Data Virtualization is a process that gathers and integrates data from multiple sources, locations, and formats to create a single stream of data without any overlap or redundancy.
Data Virtualization innovation is helpful, in our world of non-stop data transmission and high-speed information sharing, as a tool to aid in collecting, combining, and curating massive amounts of data.
With big data analytics, companies can locate revenue streams from existing data in storage, or they can find ways to reduce costs through efficiency. However, this is easier said than done. IT companies generally have multiple, dissimilar sources of information, so accessing that data can be time consuming and difficult. Data virtualization systems can help.
Companies that have implemented data virtualization software have better, quicker integration speeds and can improve and quicken their decision-making.
What is Data Virtualization
Data virtualization (DV) creates one “virtual” layer of data that distributes unified data services across multiple users and applications. This gives users quicker access to all data, cuts down on replication, reduces costs, and provides data flexible to change.
Though it performs like traditional data integration, DV uses modern technology to bring real-time data integration together for less money and more flexibility. DV has the ability to replace current forms of data integration and lessens the need for replicated data marts and data warehouses.
Data virtualization can seamlessly function between derived data resources and original data resources, whether from an onsite server farm or a cloud-based storage facility. This allows businesses to bring their data together quickly and cleanly.
How Virtualization Works
Most people who use IT are familiar with the concept of data virtualization. Let’s say you store photos on Facebook. When you upload a picture from your personal computer, you provide the upload tool with the photo’s file path.
After you upload to Facebook, however, you can get the photo back without knowing its new file path. Facebook has an abstraction layer of DV that secures technical information. This layer is what is meant by data virtualization.
When a company wants to build Virtual Data Services, there are three steps to follow:
- Connect & Virtualize Any Source: Quickly access disparate structured and unstructured data sources using connectors. Bring the metadata on board and create as normal source views in the DV layer.
- Combine & Integrate into Business Data Views: Integrate and transform source views into typical business views of data. This can be achieved in a GUI or scripted environment.
- Publish & Secure Data Services: Turn any virtual data views into SQL views or a dozen other data formats.
Once a DV environment is in place, users will be able to accomplish tasks using integrated information. A DV environment allows for the search and discovery of information from varied streams.
- Global Metadata: Global information search capability lets users access data through any format from anywhere in the world.
- Hybrid Query Optimization: Allows for the optimization of queries, even with “on-demand pull and scheduled batch push data requests.”
- Integrated Business Information: Data virtualization brings users integrated information while hiding the complexity of accessing varied data streams.
- Data Governance: DV layer serves as a unified layer to present business metadata to users. Simultaneously, it helps to understand the underlying data layers through data profiling, data lineage, change impact analysis and other tools and expose needs for data normalization / quality in underlying sources.
- Security and Service Level Policy: All integrated DV data views can be secured and authenticated to users, roles and groups. Additional security and access policies can manage service levels to avoid system overuse.
Data Virtualization Tools
The various capabilities that Data Virtualization delivers offers companies a newer, faster method of obtaining and integrating information from multiple sources. The top tools currently in use are as follows:
- Logical abstraction and decoupling
- Enhanced data federation
- Semantic integration of structured & unstructured data
- Agile data services provisioning
- Unified data governance & security
These capabilities cannot be found organized in any other integration middleware. While IT specialists can custom code them, that minimizes the agility and speed advantages DV offers.
Data Virtualization creates many benefits for the companies using it:
- Quickly combine multiple data sources as query-able services
- Improve productivity in IT and by business data users (50%-90%)
- Accelerate time-to-value
- Improve quality and eliminate latency of data
- Remove the costs associated with populating and maintaining a Data Warehouse
- Significantly reduce the need for multiple copies of any data
- Less hardware infrastructure
While this innovate new path to data collection and storage offers increased speed and agility, it is important to note what DV is not meant to be.
What Data Virtualization is Not
In the business world, particularly in IT, there are buzzwords flying about in marketing strategies and among industry analysts. It is therefore important to make note of what Data Virtualization is not:
- Data visualization: Though it seems similar, visualization is the physical display of data to users graphically. Data virtualization is middleware that streamlines the search and collection of data.
- A replicated data store: Data virtualization does not copy information to itself. It only stores metadata for virtual views and integration logic.
- A Logical Data Warehouse: Logical DWH is an architecture, not a platform. Data Virtualization is technology used in “creating a logical DWH by combining multiple data sources, data warehouses and big data stores.”
- Data federation: Data virtualization is a superset of capabilities that includes advanced data federation.
- Virtualized data storage: VDS is database and storage hardware; it does not offer real-time data integration or services across multiple platforms.
- Virtualization: When used alone, the term “virtualization” refers to hardware virtualization — servers, networks, storage disks, etc.
Myths and Inaccuracies
As with every new innovation in technology, there will always be myths and inaccuracies surrounding implementation.
We don’t need to virtualize our data – we already have a data warehouse.
The sources of unstructured data increase every day. You can still use your data warehouse, but virtualization allows you to tie in these new sources of data to produce better information and a competitive advantage for your business.
Implementing new data technology isn’t cost effective.
Data virtualization software costs are comparable to building a custom data center. DV also does not require as many IT specialists to use and maintain the system.
Querying virtual data can’t perform like physical data queries.
With the constant innovation and improvement of computing platforms, faster network connections, processor improvements, and new memory storage, virtualization software can process queries with multiple unconnected data sources at near real-time speeds.
Data virtualization is too complex.
When something is new in technology, humans have the tendency to question it based on their own lack of experience. Most virtualized software is easy enough to be used by geeks and laymen alike.
The purpose of data virtualization is to emulate a virtual data warehouse.
While DV can work this way, it is more valuable when data marts are connected to data warehouses to supplement them. “The flexibility of data virtualization allows you to customize a data structure that fits your business without completely disrupting your current data solution.”
Data virtualization and data federation are the same thing.
Data federation is just one piece of the full data virtualization picture. Data federation can standardize data stored on different servers, in various access languages, or with dissimilar APIs. This standardizing capability allows for the successful mining of data from multiple sources and the maximizing of data integration.
Data virtualization only provides limited data cleansing because of real-time conversion.
This is a claim that can be made about any number of data query software programs. It is best to clean up system data natively rather than burden query software with transformation of data.
Data virtualization requires shared storage.
Data virtualization is quite versatile. It allows you to build customized storage devices for your system needs.
Data virtualization can’t perform as fast as ETL.
Through data reduction, data virtualization performs more quickly than ETL. “Operations perform at higher speeds because the raw data is presented in a more concise method due to compression, algorithmic selection and redundancy elimination.”
Data virtualization can’t provide real-time data.
DV sources are updated live instead of providing snapshot data, which is often out of date. “It is closer to providing real-time data and faster than other data types that have to maintain persistent connections.”
Why Do We Need Virtualization?
Data is transferred among users in different speeds, formats, and methods. These variables make Data Virtualization a must have in the global business world. DV will help companies search, collect, and integrate information from various users, platforms, and storage hubs much more quickly. This will save the company time and money.
Data Virtualization is perfect when data demands change on the fly and when access to real-time data is critical to positive business outcomes. DV also provides you with access to any data storage system you are currently using. Despite the differences in storage platforms and systems, DV will allow you to integrate all the material in a single model.
Data Virtualization offers help in security challenges because the data is not transferred – it is left at the source as DV provides virtual access from anywhere. This is also cost-effective as you will not be duplicating any data.
As we move further into the technical age of global systems, the need for Data Virtualization becomes clear. Access to information across platforms, languages, and storage types will precipitate a faster and more useful transfer of data that everyone can use.
The future is here. The future is now.