For a few years now, it’s been a common mantra that ‘data is the new oil’; the phrase has been attributed to British mathematician Clive Humby as long ago as 2006. But I believe it’s time for an update to the expression. Fossil fuels are, after all, rather persona non grata these days.
I reckon that data is now the new renewable energy: everyone knows it’s there, it’s ‘free’, but you need to harness it, and although we all recognise its worth, it needed quite a bit of expertise to make it work well, until recently. In data terms, we largely have data virtualisation to thank for this easy access to the renewable revolution.
Simply put, “Data virtualization integrates data from disparate sources without copying or moving the data, thus giving users a single virtual layer that spans multiple applications, formats, and physical locations. This means faster, easier access to data.” As our partner and market leader Denodo puts it: “it is time to stop “collecting” the data into a central repository and start “connecting” to the data at the sources.”
At its heart, this “connecting” to data sources is why I believe that data is now the new renewable energy rather than oil. I’ve been working with data virtualisation platforms for a while and have had a solar system at home for a decade, so I’ve had plenty of time to ponder the analogy. Here are some examples:
- Data virtualisation helps data become infinitely available, in multiple forms, from disparate sources. It is available ‘on tap’ – essentially, renewable. By leaving the data at its source, data virtualisation extracts only the data it needs, on demand. Common data sources include Operational Data Stores (ODS), Enterprise Data Warehouses (EDW), social data, data lakes, document management systems (DMS), etc.
- Combining different forms of energy (or data) gets better results (for example using wind power when it’s not sunny). In the case of data, this is true generally: the more disparate sources you can connect to, the better business intelligence and analytical results you will get. But data virtualisation helps speed – and ease – the process of connecting to multiple sources, and thus enhances an organisation’s ability to access more sources of data.
- It’s a future-proofed approach. Data virtualisation provides a good ‘interface’ to the base data, so the underlying systems can change with very low impact. Imagine never stressing about synchronising your data again!
- You can start small and then grow (for example put a solar panel on your roof, install the inverter and then grow the system from there). “Connecting not collecting” data means that once the fundamentals are in place, you can reap the business benefits of data analysis quickly and without a big investment. Cloud-based platforms effectively allow customers to ‘try-before-you-buy’; compute and storage are billed per usage; and even licences are being offered on hourly subscriptions these days.
- More accurate and informed decision-making, in real time. One of the benefits of renewable energy systems is the information that comes with them. I have an app on my phone that enables me to access all sorts of information on the performance of my solar system, enabling me to regulate my usage and see how many greenhouse gas emissions I have saved. The data abstraction inherent in data virtualisation hides data complexity for ease of access by business users – in real-time or near real-time; technology such as Denodo’s data fabric design “relies on data virtualisation to provide integrated data quickly to business users to effect faster outcomes.”
- To make the most of the technology, you need an expert. While you can start small, you still need someone with experience and expertise to advise on, install and make the most of a renewable energy system. The same is true of data virtualisation.
This last point is critical. “Connecting not collecting” requires a great deal of expertise behind the scenes, and as with renewable energy systems, there are some newcomers to the technology that aren’t as experienced as others. And this article has only scratched the service of data virtualisation. For more information, just drop me a line – my email address is at the bottom of this article.
And finally … unlike my solar, data virtualisation works in the cloud.
 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Integration Tools, August 2020