|By Robert Eve||
|January 3, 2012 06:30 AM EST||
Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility is the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. Along with an overview of data virtualization and its advantages, it presents ten case studies of organizations that have adopted data virtualization to significantly improve business decision making, decrease time-to-solution and reduce costs. This article describes data virtualization adoption at one of the enterprises profiled, Northern Trust.
Northern Trust is a leading provider of innovative fiduciary, investment management, private banking, wealth management and worldwide trust and custody services. Clients include corporations, institutions, families and individuals in more than 40 countries.
Based in Chicago, Illinois, the company has over 13,000 employees. At the end of 2010, the company had assets under custody of $4.1 trillion, assets under management of $643.6 billion and banking assets of $83.8 billion. Annual revenues in 2010 were almost $3.7 billion.
For this case study, we interviewed Leonard J. Hardy, Senior Vice President, Operations and Technology. Hardy is a member of Northern Trust's Rapid Solutions group, which provides a solution architecture and consulting facility to other Northern Trust application development groups.
Hardy also manages the company's Integration Competency Center (ICC), which helps other application areas figure out the best way to integrate data. The ICC supports several tools for this, including data virtualization, ETL and data integration best practices. Hardy participated in this case study project in his ICC role.
The Business Problem
An important line of business for Northern Trust is providing outsourced investment management operations for corporate customers, typically investment management firms and banks.
These institutional customers continue to provide front-office investment management functions for their end clients, but outsource all or some of the middle-office and back-office functions to Northern Trust. By contracting these functions out to Northern Trust, the institution does not have to invest in the resources, assets and skills necessary to provide the functions internally. In return, Northern Trust provides guaranteed levels of quality, service, resilience and value-to-cost criteria and management.
The Northern Trust line of business responsible for investment management outsourcing is called Investment Operations Outsourcing (IOO).
The business problem for IOO was the fact that it had a large number of new institutional customers in the outsourcing pipeline and simply could not implement them fast enough.
As Hardy stated, "If we could get customers on board more quickly, we would realize several key benefits. First, revenue would increase. Second, we could go down the pipeline faster. We had customers already signed up for outsourcing who were waiting to be converted and we had to find a way to do that faster. That, in turn, would allow us to open up the pipeline and take advantage of huge new business opportunities in the marketplace."
The Technical Problem
Existing IOO client reporting capabilities had evolved within a traditional systems infrastructure and were both inefficient and inflexible, thereby extending the time it took to set up the end client reporting function for each customer.
For example, value-added client data was stored in multiple separate databases, including legacy, mainframe systems. In addition, some of the business logic to interpret the data structures and create reports was embedded in stored procedure code. The only way to access the data and interpret it correctly was to go through the stored procedures. There was no data warehouse or data mart that consolidated all this data and business logic for reporting purposes.
As a result, according to Hardy, "the old way of reporting required technology intervention for every single customer implementation. As you can imagine, each institution has its own formats, labels, graphics and fonts. A technology expert proficient in our development tools had to get involved and make changes to our reporting process for every customer. The time-to-market on that was very long. We needed the ability to bring on new customers without having to make technology changes for each one."
Two Options Evaluated
IOO considered two solution architectures to meet their business and technical challenges.
Physical Consolidation: One solution for IOO was to physically integrate the data using ETL and data warehousing technology. But that would require pulling all of the business logic out of the stored procedures and figuring out how to get all of the data into one database and have the structure make sense, a massive project that could take up to a year and a half.
Data Virtualization: Instead, IOO took a more innovative approach and decided to virtually integrate the data using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform as a virtual data warehouse. Placing Composite in the middle between the client reporting tool and the back-end data sources would enable IOO to quickly abstract the data into the data virtualization layer, reuse the existing business logic to access the data and generate all of the data needed for end client reporting. This approach required just seven months.
The Data Virtualization Solution - Architecture
Northern Trust's IOO data virtualization solution is a virtual data warehouse implemented with the Composite Data Virtualization Platform combined with a new client reporting front end. The major architecture components include:
Data sources - There are several physical data stores in the IOO environment.
- Transaction data includes all of the detailed transactions for each end-client account: buys, sells, interest income, dividends, etc.
- Valuation data includes, for each end-client account, how much it is worth today, how much it was worth yesterday, etc., based on the transaction data.
- Enterprise asset data is a reference file that contains data about each asset in the client accounts, such as ticker symbol and investment category (equity, bond, money market, etc.). This data comes from a number of different third-party providers.
- Performance data includes very complicated investment performance calculations that permit performance comparisons between accounts, such as one account against accounts of similar value or with similar investment strategies.
- Transaction, valuation and enterprise asset data is stored in IBM DB2 and accessed via COBOL stored procedures.
- Performance data is in Oracle and accessed via web services that call C code.
Data virtualization layer: The virtual data warehouse built using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform abstracts the data in the IOO data stores and creates a unified, virtual view that makes them appear as a single physical data store.
When the reporting platform issues a query to retrieve data from one or more data stores, Composite queries the data by calling the appropriate stored procedures and/or web services, combines the data (for example, associates all of the transactions that make up a valuation and the important performance data that applies to that valuation) and delivers it to the reporting platform.
Consuming applications: The primary consuming application is the client reporting platform. This is the toolset that IOO's internal business/operations partners now use to build, format and produce the reports for IOO's customers and their clients.
Another benefit of the reporting tool is that it supports a data dictionary and business views of the data that directly map to views within the data virtualization layer. These business views, or building blocks, conform the data into reusable components that the business analysts can use to create custom reports.
A key point here is that the solution has enabled IOO to transfer the time-consuming report customization work that previously had to be done for each new institutional customer by very high-priced and very busy technical resources (applications programmers) to IOO's operations partners (business analysts).
As Hardy summarized it, "We have been successful in our goal of taking the technology out of the outsourcing equation. As long as we supply the right data through Composite, the reporting tool handles all formatting, graphing and other functionality that we used to have to hard code within the application program. One reason we had such a big bottleneck in implementing outsourcing customers was the fact that we didn't have enough programmers in our application development group to handle the customization requirements. Business analysts in our operations group can now easily process the building blocks necessary to customize reports."
By combining the capabilities of data virtualization and the new reporting tool, IOO has been able to navigate through and abstract a very complex set of layers of translation to connect the raw IOO data structures to business metadata and finished customer reports.
The Data Virtualization Solution - Best Practices
Hardy offered some best practices and lessons learn based on his experience working with IOO.
Start with a focused project: Hardy stated that a focused initial effort is a key to success. "Don't start with a project to make all enterprise data available via a service." To date, IOO has completed four institutional customer implementations with over ten more in progress or planned.
Centralize support for data virtualization and development: Giving ICC responsibility for the data virtualization technology provided economies of scale and enabled the company to accelerate up the best practices learning curve in effectively implementing the technology in business solutions.
Understand the data: According to Hardy, data virtualization is no different than any other development or physical data integration tool. "The design and architecture of the solution is where you need to spend time. The old carpenter's adage of ‘measure twice and cut once' applies here. Don't just dive in and start coding views. Make sure you really understand the data. This is the key to success in an effort like this."
Educate and support the business: Hardy said it is also important to allocate time to consult with the business and make sure they understand the data. "In our case, they are the ones designing the reports but they don't necessarily have in-depth knowledge about the data in its raw form. So we need to help them understand the raw data and make sure that when the data gets to the end tool, people understand what they are looking at."
Manage business expectations: Although data virtualization is a capability that can get the job done faster, the organization still has to go through the same steps to implement the solution: analysis, design and architecture. "In our case, we could say it saved us a year and a half, but it did take seven months. So it will take time no matter how you do it."
Summary of Benefits
Hardy described the major benefits Northern Trust has achieved with the new IOO client reporting architecture based on data virtualization.
Faster time-to-market increases customer satisfaction and revenue: Data virtualization has dramatically reduced the time it takes to implement a new outsourcing customer by 50%. Moving customers through the pipeline faster improves overall customer satisfaction and gives IOO the capacity to bring in even more business and revenue.
Single point of access simplifies work and cut costs: The fact that the reporting tool, or any consuming application, has a single data access point regardless of the format, access method (SQL, web service, stored procedure, etc.) or data source significantly reduces application complexity and development and maintenance time and cost.
Reuse benefits grow with adoption: The ability to create reusable data services that can be shared by all applications also reduces costs.
Long run flexibility is improved: Northern Trust is embarking on a three-year project to replace all of its underlying data stores with modern data warehouses and data marts. By putting data virtualization in the middle, thereby decoupling the back-end data from the consuming applications, IOO will not have to change anything that has been defined in the reporting tool when it swaps out the back-end data stores. It will only need to change the views to consume the new data sources.
• • •
Editor's Note: Robert Eve is the co-author, along with Judith R. Davis, of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility, the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. The complete Northern case study, along with nine others enterprise are available in the book.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Aug. 27, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 372
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Aug. 27, 2015 02:15 PM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Aug. 27, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 319
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Aug. 27, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 279
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Aug. 27, 2015 11:30 AM EDT
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 27, 2015 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 304
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Aug. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 117
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Aug. 27, 2015 06:15 AM EDT Reads: 497
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Aug. 26, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 363
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Aug. 26, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 149
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 3, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 772
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 537
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 467
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,554
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 266
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,213
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
Jul. 30, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,304
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,436
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
Jul. 29, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,345