Friday, March 30, 2012

Data Virtualization: No Need to Look Beyond Your Own Back Yard

How is this possible? I did a few Google searches looking for "data virtualization" and "SharePoint" together. SharePoint 2007 and 2010 were designed with the concept of data virtualization built in. How is it possible that only one of the players in this new-hype of data virtualization and federation shows up on the radar as feeding SharePoint? After all, SharePoint is already found in most medium-to-large businesses, so there's no need to look for a separate dashboard or application development platform. You probably have access to it in your company right now!

Out-of-the box, SharePoint has the capabilities to interact with data virtually. I'm not talking about the old SharePoint lists, which you can write to, store data in and change; I'm talking about the BCS External Lists, which were designed with rich features for data virtualization. Why Microsoft doesn’t promote this is beyond me. Conceptually and technically, SharePoint could become the only interface end users in your company need ; they can access data from any Saas, or on-premise application, or any data from electronic instruments in one place. Federated data aligned from multiple systems can be presented in SharePoint out-of-box web parts with live refreshes from all of the sources. SharePoint even has the capability to enforce end-user specific security at the data field level for all CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) functions, using SSS (formerly SSO) or claims authorization approved live at the endpoint application.

Probably one reason that these features are not often leveraged has to do with the scary-looking requirements for the format of the metadata you have to provide and import into the Business Data Catalog. It is, actually, pretty complex, with the need to generate a big hairy XML file and provide a series of specialized web services to use it. But that's where the product companies that specialize in data federation and virtualization should all be stepping handily into the picture. Are those companies oblivious to the ubiquitous state of Microsoft's SharePoint? Stone Bond Technologies, a leader in enterprise data federation and virtualization automatically generates the metadata for SharePoint as well as auto-generating and deploying the web services that execute the bi-directional (if desired) interaction with the backend applications live, federating and transforming across multiple sources.

This approach does not require a team of ten architects, twenty programmers, and long development/implementation cycles. Maybe that's one of the disconnects: the architects and developers can't even imagine such projects taking less than a day. Just think - they could actually take a vacation once in a while.


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