What Matters Most in Today's Data-Driven World?

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These are heady times for data products vendors and their enterprise customers. When business leaders talk about success these days, they often are alluding to a new-found appreciation for their data environments. It can even be said that the tech vendors that are making the biggest difference in today’s business world are no longer software companies at all; rather, they are “data” companies, with all that implies. Enterprises are reaching out to vendors for help in navigating through the fast-moving, and often unforgiving, digital realm. The data vendors that are leading their respective markets are those that know how to provide the tools, techniques, and hand-holding needed to manage and sift through gigabytes’, terabytes’, and petabytes’ worth of data to extract tiny but valuable nuggets of information to guide business leaders as to what they should do next.

It’s no quirk, then, that the database management and tools industry has been vibrant and growing in recent years. The key trends that many regard as representing the cutting edge of enterprise technology—cloud, mobile, social, and big data analytics—are being embraced with gusto by members of a forward-looking database and data management vendor community. For companies within this industry, support for “big data” is more than a marketing boast, it is often the natural next stage for strategies that have been carefully crafted and learned over the years. Some players have labored in somewhat obscure market niches, carefully honing solutions that are now bearing fruit in the face of new big data demands. In addition, a new generation of vendors is also joining the fray, offering new approaches and new ways to capitalize on the large volumes of information flowing through enterprises.

The vendors who are taking the lead in this expanding market are those that are helping customers harvest the big data bumper crop. They are providing the tools and techniques that are helping their customers outsmart the competition. These vendors come from a range of different disciplines and functions. Many are seasoned veterans of the database market, bringing with them years of experience and expertise in data security, cleansing, conversion, and integration. Others aren’t necessarily “data” management or tools vendors at all in the traditional sense—they developed in market spaces such as web services, hardware and search—but their innovations and customer requirements brought them into the data arena from a different direction and are thus enriching the data management and tools space in new ways.

The following are the main categories of solutions offered by today’s generation of top data vendors:

Data Integration/Data Quality

Data integration has been a top priority for IT departments for some time, but lately, data has been expanding at a faster rate than organizations can keep up with. Numerous data sources are proliferating from outside as well as internally. At the same time, end users—who have grown accustomed to the immediate access of consumer sites such as Google—are increasingly demanding more real-time and faster data access. Ensuring the trustworthiness of data is an additional challenge, as organizations seek to bring together information from all corners of the enterprise and beyond, at real-time speeds.

Leading vendors in the data integration space are responding to these needs with tools and platforms, such as data virtualization, that help deliver faster, more effective, quality-driven data integration—while also enabling more expansive views of information. Lately, vendors have been emphasizing that data quality, for one, means more than one-off dedup runs or protocol conversions. It even encompasses more than traditional means of integration, such as connectors to extract, transform, and load (ETL) configurations to data warehouses. Data integration and quality, they urge, not only go together but are part of a more holistic architectural approach to integration.

The various technologies that make such a flexible architecture possible include initiatives as broad-ranging as enterprise mashups, automation, virtualization, and cloud. As a result, leading vendors are expanding their approach with data integration tools that increasingly are capable of pulling in data from a variety of sources and overcoming silos.

Support for ‘big data’ is often the natural next step for strategies that have been carefully crafted over the years.

In addition, data warehouse providers themselves are rapidly evolving to embrace this new reality. Data warehouses are being extended to logical and real-time operational data warehouses, supporting data feeds well beyond the traditional ETL model. 

Initiatives such as cloud, social, and mobile also are enhanced as new generations of data integration solutions are introduced. Storage is another area that benefits from best practices in this area, since well-integrated data can be stored more rapidly and effectively.

For decision makers to be comfortable with the information that is moving at blazing speeds in their organizations, there needs to be a high-level architecture that almost automatically supports the discovery and incorporation of data from multiple sources. The ultimate goal being promoted by leaders in this space encompasses something close to a ?“one-click” data integration capability, versus the one-off tools that would keep data professionals consumed for months. In today’s fast-changing business environment, data needs to be as flexible as the business lines and business units that are acquired, created and broken down at internet speeds.

Data Security

Because there are so many continuing threats to data from both outside and inside organizations, and public disclosures of data breaches have become law, data security continues to be one of the hottest areas within the data management marketplace. There are a range of vendors—pure-play, multiple tools, and platform providers—offering ways to protect, encrypt, monitor, and audit databases and data stores for potential security issues. The rise of big data only adds more urgency to the challenge, and many organizations are still at a loss as to how to safely and cost-effectively store their information.

Data security vendors address the security challenge on a number of different levels. Network and perimeter security forms the initial wall that helps to keep hackers at bay. However, if a wall is breached—or if there are insiders conducting mischief —there are solutions that help contain, if not forestall, the damage. 

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