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Bridging Business and IT: The Value and Virtue of a Business Directory

According to Dr. Barry Devlin, amongst the foremost authorities on business insight and one of the founders of data warehousing, “Data without context is meaningless. It is also valueless. Without a well-understood business context, any derived information and subsequent decisions are open to multiple interpretations or, worse, misinterpretation. It is the context—and, by extension, a Business Directory that manages this context— that promotes the value and virtue of data.”

Data, Data Everywhere, Self-Service BI Can Help

Businesses that successfully leverage their data will be the leaders. Those who don’t will fall behind.

However analytics, big data, the cloud and the Internet of Everything are are drastically changing today’s data landscape. Gone are the days when business users would ask for information and wait patiently for IT to modify the data warehouse and then write the new reports.

To gain the insights required for competitive success, business users today visualize and analyze data without IT’s help using a new class of easy-to-use, self-service business intelligence (BI) tools such as Qliktech, Spotfire, Pentaho and Tableau, as well as the increasingly powerful and ubiquitous Excel.

However finding and accessing that data remains a big challenge. From the business user point of view, data lacks proper business context, thus obscuring its relevance. Instead data is too distributed, too diverse, too IT-focused in how it is described, organized, and stored.

As with self-service BI for visualization and analysis, business users today are seeking self-service approaches to finding, understanding and accessing data. This requires not only new tools that provide data in a business context, but also a new approach to business and IT collaboration.

Business Directory -- Self-Service Data for Business 

On October 1, 2014 at Data Virtualization Day 2014 in New York City, Cisco introduced Business Directory, as part of Cisco Information Server 7.0 (CIS 7.0), the latest version of our flagship data virtualization offering.

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Business Directory is the first data virtualization offering designed exclusively for business self-service. Through a business context lens, users apply search and categorization techniques to quickly find and understand the data they’re looking for. From there, they can use their self-service BI tool of choice to query it. The result is far faster time to insight which translates to better business outcomes sooner.

With Business Directory, business and IT align the people, processes and technology for competitive success. IT provides secure, curated, business-context organized data sets to the business, with business adding domain knowledge and analytic value on the path to insight.

 

Learn More

For a third party point of view on the benefits of Business Directory’s, download Dr. Barry Devlin’s recent white paper, Putting Data In Business Context: The Value and Virtue of a Business Directory.

To learn more about Cisco Data Virtualization, check out our page.

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Analytics for an IoE World

I recently wrote about how Cisco is helping customers more effective manage massive amounts of data, types of data and unprecedented distribution of data. This will be one of the toughest challenges brought on by the Internet of Everything (IoE) and, with solutions such as Data Virtualization and Big Data Warehouse Expansion, Cisco is enabling our customers to meet the challenge head on of bringing all of this data together in ways that are meaningful to business users.

After the business can access and view all of this data, however, the question becomes…now what? The next challenge is to extract insights from the data to make better business decisions.  After all, more data is only good if you use it to make better decisions than you would have made otherwise.

The rules of customer and business relationships are constantly changing due to technological innovation and consumption patterns. Analytics can reveal patterns in customer data that affect business processes and outcomes. Advanced analytics is different than reporting because it prescribes what to do, or predicts what is likely to happen, instead of just reporting what has already happened.

Utilizing the network to securely connect data throughout the IoE, whether in motion (streaming) or at rest (historical), is the future of advanced analytics.  For a retailer, it will give them the opportunity to take intelligent actions to engage customers directly at the point of purchase and in real-time. But it’s so much more than that. What can real-time analytics in retail tell us about how to serve customers more effectively?  What can real-time analytics in manufacturing tell us about how to make the workplace safer?  What can real-time analytics in healthcare tell us about how to better treat cancer patients?

When our customers can accurately predict outcomes by combining years of historical data with real-time information, they can drive better decisions…better outcomes.

 

Learn More

Interested in hearing how Cisco is paving the way to the future of analytics? Please join us for a webcast at 9 AM Pacific time on October 21st entitled ‘Unlock Your Competitive Edge with Cisco Big Data and Analytics Solutions.’ #UnlockBigData

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To learn more about Data and Analytics, check out our page.

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Aligning Solutions to Meet our Customers’ Data Challenges

In our previous big data blogs, my Cisco associates have focused on the topic of building the best infrastructure for long-term success with big data. I’d like to start a new chapter in the series, focusing on building the right data strategy and analytics solutions.

Today, people, process, data and things function together through a combination of machine-to-machine, person-to-machine and person-to-person connections. We call this the Internet of Everything (IoE). While the IoE is making us all smarter, it is also creating more data, more types of data and in more places.

This wealth of data comes with major challenges but also has the potential for amazing opportunities. At Cisco, we’re all about helping our customers turn these challenges into opportunities. The first step begins with proper management of the massive amounts and types of data in multiple locations. From a solutions perspective, that first step is our agile data integration software, Cisco Data Virtualization. It abstracts data users need from multiple different sources and brings it together to give users a unified, friendly view of the data.

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By leveraging this technology with additional solutions, our customers can access data across the IoE and use that data to respond quickly to change, make better decisions and gain a competitive advantage. Driven by the massive amounts of data in today’s IT environment, customers are facing huge expenses to add capacity to their existing enterprise data warehouses (EDW), the place where data is traditionally stored.

We help customers tackle the challenge of increasing enterprise data warehouse costs with Cisco Big Data Warehouse Expansion (BDWE). BDWE identifies infrequently used data and provides a methodology and tools to offload the data onto Hadoop, avoiding additional capacity costs and extending the life of the data warehouse.

I spoke with a customer recently who shared that one terabyte (TB) of data in an EDW costs $100,000 per year to maintain. That exact same amount of data for the same amount of time in Hadoop only costs $1,000 to maintain. This is a significant difference. By implementing an ongoing strategy to offload data from the primary system to Hadoop, our solution frees up resources to be utilized in more strategic ways. Additionally, we deploy Data Virtualization to act as a ‘virtual database,’ to access data regardless if it resides in the original warehouse or the new Hadoop data store. So not only does BDWE significantly lower costs, but the historical data remains easily accessible.

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Our customers gain the business insights and outcomes they seek with a complete suite of software, hardware and services solutions that access and analyze data, no matter where it is stored on the network. After all, the power of data is not just in the ability to access it but to use it to change behavior or the way you run your business.

Not only do we connect more people, processes, data, and things than any other company, we can also bring analytics to data wherever it is—no matter how remote—to turn information into insights almost instantly. More to come in my next blog about Cisco’s analytics portfolio and how its helping tackle the next major IoE challenge, extracting value insight from your data.

 

Learn More

To learn more about the benefits of Cisco analytics solutions and the power of our integrated infrastructure for big data, please join us for a webcast at 9 AM Pacific time on October 21st entitled ‘Unlock Your Competitive Edge with Cisco Big Data and Analytics Solutions.’ #UnlockBigData

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To learn more about Cisco Data Virtualization, check out our page.

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Data Abstraction: The Lingua Franca for Data Silos

Enterprises are seeking ways to improve their overall profitability, cut costs, reduce risk and more through better leverage of their data assets.

Significant volumes of complex, diverse data spread across various technology and application silos make it difficult for organizations to achieve these business outcomes. To further complicate matters, there is a range of problems such as

  • Separate access mechanisms, syntax, and security for each source
  • Lack of proper structure for business user or application consumption and reuse
  • Incomplete or duplicate data
  • And a mixture of latency issues

Data abstraction overcomes these challenges by transforming data from its native structure and syntax into views and data services that are much easier for business intelligence and analytics developers to use when creating new decision-making applications.

Enterprises can approach data abstraction three ways:

  • Manual data abstraction
  • Data warehouse schemas
  • Data virtualization

Of the three approaches, data virtualization is the superior solution for data abstraction because it enables the most flexibility and agility when you need to provide simple, consistent, business–formatted data from different data locations and sources.

As a complement to Cisco’s Data Virtualization software and services, Cisco also provides data abstraction best practices that help you accelerate your data abstraction activities. Composed of three distinct layers (application layer, business layer and physical layer), these best practices support a data reference architecture that rationalizes multiple, diverse data silos for a range of BI and analytic applications. The architecture aligns closely with analyst best practices mapped out by both Forrester and Gartner on the topic of data virtualization. Using these best practices will enable your company to access the right data for the business, gain agility and efficiency, maintain end-to-end control, and increase security of your data across all your data silos.

To learn more about data abstraction best practices using Cisco Data Virtualization, check out our white paper.

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Active Archiving with Big Data

Historical data is now an essential tool for businesses as they struggle to meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, manage risk and perform predictive analytics that help improve business outcomes. While recent data is readily accessible in operational systems and some summarized historical data available in the data warehouse, the traditional practice of archiving older, detail-level data on tape makes analysis of that data challenging, if not impossible.

Active Archiving Uses Hadoop Instead of Tape

What if the historical data on tape was loaded into a similar low cost, yet accessible, storage option, such as Hadoop?  And then data virtualization applied to access and combine this data along with the operational and data warehouse data, in essence intelligently partitioning data access across hot, warm and cold storage options.  Would it work?

Yes it would!  And in fact does every day at one of our largest global banking customers.  Here’s how:

Adding Historical Data Reduces Risk

The bank uses complex analytics to measure risk exposure in their fixed income trading business by industry, region, credit rating and other parameters.  To reduce risk, while making more profitable credit and bond derivative trading decisions, the bank wanted to identify risk trends using five years of fixed income market data rather than the one month (400 million records) they currently stored on line.  This longer time frame would allow them to better evaluate trends, and use that information to build a solid foundation for smarter, lower-risk trading decisions.

As a first step, the bank installed Hadoop and loaded five years of historical data that had previously been archived using tape.  Next they installed Cisco Data Virtualization to integrate the data sets, providing a common SQL access approach that made it easy for the analysts to integrate the data.  Third the analysts extended their risk management analytics to cover five years.   Up and running in just a few months, the bank was able to use this long term data to better manage fixed income trading risk.

Archiving with Big Data_Bank

To learn more about Cisco Data Virtualization, check out our Data Virtualization Video Portal.

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