This is the first in a series of posts about the topic of data federation. Click here for the full series.
Data federation, the concept of bringing together data from different sources into a virtual view, is quickly gaining traction as an easy and agile fix for some of the thorniest data problems. The concept is simple: through a virtual, and not physical, integration of data, organizations can get a faster, more transparent view of the information residing in different data sources.
Yet, although data federation has a number of uses, is it really the perfect answer to every data problem? Probably not. However, it is the answer for some situations. In this series of blogs, we will explore some of the features, use cases and technology considerations related to data federation.
What is data federation?
Data federation creates an abstraction data layer that both IT and business staff can use to rapidly access data residing in multiple sources. What's appealing is that it can create this virtual data layer without dealing with many of the complexities associated with traditional data management approaches. The goal here, as in many technology efforts, is to establish a “win-win” between business and IT – two groups that are often at odds when it comes to accessing and managing enterprise information.
Here’s how it works. If an organization wants its employees to access a variety of data sources, the IT administrator needs a central place to manage and administer access to all these sources. Data federation provides a virtual view to help IT simplify that effort. Similarly, when a business user wants to view the data, they need a clean, business-oriented representation for analysis and reporting efforts. Naturally, business staff wants to be shielded from the complexities of the ever-changing connections that IT must manage. Data federation gives that view to business users more rapidly than other forms of data access.
This virtual data layer also helps enforce security efforts. Data federation can create a data layer where security can be applied to everyone accessing the underlying data. Because different users often have different data requirements and security permissions (especially when dealing with sensitive data), it’s useful to have a single data layer to get a complete understanding of security, administration and data governance within the organization. In this scenario, IT can provide access to a variety of data sources while maintaining the necessary levels of security and privacy.
So when is data federation a perfect fit? There’s no easy answer, but if you are looking to tackle issues of safely accessing data while making both the IT and business users happy, it might be a good option. In the next post we’ll see how data federation can tackle specific business issues that are top-of-mind for many businesses.