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Replication - Building a Platform for the 'Age of the Customer'

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Last week I was lucky enough to be involved in the recording of a webinar for Dbvisit in which we engaged with industry analysts, the Forrester Research group. Our original line of thinking for this session had been spurred by the shift we are seeing in the market towards hybrid (on premise to cloud/hosted) deployments, driven by the proliferation of cloud apps, offerings and vendors. We could summarize the driving thought around this angle as follows:

“With the skills and data that you have in your company today, you can combine on-premise and cloud platforms, low cost databases, and the data from your existing Oracle databases to feed a wide variety of accessible and affordable information systems for your employees, customers and partners.”

However, as we discussed the topic further with the team and mapped out the webinar, this morphed into something, perhaps even more fundamental, in which “data” took center stage, as we examined:

  • The proliferation of data
  • It’s relative under utilization
  • Why organizations need to take a second look at the data they have access to
  • What the possible benefits of this new attentiveness might be

We were fortunate to have Noel Yuhanna, a principal Forrester analyst, on the webinar sharing his knowledge and insights. He is a 25 year plus industry veteran and was a great fit for this discussion, with a wealth of skill and experience in database related technology - including roots in Oracle! First of all, the webinar was recorded, so we are currently in the process of making this available from our website and we will publish notification as soon as it is available. The webinar was a fun one to participate in and I found the discussion stimulating.

In reflecting on it, there was resonance with ideas that Dbvisit has been promoting for some time. For example, from early on we recognized the value of data to modern organizations, often referring to it as their “most precious asset” or “lifeblood”. In the context of our first product, Dbvisit Standby, this centered on ensuring that data was protected and at hand in the event of a disaster, in order to ensure business continuity - a message which is still fundamental today and must be covered off by every organization. But, developing out from this, one of the main ideas I took away from the webinar discussion, and which has great resonance with our other offering, Dbvisit Replicate, is the idea that we can use replication to build a platform for the ‘age of the customer’. That is, we can take the systems we have in place right now as they are, and plug replication into the mix and begin feeding the precious data stored in your Oracle transaction (OLTP) databases into other intelligence/decision-making systems, or mine it directly. In doing so, we are looking to gain insights and advantage which can help us position ourselves ahead of our competitors, or enable us to wrap this up into processes, services and tools which delight our customers. Replication can be seen as a strategic means to this end which facilitates:

  • Sharing - organizations need to look to find ways to get beyond silos. One department’s “locked up” data might be another’s gold, or perhaps the final piece the CEO needs to be able to make that decision. This is about bridging and reconnecting information systems - to create a better business brain.
  • Consolidation - often IT systems develop outward in a sprawling, ad-hoc manner, and new pieces of kit are thrown into the mix as need requires. But replication allows us to take a step back and reconsider the overall shape of what we have running, and then centralize and simplify - to improve access and efficiencies, and reduce costs.
  • Selective usage - using replication tools, we can get data out of our Oracle transaction (OLTP) systems, but not all data is equally relevant for decision making. With Dbvisit Replicate, we can focus on doing this in a lean and nimble way with no waste, as we can select only that data we need preventing unnecessary duplication and the costs associated with storage.

During the webinar discussion, Noel made the helpful distinction between the benefits of this to both the business users of an organization, and the IT staff. Some examples of how I think we might see replication being put to use by each group, from the business side, include:

  • Adhoc reporting - feed an external database from the Oracle source system. Perhaps this is even a lower cost, cloud-based target like MySQL (blog), or a SQL Server instance which opens up MS reporting options to you.
  • BI tools - deliver data directly into an enterprise grade BI/Analytics tool such as Cognos.
  • Efficient CDC (change data capture) - take the pain out of the E(xtract) portion of ETL by pushing changes from your Oracle source system to a staging location. These changes are then immediately available for processing, opening up the possibility of genuine real-time BI and analytics.

IT side:

  • Reporting performance - offload the heavy lifting of report generation from your Oracle OLTP system to a secondary database. Tune the database to run these reports most effectively there and delight users in terms of performance improvements on both the transactional and reporting operations.
  • Security - keep a subset of data from a unified/shared repository in sync at a secondary location, and provide customers with access to this.
  • Manageability - think hub and spoke configurations; consolidate data from remote branch offices back to your organization's headquarters.
  • New tools - push your Oracle source system data to cloud platforms, which offer Big Data style crunching and analysis machines and tools which can be spun up - and which were once only the domain of the largest of Enterprise organizations.

I hope that this has provided you with some food for thought and I encourage you to check out the webinar when it comes online. We will be sure to send out notifications as soon as it is available. Stay tuned…and stay nimble!

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