Click to learn more about author Kim Kaluba.
During a recent visit to Disney World, I had the thrilling experience of soaring on the back of a Banshee in Pandora – the fictional world from Avatar – in the park’s “Flight of Passage” virtual reality ride. As I hopped on my Banshee and put on my goggles, I was transported into the land of Pandora and began my first flight.
As my Banshee jumped off the ledge, the wind hit my face and the colors and sights of this new land became a reality. We flew into a cave and admired the iridescent insects, and we weaved by a large lake where a whale-like creature breached the water. At the end of the journey, we were chased by a band of the Great Leonopteryxes, but my Banshee outmaneuvered them. Then my flight was over, and I was transported back to Earth.
It was an amazing experience that allowed me to explore, feel, smell, and see a whole new world.
My flight of passage was a bit of a rite of passage for me, and it got me thinking about the power of virtual reality and how data virtualization can enable us to explore new ways of thinking and doing things with data that is free from harm to organizations.
Let’s take a look.
What is Data Virtualization?
Before I share with you my revelation, let me first set the foundation by defining Data Virtualization. Data Virtualization, not to be confused with visualization, connects and integrates data across sources (cloud, third-party, social networks, etc.), to give organizations a holistic view of their data. It allows an application to retrieve and manipulate data without requiring technical details about the data, such as how the source is formatted, or where it is physically located. Thus, Data Virtualization is a way to integrate, access, explore and use data without physically moving it and with no impact to the operational or source systems.
Like on the Banshee in Pandora, you can move in and out of the data world – source systems and data streams – and gain information, inspirations and new results that can improve business decisions. For example, in many organizations, data is moved from one location to another via traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) processes. These processes are time-consuming because the data needed usually resides in production systems. These systems are performing mission-critical functions, and accessing, copying and moving data from these systems causes these environments to run slower, which is not acceptable to the internal or external community. Thus, for the data to be moved, it usually happens during non-peak hours via an ETL process. By this time, the data is no longer current and the time to act on that information has passed.
By virtualizing the data, source and operational systems will not be affected, because no physical data is moved; only the metadata is being accessed. This metadata is then cached so it takes up little space within the virtualized environment and metadata runs faster than physical data, meaning that the data consumers can quickly understand the value of the data for decision-making functions. The metadata can also be cleansed inside of this virtual environment, ensuring Data Governance standards are being met and the data is ready to be used by analytical, AI or other processes.
It is important to note that once the data is virtualized, it loses its original source systems’ dependences, which means that users can easily combine and join data without having to adjust the data or spend time digging into the data to identify the data characteristics on where to combine or join the different data tables together. Data Virtualization provides timely access to new data and historical data, as well as the ability to combine data seamlessly for deeper, more colorful and timely insights that can be turned into practical results.
Is Data Virtualization Secure?
The integrated data and insights gained from Data Virtualization save organizations time and money. But are they secure? Is the data protected?
During my virtual Pandora experience, there were hazards and obstacles that my Banshee had to address. At one point in the flight, we flew into Leonopteryx territory, and this creature was very protective. Upon reflection, I view the encounter as a representation of the protectors of sensitive data. Sensitive data is required by the business community for decision-making functions, but it is essential that information is protected and secured.
Any virtualization environment must address data privacy and the security of sensitive data. Organizations must clearly identify what data is going to enter the virtualized environment, where it is coming from, how it will be encrypted and managed, who can see which data elements, who can use sensitive data, who has access rights to this information, and how long this information will be stored. Information security officers also need to understand what is happening to the sensitive information in the virtualized world – how it is being transformed or changed, what processes are using this data, and what is the full journey of the data.
Any good Data Virtualization tool needs to be able to identify sensitive data, encrypt that information, secure this information by roles or responsibilities or to the individuals who will need to use the data, and use lineage to understand the journey of the data both inside and outside the virtualized world.
In summary, Data Virtualization allows you to experience a new world of data in unique, exciting and more complete ways without affecting the production systems. As you access new information regardless of system, your organization will evolve, because this new process will propel it to soar to new heights and explore new techniques for better decision making, which leads to competitive advantages. The only question remains: Are you ready to for your rite of passage?