Taking the Cloud Computing Road to Data Integration and Data Management

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2016 was a great year for data, but the coming years will be even better. That’s the case being made by many in the industry, including Rob Consoli, Chief Revenue Officer at Enterprise Application Integration and Data Management vendor Liaison Technologies. Its Alloy Platform offers Data Integration and Data Management on a single unified platform, said Consoli.

As sources continue to grow in number and diversity, there will be challenges to getting the most from data, of course. But there also will be significant opportunities for companies that master how to get to data, cleanse, harmonize it, and offer it up in a form and format for consumption from which they can derive new business insight.

“We really believe that data is the new currency going forward,” says Consoli. “It’s probably the most valuable asset companies have and they are starting to realize that.” He points to the custom blending of data that some Liaison customers have started to do as an example of what a game-changer it can be to leverage external data that, not so long ago, a company would never have thought to merge with internal information.

For instance, one of its large pharmaceutical customers interrogates Twitter feeds across the globe in search of its unique drug names and for certain words that surround them – happy, sad, depressed, uncomfortable, and so on – to help gauge public or provider sentiment about the products. Then, it lays that data on top of traditional data, such as where patients or physicians that use its products are geographically located. “That’s driving new business insights for the company,” he says.

The process, for example, may reveal negative sentiment among Florida customers, which can point to problems with its advertising there, or to confusion among health practitioners in the Northeast that warrants that the company undertake additional doctor training.

The world of the very near future is about moving beyond traditional data sources and looking at other data sources – structured and unstructured, like social media feeds – in order to perform custom mining of information, he says. Such practices are changing the traditional means that Data Management and Data Integration have been employed within enterprises.

From Talk to Action

There’s certainly been talk and movement on this front in recent years. But Consoli says efforts are being galvanized by the maturing of Cloud Computing platforms, as well as Big Data frameworks and databases and the continuing growth in compute power that gives companies the resources they need to truly enable their data strategies.

Liaison, for example, has invested deeply in its technology stack featuring its Alloy Cloud Data Platform as a Service (DPaaS) solution, which companies can leverage to do the heavy lifting of Data Integration and Data Management. That’s no small thing, considering a Gartner figure Consoli points to, stating that about half of the IT budget for a typical project is spent on Data Integration challenges. With that under control, CIOs can shift their focus from making sure applications and data communicate as Data Scientists shift from data janitorial duties, to driving new business opportunities from the information they have, he says.

“Our system makes it easy so they don’t spend time on plumbing but rather on mining value from the data we process through our stack of technology,” Consoli says.

Alloy tenets, he says, include the importance of being built on a microservices architecture that provides a dynamic, future-ready platform that quickly evolves to accommodate virtually any new incoming data sources, formats, and analytics tools. “That’s huge because it lets us scale and use the most modern architecture to deploy quickly,” he says.

Also, being built on a Big Data framework gives Alloy the ability from a data perspective to handle traditional data sources but also unstructured sources like Twitter, IoT, and so on. That’s increasingly important in a world where, for example, companies like Tesla exploit real-time data aggregation, getting gigabytes of data from its vehicles on the road and sending ongoing updates to improve the driving performance and safety of those autos, he says: “That’s a great example of how data can be leveraged for innovation today.”

Many large companies have been using Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) for decades as the backbone of their operations technology and data movement strategies. But they were never designed for the Cloud or for an age when data connections are growing exponentially, and they are hitting their end of life: “It’s hard to find resources [to support them] but companies are paying huge maintenance bills and not getting a lot out of them,” he says, since they’re no longer investing in these platforms.

“We propose leveraging the Liaison Alloy platform with Data Integration and Data Management built in to embrace their current environment and provide a seamless migration path to a more modern architecture,” he says.

Alloy Has Security in Mind Too

Companies should look to platforms like Alloy, Consoli says, both to transition from their aging Data Integration platforms and move securely into the Cloud.

Alloy’s tenets around security include full compliance for PCI DSS, HIPAA, and other regulatory frameworks – including most recently the international Privacy Shield Framework – and the protection of data in transit and at rest.

He explains that Liaison has invested significant sums to have third-party auditors come in and ensure Alloy’s security compliance, where tokenization plays a critical role. Given enough power, time, and energy, Consoli says, encryption can be broken. That’s not the case with tokenization, though. “It’s completely different,” he says.  “We replace key aspects of whatever data we are trying to protect with surrogate values that have no correlation and no relation to the original data.”

It doesn’t matter what kind of data needs to be protected – healthcare, personally identifiable information (PII), credit card data, and others. For instance, large retailers use the Alloy system to tokenize credit card data. They store surrogate values in the Alloy Cloud system and thus become out of scope from a PCI perspective because there is no actual credit card information being stored. “Any data can be tokenized rapidly for an extra level of security,” he says. Because the tokens are stored to a NoSQL MapR environment, compared to the past when Liaison used a traditional SQL database, customers also realize a dramatic performance improvement, down to a 40ms response time.

“Companies will look to Cloud Computing and Cloud providers who have invested and can provide better security than their own companies can to migrate off legacy systems and continue the data flow and movement they need in their organization,” Consoli says.

In January Liaison was shortlisted as a finalist in the 2016-2017 Cloud Awards in the “Best Platform as a Service or Cloud Middleware” for offering a combined Data Integration and Data Management system, as well as continuous compliance as fully managed services on a single unified platform.

“Our value proposition is that the Cloud can be leveraged through a managed services model to solve the most complex integration and management problems companies have,” says Consoli.

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