Tackling Complexity and Security – The InformaticaWorld 2015 Big Picture

The message from IT professionals at InformaticaWorld 2015 this past week was pretty clear. Complexity is making data management tough to do these days. Cloud and mobile was, in their minds, a great boon to business. Both gave access to applications that used to be frozen on desktops. It also meant that data security was more complicated than ever and the amount and type of data rapidly expanding. New IT architectures, microservices and containers, were leading to more flexible and easier to deploy applications. The unfortunate side effect was data silos of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data. Add to this mix machine data a.k.a dark data – data generated by and for devices and computer systems themselves – and the data landscape has become a complicated mass of different types of data, spread throughout thousands of sites, systems, and devices. It almost makes one long for the days when all of a company’s data was in a handful of SQL databases that powered a few applications.

Teasing value from all this data had become a headache to say the least. If just finding the data an organization needs to analyze is hard, making it useful sometimes seems impossible. Data is dispersed through the organization and often quite dirty with errors or no clear way to connect data together. Thankfully, technology has advanced beyond a data warehouse where we stuff aggregate data from a few systems. We can now build data lakes – data repositories with cleansed data and prepackaged and have user-friendly query capabilities that can tie together information from many disparate systems. This has had the unfortunate effect of creating a needle in the haystack problem. Business analysts now have access to so much data that it’s easy to drown in the data lake.

The same was true of data security. Mobile devices, cloud systems, and containers have made data much more portable and, hence, dangerous. It used to be that a company could secure its network and critical databases and the data was mostly safe. The sophistication of threats has, however, increased dramatically. More important (and somewhat perverse), by making data available to many more business users, in order to get more value out of data, managing the security of data has gotten more difficult. Between complexity and security, using an organization’s data to its advantage is, in some ways, harder than it used to be.

And that was the point of many of the announcements at InformaticaWorld 2015 of course. Project Atlantic is a great example of a forward thinking product strategy. It looks to harness dark data by converting it into something useful to a human analyst. In an ironic twist, Informatica is using machine learning to transform machine data into something people can understand. Another announcement, Project Sonoma, looks to simplify the management and use of Hadoop-based data lakes. Products like this, along with user facing tools such as Rev, will make data lakes more accessible allowing business users to gain value from huge amounts of corporate data. Informatica is expecting to add streaming data to Project Sonoma in 2016 which should greatly enhance the ability to use Internet of Things and other machine data as well as streaming social media data in data lakes. Remember, getting data into a data lake is one thing, making use of it is really hard. Project Sonoma looks to take allow companies to spend more time getting value from data instead of managing it.

Finally, Informatica demonstrated a variety of technologies for securing data. Informatica has had data security products, including data masking, for a while but now have a full management layer called Secure@Source. This product provides a dashboard that shows where there are data security flaws and when policies are being violated. It’s a tool for both the DBA and security administrator which sits squarely in both the data governance and security fields of IT.

A picture emerges from this conference of a company that is very different than it was even five years ago. While Master Data management is still the core business, Informatica has made it clear that they are really the data value company. The mission is to help customers do more with data by making accessing, securing, and integrating data across the enterprise a much easier process. And this is something that IT and business users can agree that they need.

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