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Secure Real Time Data Sharing Advantages

Vision Solutions : 29 June, 2010  (Special Report)
Alan Arnold of Vision Solutions describes how real time data sharing across disparate databases in a secure environment can have significant advantages for businesses
Senior managers expect IT teams to deliver consistent, high-quality data that creates a single view across the business. But with data stored across multiple databases and platforms, where does this single view reside? Attempting to combine all data into one 'logical' database presents major data formatting, transformation and consistency challenges.

And then there's the issue of data protection and recovery. Nearly instantaneous recovery of your databases at the push of a button is critical. So when your business encounters accidental or malicious data corruption you can reverse the damage and continue on―a core part of a cost-effective business continuity and disaster recovery strategy.

What if you could instead effortlessly replicate data from IBM DB2 databases into Oracle, Informix and SQL databases, and back again, without custom programming or large-scale integration costs? What if you could share data from one application to another in real time and could be assured that the data would be in the exact format each application and user needed?

Would it help if you could add a new customer, update an inventory balance or delete a stock item, and have these entire applications share the same information in real time? What would your business gain if you could break down isolated silos of user data and give everyone across the enterprise the same effortless access to accurate, current and complete data?

What if you could accomplish this without discarding or changing your investment in existing systems and databases? How much more productive could your database staff be if a single-solution could be used to manage data sharing across all databases on all platforms?

The Business Challenge

Requirements for data sharing are common in today's heterogeneous computing environment, and as business users continue to demand to use their 'applications of choice', this diversity is growing. Configuring disparate databases and applications to share their data stores in real-time ranks as one of today's top IT/business alignment issues.

Traditional methods of data integration rely upon scheduled updates to move data to the centralised data store on a periodic basis. This may work for some situations, however these processes can take months to plan and implement.

During that timeframe, many changes can occur in your company, your marketplace and in your IT environment, which may impact the scope of the project and lengthen the delivery schedule. These solutions also do not scale well and are slow in accommodating future changes. Can your business really afford to invest such extensive time and budget resources when speed and flexibility have become competitive advantages?

The Technical Challenge

In today's IT environment, critical business information often resides across a variety of operating systems and databases within the enterprise. The reasons leading to this configuration are many, but the result is often silos of information that cannot be shared with other silos.

Frequently, portions of the data contained in each of these silos is redundant, but not necessarily in-sync across platforms. This puts the business at risk of making decisions based upon divergent, inaccurate data sources. Isolated information silos simply do not work well in the real-time, on-demand business world.

Populating data across different databases has traditionally been done with ad hoc manual processing. This requires database administrators (DBAs) and application owners to develop and maintain customised procedures, commonly referred to as ETL processing: Extract (pull the data from the source database into a flat file); Transform (do any formatting changes to the data required for proper input to the target database); Load (load the data from the flat file into the target database. This step often also includes copying the flat file over to a separate, potentially remote, target system before loading).

The TCO of ETL

In a large enterprise, numerous ETL processing events can occur weekly, all of which must be scheduled and monitored. Since ETL processing is often done daily during off-hours, data concurrency among the target databases may still lag by as much as 24 hours. Also, there is usually no centralised means to identify all of the ETL scripts and processing that occur within an enterprise, so keeping track of scripts and updating them as needed can be a tedious task―and is prone to oversight.

Custom, home-grown scripts are costly to develop and maintain. As databases grow, upgrade, or change, more work is required to link them using traditional integration techniques, especially one-to-one programs or scripts. For example, consider the exponential increase in work requirements for six systems linked together with one-to-one scripts. If another system must be added, that would require seven more one-to-one scripts, another system would require an additional eight scripts, and so on. This solution is difficult to scale in a dynamic environment.

As an alternative to ETL script processing, another common solution considered for doing data integration are replication products. Many products exist for replication, however these typically support only like-to-like source and targets, and most do not offer database data extraction or transformation features. Most RDBMS vendors offer replication products, but to add support for heterogeneous databases, the solution may need an add-on gateway product. Often these vendor-provided solutions are difficult to manage and may not even be able to support replication between different releases of the same product, so their scope is specialised and very limited.

Another approach often considered is use of an application integration product or message-oriented middleware (such as MQSeries) between databases. This provides a general application framework to send and receive data, but requires significant application rework and additional staff expertise to support the added messaging layer, which can be a complex and significant investment.

The Alternative: Real-time, Standardised, Data Sharing

Acquiring a standardised data sharing solution fits your needs if you want to quickly solve pressing data integration issues between critical applications that use databases such as Oracle, DB2, Informix, SQL Server, Sybase, or Teradata. A standardised data sharing and replication tool can provide access across the enterprise to accurate, real-time data, regardless of where it is created or resides, while saving you the cost of expensive and complex data integration projects.

A standardised software-based data sharing/replication solution can work well in your environment if you want to spend a minimum amount of time setting up and managing the data sharing process. These tools save time and money because they are database driven rather than programming driven.

The Goal

As businesses strive to be more effective and efficient, there is a greater need to have access to accurate, real-time information for making informed business decisions. Real-time access to information is now seen as a necessary competitive advantage. Without it, businesses large and small face greater risks from decisions made with data that is less than 100 percent current and accurate.

A standardised data sharing and replication tool provides a central, easy-to-manage, click-and-go capability for sharing data between disparate databases and application silos without programming changes or integration projects. The right solution fully leverages the flexibility of open standards technology into your database sharing strategy. That can result in fast adaptability to IT changes and future growth plans, and suits companies that need a cost-effective solution with a fast ROI.
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