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What is Data Virtualization? Advantages and Use Cases

  • Ashesh Anand
  • Aug 05, 2022
What is Data Virtualization? Advantages and Use Cases title banner

By building a virtual layer that combines data from several sources, data virtualization enables enterprises to improve analytics efficacy and lower analytics costs. This makes it possible for businesses to obtain data from various sources without having to invest in an expensive data warehouse or take the time to prepare the data. It is also known as decentralized data warehouses, virtual databases, and logical data warehouses (LDW).

 

ETL, which requires a major programming effort using specialized tools and scripting languages, is primarily reliant on traditional data warehouses. A virtual layer is created by a logical data warehouse to manage the ETL.

 

 

What is Data Virtualization?

 

The database layer, which is located in the application stack between the storage and application layers, is decoupled by data virtualization. The same way that database virtualization software lies between the database and the OS to abstract/virtualize the data store resources, a hypervisor sits between the server and the operating system to create a virtual server.

 

Database resources need substantially less storage than the underlying database because they are virtualized. Virtual data (virtual data copies), which offer high-performance access to already-existing data, use pointers to data blocks rather than creating and relocating new data blocks.

 

The ability to maintain and share policy-governed virtual copies of production-quality datasets is made possible by data virtualization. Data virtualization technology makes block-mapped virtual copies of the database for quick and controlled distribution regardless of the underlying database management system (DBMS) or location of the source database while leaving a small storage footprint no matter how many copies are used.

 

Why virtualize your data?

 

Your release cycle's agility and capacity to swiftly identify, prioritize, and correct problems will determine how quickly you can innovate and how well you can adjust to quickly shifting market trends. Forward-thinking businesses employ data virtualization as a key tool to provide production-quality data to development and test environments on demand or via APIs.

 

Because virtual data copies are instantly created and decommissioned, development no longer depends on cumbersome serial ticketing systems or DBA involvement for initial data delivery and data refreshes following destructive testing.

 

Data delivery across all application development phases, including testing, release, and production fix, is made easier by data virtualization technologies. IT firms typically use a request-fulfillment model, where developers and testers frequently discover that their requests are queued behind others. 

 

Provisioning or refreshing data for a test environment might take days or even weeks because it requires a lot of time and effort to produce a replica of test data. The rate of application delivery is slowed as a result of the significant wait states this causes in the software delivery life cycle.

 

Dev and test teams are compelled to operate with a stale copy of data because updating test data takes too long in order to keep up with a quicker release cadence. Missed test cases and eventual data-related production flaws may come from this.

 

Also Read | Types of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

 

Advantages of Data Virtualization

 

  1.  Business value acceleration: As changes happen, analytics applications can be used sooner and produce more value.

 

  1.  Enhanced business insight: Less work is required and data is more complete, current, and easy to access than ETL.

 

  1.  Development cost avoidance: Reusable data services and interactive development and validation improve quality and prevent rework for future projects. This reduces development costs.

 

  1.  Data management infrastructure cost reduction: Cheaper infrastructure costs and fewer licenses to purchase and depreciate result in lower support and maintenance costs for data management infrastructure.

 

What difficulties does data virtualization present?

 

  1.  For a logical data warehouse to be more effective, there must be a sufficient number of data sources (>10). Otherwise, it might not be worthwhile to compromise between speed and cost.

 

  1.  Unlike a conventional DW, logical DW does not offer a single source of truth. Organizations may have difficulties with the stability, availability, data consistency, and correctness of a logical DW.

 

Also Read | Data Management: Types, Benefits and Challenges


Image depicts how data virtualization works with data from sources to consumers

How does data virtualization work?


How Does Data Virtualization Function?

 

The semantic layer / virtual data layer

 

The "virtual" or "semantic layer," which enables data or business users to modify, join, and compute data independently of its source format and physical location, whether it is stored in the cloud or on-premises, is the heart of a data virtualization programme.

 

The user can further organize their data in various virtual schemas and virtual views thanks to the virtual layer, even though all connected data sources and related metadata show in a single user interface.

 

Users can quickly add simple business logic to the unprocessed data from the source systems to enhance it and make it ready for analytics, reporting, and automation procedures.

 

Although not all tools offer this functionality, a number of data virtualization technologies augment this virtual layer with data governance and metadata exploration features.

 

Permission Management

 

The virtual layer establishes a single source of truth throughout the entire business in a fully compliant and secure manner thanks to advanced user-based permission management. Now that authorized users have access to the data they require from a single location within a single tool, the data architecture has been made simpler and more data silos have been eliminated.

 

Unlike standard ETL solutions that simply replicate data stores, data virtualization typically does not persist the data from the source system.

 

Features in a Data Virtualization System

 

Following are the top 4 features present in a data virtualization system:

 

  1. Agile design and development

 

You must be able to analyze the data that is already available, find relationships that were previously hidden, model individual views and services, validate those views and services, and adapt as necessary. These powers speed up problem solving, promote object reuse, and automate laborious tasks.

 

  1. High-performance runtime

 

The application sends out a request, the optimized query runs just one statement, and the result is sent in the right format. Up-to-the-minute data, improved performance, and less replication are all made possible by this capability.
 

  1. When necessary, the use of caching

 

The programme invokes a request, an optimized query (using cached data) runs, and the data is delivered in the correct format. With this capability, performance is improved, network restrictions are avoided, and there is always availability.

 

  1. Business directory/catalog to organize data and make it simple to find

 

This feature consists of tools for searching and categorizing data, browsing all accessible data, choosing from a directory of views, and working with IT to enhance the quality and utility of the data. This capacity increases IT/business user effectiveness, gives business users more data power, and makes data virtualization more widely used.

 

Also Read | Types of Data Visualization


 

How to Begin with Data Virtualization

 

A fast, virtualized data layer is the best example of data virtualization in action. In addition to providing self-service access to crucial data and arranging it for scale, such a layer enables rigorous management and governance while also making it affordable for applications and analytics systems to use.

 

However, the majority of data virtualization deployments begin modestly and grow. Starting with a small, focused team in charge of one or more projects is a typical approach. A small team can be adaptable while also being willing to deal with some ambiguity. (To move quickly and finish numerous iterations of data projects, teams must be agile.)

 

As the data layer is being created, the following stage is to deliver project datasets. This step deals with a number of data-related issues, such as changing requirements, various sources, a variety of data kinds, current data, data outside the data warehouse, data that is too big to physically integrate, and data that is outside the firewall.

 

Additionally, teams must order their data virtualization projects according to commercial value and simplicity of deployment. The business value and simplicity of implementation of the project will determine its priority. To reuse various data services at the application layer, business layer, and source layer, data virtualization and the people who apply it must also advance.

 

Also Read | What is Agile? Benefits and Uses


 

Use Cases for Data Virtualization

 

We’ve listed some of the primary use cases of Data Virtualization below :

 

  1. Online Data Mart

 

An aggregated view of the data is provided by a data mart, often from a conventional data warehouse. To save time, creating a virtual data mart is simple thanks to data virtualization.

 

Initiatives can advance more quickly than if data was to be on-boarded to a standard data warehouse by merging an organization's principal data infrastructure with auxiliary data sources relevant to particular, data-driven business units.

 

  1. Prototyping quickly

 

Modern agile firms enjoy experimenting with novel business concepts and models, which are frequently supported by data to carry out the initiative and assess its effectiveness. Therefore, a flexible system is required to test, modify, and put new concepts into practice.

 

The data virtualization component of the Logical Data Warehouse can be utilized for quick setup, quicker iteration, and data materialization capabilities to readily migrate data to production as necessary.

 

The built-in recommendation engine examines how the prototype data is used and offers recommendations on how to store the data most effectively for use in production, including automatic database index creation and other improvements.

 

Companies understand that they must better utilize their data assets if they want to make wiser decisions, delight their consumers, and outperform their competitors.

 

  1. Data Integration

 

Since almost every firm has data from numerous distinct data sources, this is the most likely scenario you will run into. That entails connecting an outdated client/server-based data source with contemporary digital platforms like social media. 

 

You connect via tools like Java DAO, ODBC, SOAP, or other APIs, and you utilize the data catalog to search your data. Even with data virtualization, creating connections is more likely to be challenging.

 

  1. Data Analytics and Big Data

 

Again, because Big Data and predictive analytics are based on diverse data sources, the nature of data virtualization works well in this situation. Big Data is derived from sources other than simply an Oracle database, including email, social media, and cell phone usage. Data virtualization is therefore compatible with these incredibly varied approaches.
 

 

  1. Uses in Operations

 

Data silos are a major pain point for call centers or customer support applications, and have persisted for a very long time. For example, a bank would want a different call center for house loans than for credit cards. Everyone from a call center to a database manager may see the complete spectrum of data repositories from a single point of access thanks to data virtualization that crosses data silos.

 

  1. Decoupling and abstraction

 

This is the opposite of all the previously mentioned unification properties. You might want to isolate some data sources because they come from dubious sources or because they violate privacy laws or other compliance standards. You can isolate a certain data source from users who shouldn't have access to it via data virtualization.

 

Also Read | Data Lakes vs. Data Warehouse: Definition & Differences

 

Data layers that can be controlled and governed from anywhere are provided by data virtualization, which helps improve data warehousing systems. Businesses must implement data virtualization with the maximum amount of delegation in order to prevent errors. When an enterprise-wide deployment is taking place, implementation must be closely monitored.

 

A data virtualization system's implementation presents a challenge since the organization must strike the correct balance between its architectural framework and its data management framework. Data virtualization deployments need to be prioritized by teams based on the business value, goals, and capabilities.

 

As and when business decisions are made, the business team, data services, data layers, and the source layer must constantly evolve for the business to get the greatest results.

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