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Friday, 10 October 2014 04:37

Data Direct links SaaS and on-premises data


Data Direct bridges disparate data sources and allows end users to access the data they need without having to ask the IT department for help.

Progress Software's Data Direct and Data Direct Cloud solve two key problems facing IT, company executives told iTWire.

It starts by providing a consistent, easy and secure way of accessing data from a wide variety of cloud and on-premises sources, explained vice president for product management and product marketing Jamie Merritt.

For example, an organisation might be adopting a cloud CRM yet still needs access to thousands of records of contact information currently stored in Siebel running in-house. Or it may be that data residency requirements mandate the storage of certain data in-country, yet it needs to be accessible to a cloud-based system running in overseas data centres.

Senior director for product management and product marketing Dion Picco noted that there has been explosion of new data services and storage mechanisms, leading to fragmentation.

Bringing together data from multiple types of sources is "something we make easy." he said.

Mr Merritt also pointed out that it can be used to bridge SaaS applications, as it can access them via APIs or "any network accessible way." These mechanisms can be used equally to combine data Dynamics and for reporting after an acquisition (using a single API), or to keep a copy of your or QuickBooks data on premises.

The fact that Data Direct has excellent performance is "a big winner for us," Mr Picco said.

Data Direct Cloud can be used to provide mobile data connectivity, Mr Merritt said, providing an opportunity to build richer apps that easily access data from multiple sources.

But the data needed is typically behind firewall, said Mr Picco. Data Direct Cloud's REST/JSON interface means there is no need to open additional ports in firewall. "It's a huge accelerator" for enterprise mobility, he said.

Page 2: Self-service data.

The other major application of Data Direct is to provide users with self-service access to data.

Growing numbers of workers are familiar with using BI and other analytical tools. Yet preparing data for these BI tools usually means involving IT staff, and can take 80% of the time for the whole exercise, Mr Merritt said.

Progress Easyl makes this a self-service task. While he initially didn't expect IT departments to like this idea, it turned out that they do as it allows business users to get things done without bothering already overworked IT staff: "it keeps the work out of their queue."

Looking ahead, Mr Picco expects Data Direct will support an even wider range of sources, such as NoSQL and various in-memory databases.

He also hinted that it will soon be included in a Platform-as-a-Service offering, but was not able to reveal which provider is involved.

Mr Merritt foreshadowed support for additional applications, notably Google Analytics, as users want to bring that data into their BI and data warehouse systems, among others, rather than using it on a standalone basis.

User experience improvements are on the cards for the self-service data side. Progress needs to address needs of "real end users with different levels of technical skills," he said, and to provide ways of dealing with data quality issues.

"It's messy", he said, giving as an example the way alternative spellings of 'Belgium' such as 'België', 'Belgique' and 'Belgien' may appear in one database according to which country the data was entered.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to the Progress Exchange conference as the guest of the company.

Image: JISC [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK].

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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