Agile Computing Authors: John Mertic, Carmen Gonzalez, Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

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
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, will discuss how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team a...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
Intelligent machines are here. Robots, self-driving cars, drones, bots and many IoT devices are becoming smarter with Machine Learning. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sudha Jamthe, CEO of IoTDisruptions.com, will discuss the next wave of business disruption at the junction of IoT and AI, impacting many industries and set to change our lives, work and world as we know it.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
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, discussed how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from millio...
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...