Data in the Cloud: How Organizations Are Shedding Their Fear in the Name of Agility and Speed

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Click here to learn more about author Ravi Shankar.

Data is the new currency in this digital economy. Companies generate data during the normal course of their operations, analyze that data to gain intelligence about their business, and use that insight to tweak their operations to improve results; call it the data cycle. To protect such vital data from being stolen, companies have been safeguarding the data within their data centers and behind the firewalls. In doing so the companies traded security for agility and speed. However, now that the stigma of placing data in the cloud has been slowly been eroded, many companies are comfortable moving their data and the data-related technologies to the cloud. This migration has enabled them be more agile and improve the speed of business operations.

Fear of Data Breach and Loss

I have seen hundreds of companies skittish about placing their data in the cloud; companies in highly regulated industries like financial services and life sciences, public and private companies, consumer companies that handle customer data, and many more. They all share a common fear: “what happens if my data is stolen?” Hearing news such as the data breaches from Target and the subsequent fall out resulting in depressed stock prices for a considerable period further dampen their confidence. So, companies have responded by holding back the data within their own data centers, where they believe they have better control.

However, these protectionist practices have come at a cost. The systems that hold the data are in house as well, maintained by IT departments who have been not been able to respond to the business needs at the same pace as that of the business. As a result, the data has been siloed across various systems, time-consuming and laborious to integrate, and incredibly slow to deliver on time to the business to make any meaningful impact.

In a December 16, 2015, Forrester Research report titled Create A Road Map For A Real-Time, Agile, Self-Service Data Platform, authors Noel Yuhanna and Michele Goetz state, “Information from the past won’t support the insights of the future – businesses need real-time data.”

Data on the Cloud

When I worked for my previous company, which was public, I used to say that if anyone wants to know the performance in any given quarter, all they need to do is hack into the company’s instance of Salesforce.com. That instance contained all the information about the deals closed in the quarter, revenue generated, and how much more was in the pipeline; and that’s true for many companies. But such an event never came to pass. Do you know why? The security of Salesforce.com is so ironclad that its firewall is impenetrable.

Now, many companies no longer worry about such incidents and simply subscribe to Salesforce.com and benefit from the always available, maintenance free, pay as-you-go model.

Businesses have become comfortable trusting the security on the cloud and have adopted “cloud-first” strategies, where they first evaluate cloud as the first destination to run any software or access any data. Many others are undertaking systems modernization projects, where they are migrating their legacy in-house systems to the cloud. Such technology strategies have given boost to vendors such as Amazon.com, who have seen their cloud hosting business accelerate at a faster pace than their traditional business.

Data Integration and Data Virtualization on the Cloud

As data gets on the cloud, so does the technology that deals with the data, including data integration and data virtualization. Since cloud applications are highly specialized, such as CRM, HR, and so on, data integration, and its real-time counterpart—data virtualization, have become inevitable to stich the disparate data together to provide an integrated view to the business.

These technologies have been predominantly on premise. However, lately, they have been following the data to the cloud. The benefits of cloud provisioned data virtualization are many and similar to that of any cloud software. First of all, there is no need to procure proprietary servers, because the software is hosted on a cloud provider like Amazon Web Services. This saves upfront capital costs. Second, there is no need to install the software as it is readily provisioned as a virtual image within Amazon. Customers have to simply start using it. This convenience saves time. Finally, there is no need to pay for the software in one lump sum, because the fee is based on how much of the software is used. This payment model ties the cost close to the usage.

With these substantial benefits, data virtualization joins the cloud revolution because it enables speed and agility, and one day might be the only way to buy and use it.

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