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Turning Data Challenges into Business Opportunities

At the recent Gartner BI Summit in Las Vegas, there was a lot of discussion about the paradigm shift underway in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Business’s need for agile data access and self-service, combined with IT’s inability to satisfy this need, is causing disruption to traditional models and shifting the balance of power from IT to the business.

While that is certainly true, it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been building for more than a decade.

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Is it Time for a Data Mart Diet?

We’ve all heard the expression, “you can never have too much of a good thing.” But we all know that’s not quite true. For example, a little dessert is good. But too much can be a problem for your waistline.

It seems data marts also fit this pattern. A few data marts can be very helpful, but too many create a huge total cost of ownership (TCO) burden.

Fortunately, with data virtualization, you can turn physical data marts into virtual ones. And when you do, you will never have to worry about having too much of a good thing.

What’s Great about Data Marts

Data marts were developed as a complement to enterprise data warehouses. Typically subject or domain specific, and derivative of the warehouse, they provide a number of benefits including:

  • Focused Content – Narrowing the scope to a specific domain such as finance or sales simplifies reporting and analysis.
  • Query Performance – Offloading workload from the enterprise data warehouse can improve query performance.
  • Data Structure – Certain reporting tools require certain structures, for example star schemas. Data marts can easily be modeled based on these structures as an alternative to the warehouse schema.
  • Local Control – Users find it easier to control and modify data marts than larger warehouses.

Costs Can Outweigh the Benefits

Given the benefits cited above, data marts have proliferated rapidly. Unfortunately, as with deserts, “A moment on the lips can be a lifetime on the hips.” Data mart TCO is huge. Costs include:

  • Development Costs – Each data mart requires a full design, development and deployment effort.
  • Operating Costs – Not only does the data need to be refreshed regularly, all the underlying databases, database servers, ETLs and more must be monitored and tuned.
  • Change Management Costs – Adding new data to respond to business change requires extensive rebuilding of complex data mart schemas and ETL scripts, adding costs and reducing agility.
  • Data Governance and Quality Costs – Because data is physically replicated in each data mart, each mart requires data governance to ensure consistent quality.

Data Virtualization to the Rescue

As an alternative to physical data marts, many organizations now use data virtualization middleware such as the Cisco Data Virtualization Suite, to create virtual data marts. Virtual data marts provide all the benefits listed above with far lower costs.

  • Development Costs – Virtual data marts have far fewer moving parts, which lessen design, development and deployment efforts.
  • Operating Costs – Fewer moving parts also means less infrastructure to maintain.
  • Change Management Costs – Adding new data to respond to business change can be done in minutes or hours via virtualized data sets, rather than days or weeks in the physical data mart world.
  • Data Governance and Quality Costs – With data virtualization, data mart content can be centrally governed to ensure consistent quality wherever that data is used.

Try the Data Mart Diet Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.34.41 PM

If you agree that it makes sense to lighten up on data marts, the question is how?  In other words, what is the “Data Mart Diet?”

Fortunately Rick van der Lans, data virtualization’s leading independent analyst, has created the perfect Data Mart Diet program in his latest data virtualization white paper, “Migrating to Virtual Data Marts using Data Virtualization.”

This whitepaper include a step-by-step approach for migrating physical data marts to virtual data marts using Cisco Information Server. Steps include:

  1. Recreating Physical Data Marts as Virtual Data Marts
  2. Improving Query Performance on Virtual Data Marts
  3. Identifying Common Specifications Among Virtual Data Marts
  4. Redirecting Reports to Access Virtual Data Marts
  5. Extracting Definitions from the Reporting Tools
  6. Defining Security Rules
  7. Adding External Data to Virtual Data Marts

This guidance, along with the cost-benefit summary included at the start of the paper, make this paper a must read for organizations who are seeking a data mart diet.

 

 

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Learn More from My Colleagues

Check out the blogs of Mala AnandMike Flannagan and Nicola Villa to learn more.

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Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization

More data allows for better and more expansive analysis. And better analysis is a critical success factor for businesses today.

But most data warehouses use the once-in-never-out principle when storing data. So whenever new business activities occur, new data is added without removing old data to make room. New data sources, such as data from social media networks, open data sources, and public web services further expand the warehouse. Unfortunately, all this growth comes at a cost.

Is there a way you can have your cake and eat it too?

With Hadoop and Cisco Big Data Warehouse Expansion, you can.

Disadvantages of More Data

While everyone understands the business advantage that can be derived from analyzing more data, not everyone understands the disadvantages that can occur including:

  • Expensive data storage: Data warehouse costs include hardware costs, management costs, and database server license fees.  These grow in line with scale.
  • Poor query performance: The bigger the database tables, the slower the queries.
  • Poor loading performance: As tables grow, loading new data also slows down.
  • Slow backup/recovery: The larger the database, the longer the backup and restore process.
  • Expensive database administration: Larger databases require more database administration including tuning and optimizing the database server, the tables, the buffer, and so on.

Three Options to Control Costs

The easiest way to control data warehouse costs is to simply remove data, especially the less-frequently used or older data. But then this data can no longer be analyzed.

Another option is to move the lesser-used data to tape. This option provides cost savings, and in an emergency, the data can be reloaded from tape. But analysis has now become EXTREMELY difficult.

The third option is to offload lesser-used data to cheaper online data storage, with Hadoop the obvious choice. This provides a 10x cost savings over traditional databases, while retaining the online access required for analysis.

This is the “have your cake and eat it too” option.

The Fast Path to Transparent Offloading

Cisco provides a packaged solution called Cisco Big Data Warehouse Expansion, which includes the data virtualization software, hardware, and services required to accelerate all the activities involved in offloading data from a data warehouse to Hadoop.

And to help you understand how it works, Rick van der Lans, data virtualization’s leading independent analyst, recently wrote a step-by-step white paper, Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization, that explains everything you need to do.

Read The White Paper

Download Transparently Offloading Data Warehouse Data to Hadoop using Data Virtualization here.

 

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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.

 

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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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