In the recent blog, How Do We Know If We Are Ready for Data Virtualization? we examined the value-add that data virtualization provides, as well as useful tools that organizations can use to assess their data virtualization readiness.

In this blog and on-demand webinar, I move from the general to the specific by examining how a particular organization knew its time had come to use data virtualization.

Cisco Services – The World’s Largest Data Virtualization Deployment

Towards this objective, I felt you might enjoy learning how Cisco’s business and IT leadership itself answered this question. As such, I interviewed Bill Schongar, a Senior Business Architect from Cisco’s multi-billion-dollar Services business. Bill guides the adoption and use of Cisco’s data virtualization offering, Cisco Information Server, within the Services business in support of arguably the largest data virtualization deployment in the world.

On Bill’s watch (and in close partnership with Cisco IT), Cisco Information Server was widely adopted across Cisco’s Services business with the objective of enabling Cisco customers to more successfully use and gain value from Cisco’s products and services. The resulting changes and integrations benefit more than 25,000 Cisco employees, as well as millions of Cisco’s customers and partners through tools on cisco.com, Cisco’s Technical Support Mobile app, service and support APIs, and more.

As you can imagine, the data sources that flow to and from these tools are extensive – petabytes of product, services, reference and even customer data across many distinct source systems. Beyond integration, securing data at this scale and diversity is critical, especially where customer data is involved. To address this complex, global data security challenge, Cisco also leverages Cisco Information Server to meet customer data protection mandates.

How Cisco Knew It Was Time to Use Data Virtualization

Bill had a number of great insights to share, netting these out in five highly significant reasons as follows:

  1. Delayed time to solution for new information requirements
  2. Proliferating data silos and ineffective sharing across groups
  3. Data security issues
  4. Complex technology migrations
  5. Rising IT staffing and infrastructure costs

As these challenges grew, Bill realized his existing data integration tools were holding him back.

Delayed Time to Solution for New Information Requirements

Delivering the data sets required to meet new information needs faster than other, less agile data integration technologies is a key differentiator for data virtualization.

In Cisco’s dynamic, global Services line of business, new information requirements arise daily, from aggregating and analyzing locally-enriched data sets to enterprise-scale data.

Leveraging Cisco Information Server enables Bill and team to meet these needs with the agility that business requires; POCs in a day, not a month, with reusable, secure approaches to quickly access, cleanse, enrich and deliver that data.

Proliferating Data Silos and Ineffective Sharing across Groups

Data silos can proliferate as organizations take advantage of data housed in traditional, IOT, big data, and cloud technologies. While each new data silo may have a justified value-add to its users, the data within each is too valuable to hide away.

Cisco IT and Services teams use Cisco Information Server to “democratize data” – making it available securely for proper use rather than focusing on what team “owns” it or where it lives. Centralized catalogs, security entitlements, and reusable “build once, deploy for many” enrichments empower users to easily view what data is available and request access, shifting valuable time and expertise from focusing on access to analysis.

Data Security Issues

No matter where the data exists, whether central or in a silo, security is top-of-mind. Users need the data necessary to do their jobs – no more and no less – and their use of the data needs to be tracked.

This was an especially relevant challenge for the Cisco Services team because the user community is diverse, with many different roles and specific access needs. Just as with data requirements, the roles and permissions of users, as well as security capabilities of integrated systems, evolve frequently.

Role-based access control in Cisco Information Server, along with column and row-level filtering where required, makes this more manageable. High-level access policies and integration with SSO and LDAP allow construction of robust, flexible security policies across all users and system-to-system accounts. For security testing, or even in case of potential issues, these policies accelerate diagnosis and corrective action regardless of source system or consumption pattern.

Complex Technology Migrations

One of the ways that Cisco Services keeps pace with customer needs is to continuously evolve the technology infrastructure that supports its people and business processes. But migrating from older technologies to newer ones is often fraught with technical challenges. And “being down for a while as we transition” is not a valid option.

As these migrations occur, whether it’s data moving from traditional RDBMS to NOSQL stores or Teradata to HANA, Cisco Information Server provides a uniform access layer to ensure data contracts can be maintained with maximum uptime and minimum surprises. This allows teams in Cisco Services to experiment with any new data technology stack or consumption pattern with minimal effort and risk, while ensuring the secure cross-pollination of valuable data between organizations.

Rising IT Staffing and Infrastructure Costs

IT is typically the largest capital and often one of the largest operations expenses in organizations today. So being smart about these spends is paramount. Because of its faster time to solution, fewer components, and low infrastructure demands, data virtualization is a proven choice for driving IT savings.

Before data virtualization, many teams in Cisco Services had their own data systems maintained by their own dedicated IT and DevOps teams. As systems grew, interdependencies meant planned maintenance windows became more and more complex, and downstream systems were not well-insulated from upstream changes.

With Cisco Information Server, Cisco IT was able to create a global scale, multi-tenant distributed data access system which maximizes capabilities, decreases latency through caches and strategic co-location with sources, and provides reusable data services across all organizations. The result? Less IT spend, more uptime, more data security, and more capabilities.

Want to learn more?

If the challenges that Bill outlined sound familiar, then you too might be ready for data virtualization.

View our on-demand webinar to watch as Bill discusses how Cisco uses Data Virtualization, and how you can realize benefits like reduced data integration costs, time savings, and improved data security.

Watch now.


Bob Eve

No Longer with Cisco