How Does Santa Manage Data?

    “I seriously doubt Santa checks his naughty-nice list twice,” former Forrester analyst and current IBM Big Data Evangelist James Kobielus shared on Twitter. “He’s too busy compiling it & has all his elfin help busy slapping toys together.”

    “You’re just jealous of Santa’s mad data quality skills,” I typed in response.

    “Not really. If you consider the rate of re-gifting, it’s clear Santa doesn’t have quality 360-degree child ‘data of desire,’” he countered.

    You may not realize this, but Santa is a bit of an IT icon. In previous years, for instance, we’ve wondered just about the North Pole’s IT architecture. How does he manage all those toys? What about the supplier data? And why don’t those energy-hogging data centers melt the North Pole?

    It’s widely believed, of course, that Santa long ago adopted a SOA-architecture, which is no doubt already paying dividends as he’s shifted his data hosting a bit south.

    But what inquiring minds want to know, above all else, is how Santa manages that Naughty or Nice list. Obviously, as Kobielus notes, it’s not a flaw-free process. I have to agree that there are problems: You only have to consider the box-to-toy-play ratio key performance indicator to know that.

    Still — it’s got to be impressive, right? I mean, we’re talking a worldwide collection of data on customer behavior, analyzed and processed in time for the production of toys and gathering of coal. Not to mention the issue of maintaining the correct addresses and details on access issues, such as clogged chimneys.

    One investment Santa’s IT shop made early was top-shelf metadata management.

    Bonnie Swoger recently took a look at Santa’s metadata, in an attempt to help the rest of us understand the basic concept. For instance, using metadata, Santa can learn the following about any given list in his shop:

    • Whether the list was created by behavioral scans, parental surveys or Elf on the Shelf reports.
    • If the data is from this year or last year or perhaps even holds data produced by an algorithm of this year and previous years as a way of breaking a Naughty/Nice tie.
    • The type of list. This may sound like overkill, but think about how many lists Santa’s Shop uses: There’s the Reindeer Roster, Elf Work Schedules, Production Schedules, Toy Storage … the lists go on and on.

    Of course, Santa has multi-domain master data management, which he created by merging the best product MDM and the best customer MDM with a nod of his nose. Obviously, he has near-time and real-time integration capabilities — for the latest information on who’s in bed and who isn’t, and any last-minute changes to the Naughty/Nice list.

    What’s less well known is that Santa was ahead of his time when it came to embracing Big Data tools, including Hadoop. The Elf-on-the-Shelf refused to comment on recent claims by Attivio that Santa’s shop uses Active Intelligence Engine for analyzing Big Data stores, but I think it’s safe to assume that Santa’s shop includes a combination of proprietary and open source solutions, as well as custom-code legacy systems maintained by developer elves.

    There’s also a rumor that Santa is testing Internet of Things approaches, including smart grids, for monitoring more remote operations such as the Reindeer barn and the Island of Misfit Toys. For instance, it’s believed each reindeer now wears a heart monitor/calorie managing device to collect data on whether the reindeer are consuming enough calories for their overnight work.

    However he does it, I hope your gift data was correct this year and I’d love to hear your ideas about Santa’s IT shop. You can post below or find me on Twitter @LoraineLawson.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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