Entering the Era of Data Virtualization

Arthur Cole

For those of you who never got too jazzed about concepts like Enterprise Information Integration (EII) and Virtual Data Federation (VDF), it looks like those ideas are being repackaged into an all-new data center initiative. And with IT vendors always looking to make the most out of a successful trend, get ready to hear a lot about "data virtualization."


One the face of it, it's the next step in the march of virtualization from the server, to storage, to the network, desktop and the application. The idea is to pull data from multiple sources into a virtual store that is available to everyone and anyone regardless of hardware or software platforms.


A company called Composite Software is claiming a stake in data virtualization with a new middleware stack called the Composite Information Server, recently certified for the HP Neoview warehouse platform. The system broadens Neoview's reach by providing access to data from any source on either the local- or wide-area network.


Robert Eve, vice president of marketing at Composite, lays out the company's DV philosophy in this article on Sys-Con. In it, he cautions against both over- and under-use of the technology through a proper assessment of organizational requirements. Most enterprises will likely pursue a hybrid approach that involves both virtual and physical technologies.


Another vendor in the running is Radiant Logic, which recently unveiled what it calls the first "context server" based on DV technology. The RadiantOne Virtual Context Server is designed to pull "contextual information" -- that is, data that can be put to use by business processes -- from disparate application silos. Radiant's software can then publish the data as standard English sentences that can be arranged as contextual links across multiple processes so it can be more easily be searched, extracted and combined into meaningful information.


A lot of this may sound like reinventing the wheel to some of you, but according to software analyst Wayne Kernochan, data virtualization is both a logical extension of virtualization in general and offers clear benefits to the enterprise, although it may not be as easy to implement as some vendors would have you believe. The biggest obstacle is philosophical, rather than technical, in that it requires a reassessment of existing information architectures and how they can be applied to 21st century business requirements.


Next to your human resources, data is the most valuable element of your organization. Data virtualization is still a relatively new concept, so it will likely go through a number of permutations before it finds a real footing in the enterprise. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth keeping an eye on today, if only so you'll be better prepared when the time comes to make a move.

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Sep 30, 2008 10:53 AM Robert Eve Robert Eve  says:
Arthur -"A rose by any other name, would it still smell so sweet.."By it's nature, middleware, especially data integration middleware is versatile enabling a range of higher level business applications (BI, Compliance, MDM, etc.) as well as a variety of architecture initiatives (SOA, Virtualization, Cloud, etc.)This diversity results in an evolving set of "category" definitions and ever-expanding IT alphabet soup. In the case of products like Composite Software's Information Server the labels abound...- For virtualization initiatives, call it data virtualization and contrast it with the other virtualizations (storage, server, etc.)- For SOA initiatives, call it data services and contrast it with transaction services (See Chapter 2 in An Implementor's Guide to SOA www.soaguidebook.com)- For BI and Reporting from the data store point of view, call it virtual data federation in contast to physical data consolidation.- - For BI and Reporting from the data flow point of view call it enterprise information integration (EII) in contrast to extract, transform, and load (ETL).The key to all is faster development, lower TCO, and less complexity. In a word, value. And at this point, proven, low risk, rapid reward value validated as a must have in every enterprise's data integration tool portfolio by firms such as Forrester Research (See James Kobielus) and Gartner (see Ted Friedman). Reply

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