The March 27 cover story of Computerworld declares, "Data is King!" In its survey on IT purchasing decisions for 2000, enterprise database projects was the number one concern. Ninety-five percent of the survey’s selection of corporate America’s IT managers identified enterprise database projects as one of their most crucial buying decisions this year. The reason? Respondents say they need database applications that can scale dramatically, function as part of e-commerce sites with ease and support capabilities that may not have existed a decade ago.

To translate the survey into business needs, the challenge large companies are facing is how to move their current business model to an e-business model. E-business is no longer a question of destination, "Am I going there?" It’s now a question of journey, "How will I get there?" As a destination question, IT didn’t have to be overly concerned. Then, it was a problem for the business people. Once the business side of the house decides that e-business is no longer a nice-to-have, the outcome is fairly predictable. For example, when Jack Walsh of GE declared last year that all GE companies would be e-business companies, the trickle-down effect made everyone in the IT organizations sit up and take notice. The problem has now moved from a business problem to a technological problem and landed clearly in the laps of the IT managers. E-business has moved from the realm of the nice-to- have to the land of the must-have, and it’s clearly an IT problem to figure out how to deliver.

This is not exactly a win/win situation for IT. Until a few years ago, very few people were thinking about e-business when building their enterprise infrastructure. If you’re a fairly large company, one that’s doing a few hundred million dollars a year in sales and has been a viable business for the last decade or two, your business infrastructure was probably built using the best systems and technology available at the time. You used the conventional wisdom of the day to implement it. That means you’re likely to have an IBM mainframe, lots of OLTP applications and, according to GartnerGroup, you probably have close to 14 different databases. Then along comes e-business, and your system is not anywhere close to being ready.

IT is now in the hot seat. Why? They are tasked with moving the existing business model to an e-model – quickly. But how do they do this and leverage the existing investment? How do they do this without starting from square one? As supported by the Computerworld survey, the major contributor to the e- business problem is the data. Solve the data problem and you’re 90 percent there. How does IT work with these disparate data sources and move to an e- business model?

Many IT shops believe they can buy their way out of the problem. Well, that’s a possibility, but what usually happens is that they’ll buy an expensive relational database application that adds data source number 15 to the mix. It’s just a temporary fix. The systems that run your business will continue to run your business. Your business is too entrenched in these existing systems. The OLTP systems aren’t going away. All that happens is that a mirror system is created for e-business. Maintenance costs go through the roof, and reliability and integrity problems arise. Your data is not up to the minute and, what’s worse, you’re only accessing a small portion of your data. When – not if – e-business demands change, you are not going to be able to respond quickly.

The Holy Grail for e-business is to have homogenous data throughout the enterprise that can easily be enabled with standard products and tools which means quickly powering e-business applications while leveraging corporate data. You can leave the OLTP systems in place and add e- business applications quickly and cost-effectively.

How do you do this? A new class of product called an e-data engine has emerged and can provide this homogenous view of enterprise data. E-data engines have solved the problems of speed, scale and scope that plagued earlier attempts at a single-view-of- enterprise data. They provide the speed needed to do all the translations from the Web severs to native language on the fly and at transactional speeds. They provide scale and allow you to deal with the thousands of simultaneous users those e-business applications demand. They provide scope and take the 14 or more average data sources and treat them like a single relational database. Best of all, they provide a significant savings in time and money, so you can respond to e-business at e-speed.

If enterprise data projects are on top of your list, before you spend millions on yet another data source, investigate an e-data solution. E-data will make your business king.

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