Monday, September 17, 2012

The Virtual Cycle: Bi-Directional Data Virtualization

With all the buzz about data virtualization (DV), it surprises me how little bi-directional data virtualization is discussed.  Without the ability to write back to sources, the use of DV is limited to Business Intelligence, and other reporting.  Of course, it’s hugely important for that, but when you add write-back to the sources, you are opening up a whole new world of possibilities for a new dimension of interaction with data. 

Suddenly all those dashboards become consoles where business operations can be performed, with end users not just viewing data, but correcting it, updating it, and taking action on decisions. Any application can leverage bi-directional DV to access federated data and to write back to the sources without having to know where it came from, treating it as a single entity. This capability goes a long way to reducing the time to value of many IT initiatives beyond reporting and analytics.

For those skeptics who are not already familiar with bi-directional data virtualization, the first questions are typically, “How do you handle the security to make sure users only write back when they have permission to do so?” and “What happens if  there’s a failure writing back to one of multiple sources?” 

The short answers are that end user security is handled for full CRUD capabilities using SSS or other models, and transaction rollback is managed using two phase commit or other modes.

Now, we can move on to the cool things you can do with this.  Suppose your training is frustrating and time consuming for new employees to learn how to navigate and use multiple systems that are necessary for them to handle their responsibilities. They need to log in to SAP, then the CRM, and then a scheduling system, plus a spreadsheet, all just to perform one task. You could build a browser based app that presents the relevant data from all these systems in one screen, aligned and meaningfully presented. This is the standard data virtualization, which is essentially a reporting tool. Now, turn on write capability for appropriate fields, and voila! That browser screen is a full-service, role-based application, interacting directly with backend systems and data stores just as if you were logged in to all of them. This, my friends, is the virtuous virtual cycle of bi-directional data virtualization.

Using an Agile Integration Software like Enterprise EnablerÒ you can leverage all the federated data services not just for BI, but also for Business Operations. These light weight rapidly deployed nuggets enable this third generation of data virtualization to make agile business a reality.

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