Today’s enterprise IT environment most likely consists of a plethora of different database platforms, all of which must be supported across the lifecycle. How to streamline managing every aspect of the multi-platform database ecosystem? IDERA’s answer is to let it help out. Its acquisition last fall of Embarcadero Technologies’ ER/Studio Data Architecture solution and DB PowerStudio Database Administration tools provided IDERA with additional capabilities to empower its tag line that it provides the first full suite of multi-platform database solutions across the database lifecycle.
“It’s really about figuring out and supporting what you have in your own ecosystem in terms of all the data platforms, including data support for things that aren’t true relational databases,” says Ron Huizenga, IDERA Senior Product Manager. Such systems have constructs that can’t be understood in a relational role, “so being able to pull all that together and understand what’s in your environment is extremely important,” he says.
The lack of Data Governance in complex data environments hurts: Without knowing where the right data is for their decisions or how pieces of information relate to each other, companies end up using data less and less effectively. They rely on the wrong data or on incorrect interpretations of information, with unfortunate results. Lack of documentation across solutions hampers the ability to answer even seemingly simple questions to improve business insight. Information is scattered across multiple systems and the definitions for the same terms may be different across all of them, he says, enough so that a company can’t even know, for example, how many active employees it had on a given date.
“What we’re able to do is take all that information and tie it together with things like business glossaries, so people know what the business meanings are, they know where to find the data and they know how to use the data,” he says.
Huizenga says he learned early on the lesson that “if you control your data it gives you a strategic advantage.” Years ago he was a CIO at a manufacturing company that was fanatically focused about the accuracy and quality of its data – so much so that it was able to build to order and ship product to customers within three days while its nearest competitor required two weeks to do the same.
The enterprise is then equipped with a key part of the strategy for creating the right foundation for the data architecture upon which it can build its Data Governance and Master Data Management (MDM) solutions. The Enterprise Team Edition of ER/Studio, for instance, helps businesses begin to leverage their data as a valuable asset by providing a place to establish a business glossary, says Joyce Ruff, IDERA product marketing manager. Business users can contribute to defining global business glossary terms and benefit from the documentation of critical data elements and their relationships to each other as points of reference for data models and databases moving forward.
It’s all key to IDERA’s aim of driving communications and collaboration across stakeholder groups, Huizenga says. That includes ER/Studio being the first Data Modeling tool to represent business data objects from a data and enterprise architecture perspective.
That supports working between the Data Modeling and architect groups and technical stakeholders like developers who think in terms of objects and what they look like, he says. An object could be composed of a number of different tables, for instance, so the business data object in a relational model now can encapsulate a group of entities or tables. They can be designated as the boundaries for that business object and that can be communicated over to that technical audience: “The developers know what the boundaries are and what’s comprised within them, so they can build the data services correctly,” he says. Similarly, there is support for non-relational concepts and constructs such as embedded objects.
Not only that, but it also serves as a very good vehicle for communicating even with business architects and users, he says, “Because these can be collapsed down and represented as higher-order object products.” The business user won’t care what tables a customer order is composed of, but they can be shielded from such details while still promoting the ability to “drive a dialogue around those higher- order concepts and utilize their business definitions of what all of those are as well,” he says.
Business-Driven is the Watchword
The importance of Data Modeling can’t be underestimated, Ruff and Huizenga say. He points to how IDERA interrogates new systems, like MongoDB document stores, to discover data and how to access it, rationalizing that back into a data model that displays the concepts. With ER/Studio’s data source registry, data sources can be brought in and catalogued, adds Ruff. That way, consolidated data models can reference back to it so that “when you make changes to the model it can then show you which data sources were impacted by those changes,” she says.
Universal mapping also makes it possible to handle issues such as tables that use different naming conventions, linking them so that it’s possible to see all manifestations of the named entity and which systems and data models it resides in.
When you think about IDERA’s efforts to manage every aspect, from design through maintenance, of databases, and about its move to do so beyond its SQL Server history to the multi-platform world, you should think of this term: Business-Driven Data Architecture. “What we really need to do is make sure we are playing well in the overall enterprise architecture space,” says Huizenga. “It’s not just a technology discipline but really about collaborating with the business and the business users to drive governance and everything else.”
It’s on IDERA’s roadmap, he says, to come up with increasingly easier ways to expose to push this agenda forward, engaging architects and modelers with technical this and business stakeholders further in the process.
“You’ll see us do more in the future in terms of tying in Data Architecture with business processes that act upon that data and also enhancing capabilities that we already have in terms of establishing data lineage,” he says. “What’s the journey that a particular piece of data takes throughout the organization and how are we able to tie that together?”
Ruff says IDERA’s efforts tie nicely into the fact that Data Governance is becoming a bigger issue again, and if you want to govern your data, you have to know what it is, where it is, and trace it through the stream. “That really does come back to building that foundation through the data models.” she says. Starting from the ground up, if you’re really going to do it right, means starting with the proposition of business-driven data architecture. That way, you’ll be able to realize goals such as managing to regulatory requirements and running Master Data programs: “You’ll have gotten the right pieces in place, and it doesn’t matter what kind of data it is.”