its supply chain and customer management operational BI applications, which included more than 50 intermediate data marts. Each mart required a server, resulting in lifecycle hardware infrastructure costs of $20,000 each. It used data virtualization to provide a virtual supply chain data hub that replaced the physical data marts. This resulted in $1 million in infrastructure cost savings.

Staff Savings
The cost of internal and outsourced staff is typically the largest IT expenditure. Substituting automated tools for labor is one strategy for cutting staffing costs. Increasing existing staff productivity by improving SDLC processes is another. Simplifying the work to employ lower-skilled (and therefore less costly) staff is a third. Data virtualization supports these strategies by delivering a user-friendly GUI development environment, along with automated data discovery and data services library capabilities.

Fewer Skills Required
Data virtualization's GUI development environment simplifies and automates the detailed design and development work that would otherwise require more technically capable staff. Enterprises find they spend less money on expensive consultants. Enterprises also find that they can redeploy their highly skilled staff to other more critical work. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of consulting staff hours being reduced
  • The cost per hour

A global money manager wanted to reduce the effort required by 100 financial analysts who build the complex portfolio models used by fund managers. Its solution was to build a virtualization layer surrounding the warehouse to abstract away the complexity of the underlying data. This simplification resulted in a financial analyst productivity increase of 25%, allowing many to be redeployed to develop additional financial analytics useful to the firm.

Greater Collaboration
Discovery capabilities within today's data virtualization platforms quickly validate new reporting solutions with end users using live data early in the development process. Furthermore, analysts and data designers can transfer models to application developers and operations teams to complete the process. This encourages team collaboration and helps reduce rework. The hard metrics include:

  • The number of hours saved
  • The cost per hour

The same global money management firm cited above wanted to improve the collaboration of its 100 financial analysts. Many of its financial models relied on similar data and data models, but technology hindered these analysts from effectively sharing their work. A common virtualization layer over the financial research data warehouse provided the financial analysts with reusable data views that could be shared for the first time. In addition, IT provided a dedicated DBA and data architect who created the new views as needed. The improved collaboration resulted in higher portfolio returns and a 150% ROI in six months.

Metrics for Hard Times
By understanding the specific contributing value factors of data virtualization, C-level executives and IT managers can more easily calculate both the estimated and actual value of each data virtualization implementation under consideration, be it architecture or project. The resulting hard metrics that clearly contribute to enterprise-wide goals arm budget decision makers with the data they need to make confident decisions in hard economic times.

More Stories By Robert Eve

Robert "Bob" Eve is vice president of marketing at Composite Software. Prior to joining Composite, he held executive-level marketing and business development roles at several other enterprise software companies. At Informatica and Mercury Interactive, he helped penetrate new segments in his role as the vice president of Market Development. Bob ran Marketing and Alliances at Kintana (acquired by Mercury Interactive in 2003) where he defined the IT Governance category. As vice president of Alliances at PeopleSoft, Bob was responsible for more than 300 partners and 100 staff members. Bob has an MS in management from MIT and a BS in business administration with honors from University of California, Berkeley. He is a frequent contributor to publications including SYS-CON's SOA World Magazine and Virtualization Journal.

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
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...