Earlier this year Embarcadero Technologies began discussing its product roadmap designed to help companies succeed at metadata governance management (see our story here). Today the vendor releases its metadata governance platform, Embarcadero Connect.
“It’s about making database tools smarter and users experts, about letting both database and business professionals to make better use of the data resources they have while aligning with governance, compliance and security initiatives,” says Henry Olson, director of product management.
There’s the job of dealing with Big Data, he agrees, but equally an urgent challenge is dealing with data complexity of the type he describes bedeviling one of Embarcadero’s mid-sized customers in the financial services sector. During a recent chat that customer described how it had several hundred systems and 380,000 distinct data elements.
“That’s a ton of complexity across the organization, including definitional complexity,” he says, whereby a sales system may lead a salesperson to consider a customer to be anyone she’s calling on; a finance system to deem a customer anyone who’s ever paid the company money; and a support system to call a customer someone who’s paid up on his maintenance agreement.
“You spread that complexity over several systems and it’s not surprised that organizations can’t leverage all their data,” he says. It’s all exacerbated by data’s escape from the data center to mobile devices and the cloud, too. “In many cases they can’t even find it.”
Even when governance initiatives exist, there’s often a disconnect between IT like DBAs and the business so that what’s described and operationalized for the latter is still a mystery to the former. Connect, says Olson, closes the gap, so that the work of governance teams can be connected to day-to-day operations, integrating business definitions, models, and metadata with data management and development tools.
It acts as the collaboration mechanism for the business users to contribute their piece around the meaning and definition of data, and IT to contribute theirs about knowing where and how data is deployed in the organization. It lets a company use a business glossary as a source of standard definition as well as a taxonomy to help users quickly navigate to data that is meaningful for them. A syndication element publishes the metadata so those who need it can get it where, when, and as needed.
“Connect is the metadata repository that keeps all the information about what is the data, what it means and where it is, and that’s searchable to the point of where to go to get the data,” which stays where it is, he notes.
Connect works in conjunction with a tool such as Embarcadero’s DBArtisan database management and governance solution to deliver the next layer of business meaning, he says. DBArtisan can introspect a database catalog and pull out a data element name and structural types, but now that data element can be identified and tagged and the system configured such that if a policy is defined by the business for it, a work alert pops up around that element to inform a DBA that it is highly confidential information and has to be masked for non production use. “It makes things more like a modern spell check, that when you stumble across something sensitive you get a proactive alert,” he says.
At the same time, a business person working with another data element is proactively informed of the definitional aspects of data as defined by IT in a particular system – for example, that data in one column represents monthly salary in Euros, not weekly salary in dollars. “You can make a bad mistake without having that insight,” Olson says. “So it strongly mitigates against errors of interpretation as well as compliance. You are getting metadata relevant to the task at hand.”
Connect can be added to any existing modeling and repository environment to let companies make the most of the ton of metadata they probably already have – but just aren’t putting to good use. It’s bolt-on to Embarcadero’s existing technology but has a strong import/export for structured technical metadata and business glossaries, he says. There’s also a starter pack for newbies at the whole process.
“There’s an awful lot of data that companies have bought and paid for,” Olson says, noting that research firm Forrester has said that silos and poor integration make 95 percent of enterprise data unusable. “This increases data usability.”