Battling Brittleness Within IT

Loraine Lawson

"Brittleness" is hardly ever a good thing. Think about it-there's a long list of things you definitely don't want to be brittle: Nerves, bones, relationships, mortar. Brittleness is really only a good quality when you're talking about food-most notably, peanut brittle.


My point is this: Even if you're not exactly sure what a brittle IT ecosystem means, you know it's not a good thing.


So you do weight-bearing activities and take calcium; you enjoy vacations and you spend time with loved ones. You try not to think too hard about the mortar holding up your house, but you do check for cracks and pay for the home inspection. Why wouldn't you take preventative measures to deter brittleness within your IT systems and integrations?


It turns out, one key to combating brittleness in IT is to understand modern data hubs and how they differ from the way data was stored in prehistoric times like the '80s and '90s.


You would think IT would understand this, but they often don't, writes Larry Dubov, senior director of business management consulting at IBM-owned Initiate Systems.


If you're a business leader, don't be turned off by the technical aspects of this discussion. Dubov does a pretty good job of simplifying it, although, you will need to understand the hub design concept and know what SOA means. The rest you can sort of figure out from context.


If you're in IT and think you know better, do yourself a favor and read Dubov's article anyway. He's attacking two widely held misconceptions about data hubs as used for master data management:

  1. The misconception that you need to cleanse and standardize the data before you load it into the data hub.
  2. The misconception that the data hub must retain and store a copy of the "golden record," rather than dynamically assembling it.

He also explains how data hubs work with SOA to prevent brittleness within your IT systems:

The data hub as master data service (MDS) provides an ideal way for managing data within a service-oriented-architecture (SOA) environment. ...The MDS is the hub, and all systems communicate directly with it using SOA principles. Participating systems are 'autonomous' in SOA parlance, meaning that they can stay independent of one another and do not have to know the details of how other systems manage master data. This allows disparate system-specific schemas and internal business rules to be hidden, which greatly reduces tight coupling and the overall brittleness of the ecosystem.

By the way, data services are the essence of data virtualization. (If you're fuzzy about that, TechTarget has an older, but still excellent, piece explaining it.) So what he's explaining here is how to create data services with a data hub.


"Of course, this isn't to say that hubs are always the right solution. For a counterpoint to Dubov's piece, check out this 2009 post, "The Flaw of the Hub and Spoke Architecture" by Baseline Consultant Evan Levy.


Still, I think Dubov's piece is worth a quick read, because it goes a long way toward explaining the business and technology benefits of modern data hubs.


Then head over to DataCenter Edge to read "Seven Secrets to Data Virtualization Success," in which Composite Software's marketing VP, Robert Eve, shares how others have used data services to support faster, simpler data integration and the resulting business benefits.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 11, 2010 8:48 AM Robert Eve Robert Eve  says:

Loraine -

With so much brittleness built into typical IT environments, you are doing the community a good service by highlighting several approaches to address the IT brittleness challenge.

Finding agility within a brittle IT environment is not optional. 

So having a full palette of approaches and an open mind is a great start.

May 22, 2010 8:30 AM Lawrence Dubov Lawrence Dubov  says: in response to Robert Eve


Thank your the great review of my blog. You are doing a great job. I really appreciate it.

As a minor coment, I believe Evan's article is talking about "Hub and Spoke" architecture while my article talks about MDM Data Hubs. These topics sound semantically similar but different in essense. Hence, I can't see Evan's article a counterpoint to mine. They really talk about different things.




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