Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Software Economy’s unquenchable thirst for data

by Iain Chidgey, VP and General Manager International at Delphix 

We live in a world where software is everywhere. It underlies almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Cloud connectivity, omnipresent networks and connected devices have transformed how we do mundane tasks. What used to take weeks and days, now takes minutes and seconds. As the pace of change has accelerated, it’s placed businesses under immense pressure.

The continuous innovation and updates that we see in mobile apps is now being demanded in the enterprise. There is a move away from feature-heavy products for the masses to highly personalised, on-demand experiences. Speed is critical to survival and high-quality applications need to be brought to market faster than ever before.

As all organisations seek to become software companies in a bid to remain competitive, there has been a race to move towards the cloud, embrace agile methodologies and adapt DevOps practices. Yet, there are a number of areas in which businesses feel constrained in this Software Economy.

Keeping control and managing vast volumes of data has become a big issue for companies. IDC predicts that by 2025, the volume of global data will grow to be ten times what it is today. Enterprise data is expected to grow even faster, increasing nearly 25-fold in ten years.

On top of all of this, businesses also have to contend with scrupulous regulations in relation to data. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Bill are set to be introduced next year and introduce stringent controls over how data is used, processed and stored.


More data, more problems

Data can hold huge potential value, but realising that value is extremely hard. An enterprise company has hundreds, even thousands, of databases held in multiple locations. Often extracting and delivering this data securely requires a manual process by highly skilled people. One that takes days, weeks or even months to do.

This was demonstrated in our recent survey of financial executives exploring the main barriers to compliance, which revealed over half (59 per cent) see ‘data delivery’ as a number-one challenge to their day-to-day operations.

The core problem is not data itself, but data friction. The size and complexity of data conflicts with the need to access data faster and more often. Data is now stored across multiple places, on premise, in public and private clouds. The promise of continuous innovation hangs on businesses’ ability to make data freely accessible to the people that need it to drive important decisions.

Data as a discipline has largely been ignored for decades. The operations that surround data have become the weakest link. Yet, ironically, data is the most critical asset to survival. In a software economy, organisations must reduce data friction if they are able to deal with the immense pressure to move faster.

Reducing data friction starts with bringing two key audiences together as one team. The first group is data operators that are responsible for infrastructure, security, and maintenance. This includes DBAs, security and compliance and system administrators.

The second group is the data consumers. This includes developers, testers, data scientists and analysts that are responsible for using data to drive new projects and innovation.


What can be done?

Data friction presents a daunting challenge for data operators and data consumers, particularly when considering the explosion of data that has occurred in recent years. New data platforms are already helping organisations to secure and automate the delivery of the data.

The advantages of this approach can be seen at City Index, the world leader in spread betting and “contracts for difference” trading. It is currently using a dynamic data platform to virtualise, govern, and deliver data for applications based on an SQL Server.

Overall, City Index estimates that by using a dynamic data platform, it was able to reduce development cycle times by 75% and increase IT’s output to the business by 20%.


Commitment to a DataOps approach

Given the increasingly critical role that data plays within businesses, companies can no longer use traditional approaches to get access to data. Instead, organisations need to embrace the emerging DataOps movement that aligns people, process and technology for rapid, secure and automated access to data.

The goal of DataOps is to improve outcomes by bringing together those that need data with those that provide it, eliminating data friction throughout the data lifecycle. The key to DataOps is leveraging the right solutions for the right tasks, and making sure they are powerful and easy to use for both data operators and consumers.

DataOps can essentially make data available to anyone in any place at any time on-demand. It provides single, collaborative environment that can collate source data from production databases, files and applications, secure sensitive data in adherence with security policies and keep it in sync with production.

Once armed with this capability, data can be secured and served out to anyone in the enterprise or in the cloud in minutes. Data can be made available to the right people, when and where they need it. At the same time, businesses can bookmark, branch, share, reset or refresh without involvement from IT while decreasing the infrastructure footprint and improving operational efficiency.


People Need Data… Data Needs People

The benefits of this approach are clear. The benefits of this approach are clear. DataOps provides continuous data delivery that ensures environments can be spun-up quickly and on-demand. It provides a platform that secures and manages all data for the enterprise, whether on premise or in the cloud.

It offers the data agility to accelerate everything from app releases to artificial intelligence and cloud migration. Data has gone from being an obstacle to an opportunity. It changes the way teams work and what businesses are capable of. Time previously spent on data management and delivery can now be invested into achieving the next innovation.

Businesses of all types, have an unquenchable thirst for continuous access to trusted data to fuel software-driven experiences. It’s time we unshackled our business data and empower people with the platforms they need to fuel important discoveries. Through our collective efforts, we can reduce data friction, help accelerate innovation, remain compliant and embrace the future.

Ultimately, widespread innovation requires incredibly nimble environments and lots of data. Technology that solves data constraints can truly transform a business. Information, and access to data for those that need it, has become a major competitive advantage. Those that can use data to drive innovation will win. Those that can’t, will lose.