As far back as the simple record keeping systems of the ancient Phoenicians, Sumerians and Egyptians, data management has been a discipline focused on capturing, storing and accessing information deemed to be significant. The earliest requirements for a data management system were standardized language or symbols, storage media (at the time, clay tablets and papyrus) and specially educated individuals who could prepare answers to questions posed to them (reports) by accessing the recorded information.
Fast forward to more modern time and this model, distilled to its most basic functionality, remains conceptually intact to a surprising degree.
It's true that the emergence of the mainframe, programming languages and business productivity applications allowed organizations to capture and store more data than previously imaginable and to begin automating and accelerating basic business processes. Data management, though was still largely a matter of capture, store, access and report. Distributing data widely beyond the immediate scope of the application that created the data was not a priority. Well, those were simpler times. Today, the distribution of data is of utmost importance, because the data is needed by a broad audience and the response times have become much tighter by order of magnitude. The methods for distributing data in today's up-to-the-nanosecond business environment require a very different technology strategy than those of the past.
Beyond Record Keeping
Data management in today's organizations is quite different. While data capture, storage and report generation are still important and necessary tasks, data has evolved in type, usefulness and volume. Businesses must maintain operational data, but operational data does not drive business innovation and growth. Simple transactional records do not provide business insights and sales leads. The timely analysis of the operational data is the foundation for business growth. Thus, the timely delivery of business-critical operational data for analytic purposes is now the critical factor for success.
More than a decade into the Internet era, we work in increasingly unwired enterprises and in an increasingly mobile economy. When we talk about data management today, we're describing something much more detailed, sophisticated, vital and dynamic than simply managing a system of records.
An Invaluable Asset
We now know that data is much more valuable than past tense documentation. It is an invaluable asset - an asset that can be mined and analyzed in real time to identify new business opportunities, areas in which significant efficiencies can be achieved and ways in which products and processes can be continually improved to address - even anticipate - the needs and expectations of existing and prospective customers. In other words, data has value that goes well beyond being a mere system of records. Integrated from numerous sources from within and outside the organization and made easily available to many more users and applications, data has become the engine driving the growth of today's most successful organizations.
Data management is no longer a matter of tending to centralized application-specific databases. Nor is it a matter of mediating access to those databases. We have moved from the age of monolithic data management to distributed data management. There are a number of reasons for this evolution:
- Today's managers and knowledge workers recognize that data itself is a strategic asset that has the value and power to drive business growth and increase competitive advantage. They understand how to leverage the tremendous reach and immediacy of the Internet and the agility achieved by unwiring the enterprise. This new generation of business users demands more sophisticated, unmediated and free-form access to both structured and unstructured data using virtually any application.
- We are experiencing a data explosion. Organizations in multiple industries routinely process and manage terabytes - even petabytes - of data. Traditional, centralized distribution methods, designed to handle relatively small data volumes, no longer suffice in today's data-on-demand businesses. Bottlenecks, due to technology or the intervention of mediators, that slow the delivery of data to users cannot be tolerated.
- Millions more external users, doing business with organizations via the Internet and various mobile channels, expect the data they want to be available anytime, anywhere.
- Both internal and external users expect the data they need to be automatically delivered to them on the device of their choice and refreshed on a schedule they determine.
IT professionals face a host of new challenges our predecessors could not have envisioned. We must manage enormous volumes of data in a way that:
- Supports ever-growing and increasingly mobile user populations,
- Ensures real-time synchronization across far-flung enterprises - providing one version of the truth,
- Distributes the right data at the right time to the right people on the right devices at numerous points of action,
- Guarantees continuous availability to enterprise data,
- Delivers extreme performance for transactions, analytics and frontline operations and
- Protects data from cyber criminals, malware and other threats.
Making Information Available
Distributed data management enables information to flow freely from the data center to the point of action and back. Distributed data management is a requirement for any organization that needs to:
- Process extreme transactions that are driven by Internet-enabled business models and highly distributed, global, always-on applications.
- Fuel analytic applications with comprehensive, timely data in order to drive revenue growth, identify risks and trends, improve products and services, grow market share and enhance customer loyalty.
- Empower and support remote offices and mobile employees so they can out-think and out-perform competitors.
Optimize Overall IT Performance and ROI
Decoupling databases from applications and integrating enterprise-wide data can enable any person using any device to access the information he/she needs. Sophisticated data movement technology can automatically deliver and refresh that data so it is always available when and where it is needed and to facilitate collaboration regardless of location. Leveraging the power of cluster and virtualization technology will improve performance, reliability, productivity and ROI.
All of these actions and others fall under the umbrella of distributed data management. As competition inevitably increases, organizations need to shift their focus and efforts to ensure that decision-ready information is readily available to employees, customers and business partners who need it, when and where they need it on the computing device of their choice.
Recognizing the business and technology changes that have brought us to this point is critical. The next step is to assess your IT infrastructure and begin adding the capabilities that will enable you to meet the data availability expectations of your colleagues, customers and business partners, while positioning you to support future business requirements.
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