Why Business Leaders - and IT - Will Like Data Virtualization

Loraine Lawson

In my experience, it's not the big projects that drag you down. It's the little to-do items that "shouldn't take too long" but do, like thousands of little termites, taking tiny, but effective, bites out of your time, money and energy.


For IT, these projects tend to be the minor data integration projects, the "quick" and "occasional" reports for various executives and business units. These types of projects can still require integration from systems such as ERP, CRM or other back-office applications.


At the wireless tech company Qualcomm, these projects are now handled using data virtualization software and a reporting dashboard, according to the director of IT enterprise architecture, Steven Polaski. It's an approach that allows IT to avoid the hassle of a full ETL/data warehouse implementation for short-lived reports, Polaski explains in a recent TechTarget article.


Data virtualization goes by a lot of different names. You may read about data federation, data services and data access services. I've shared before how virtualization can simplify data integration. It's also a foundational approach for mashups. It's also a great fit for business intelligence projects, since experts say 80 percent of all BI effort lies in data integration.


It's also a natural fit for service-oriented architecture and an extension of SOA concepts. In fact, Data integration/SOA/cloud blogger David Linthicum has written about additional business benefits, including reuse of data services.


Polaski talks about opting for data virtualization instead of more comprehensive data warehouse and ETL projects-but, just to be clear, this isn't always a replacement for ETL. You'd be better off considering it a supplement technology. It's an option for those projects that just don't need that kind of heavy usage and lifting. Polaski specifically says that in some cases, he'll start producing a report using virtualization and a dashboard, but if a reporter has a longer lifespan, then Qualcomm adds it as a data warehouse project later.


This promise of opening up data without so much hassle has piqued the interest of IT organizations. Data virtualization company Composite Software recently surveyed 143 developers, database administrators, software engineers, managers, BI consultants and CIOs. More than 47 percent expressed an interest in using data virtualization software, which they felt could be used to improve data delivery and access, reduce infrastructure costs and increase staff productivity.


Qualcomm's experience with data virtualization is well worth reading. Polaski shares other products he considered before settling on Composite Software. (Qualcomm is now a member of Composite's customer advisory board.) Composite is very active in promoting data virtualization-they're even hosting a Data Virtualization Day, featuring Gartner's Ted Friedman, on Oct. 6 in New York City.


But they're not the only company. As the article mentions, IBM-Cognos and Oracle offer data virtualization services. Informatica offers what it calls data services. Queplix is another data virtualization name-they've written about applying the approach with master data management. Radiant Logic, Denodo and Microsft are also in this space.


Clearly, there's a lot to like about data virtualization, whether you're a business user, executive, or a member of an already overbooked IT staff.

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