“Data virtualization offers a unified and integrated view of the data when it is needed.” Charles Southwood, Regional VP, Northern Europe & MEA, Denodo

6 Mins read
Wire19 Interview with Denodo

Enterprise data comes in various forms and is stored at many locations – as unstructured or structured data. Managing the disparate forms of data is a real challenge for modern organizations. Here, data virtualization can help them integrate data from different sources without having to move or copy it – giving a single virtual layer for accessing data.

This approach to data management is increasingly being adopted by organizations across the world. We recently interviewed Charles Southwood – Regional VP, Northern Europe and MEA at Denodo. Denodo is the world’s leading data virtualization solution provider and is considered as the founding father of this technology. We talked with Charles – digging deeper into data virtualization technology, data management challenges faced by the organizations, and how Denodo is helping them.

Read on.

1. Let’s start with a quick introduction of Denodo and your role there.

Denodo Technology is the world’s leading solution provider for data virtualization and is often seen as the ’founding father’ of the technology. The company was established in 1999, it is privately owned and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California. It has some 28 offices around the world and approaching 900 enterprise customers worldwide.

I’ve been with Denodo for some 4 years now, as Regional Vice President, based in London and responsible for leading our team in the expansion of business across northern Europe and parts of the Middle East and Africa. It has been an exciting journey, with rapid expansion, supporting companies of all sizes from SMEs to some of the world’s largest global businesses.

2. Why do you think data virtualization is important?

Organisations are facing increasing challenges from ever-growing data volumes and multiple information channels, with data sources located on-premise, in the cloud, across multiple clouds, in Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and in external data sources. Most companies that approach us talk of challenges from lack of agility, siloed data and the need for greater data insights, wanting increased self-service and faster data access. Data security and governance is also becoming a growing challenge with increased regulatory reporting, compliance and data governance needs.

Moving and copying data multiple times is no longer a practical solution for most companies and data virtualization offers an additional capability to address these trends.

3. What are the major data integration challenges faced by modern organizations?

Customers report having many challenges with data integration and data management but there are perhaps three which we see most frequently:

Firstly, we see challenges with siloed data – where legacy and on-premise systems are difficult to integrate with new cloud-based data sources. We are also seeing many multi-cloud scenarios.

  • disparate data stores often with different formats and protocols and often with limited storage capacity.
  • multiple systems with similar or duplicate functions, perhaps for different divisions or subsidiaries, often as a result of acquisitions or business autonomy.
  • systems that may be configured for access by only certain groups, departments or divisions.
  • systems that only work with specific applications, sometimes legacy.

Secondly, customers also report having difficulties with the sheer volume of data. With an estimated 50% of the world’s data having been created in the last two years many enterprises report of struggles with the vast amounts of data needing to be collected, moved and curated in a timely fashion.  The complexity of transformation and multiple storage types/locations is leading to reliability issues, rising costs and growing concerns over the delivery of value to the business. Alongside these IT issues, the business is itself demanding faster, broader access with more agility and greater insights from new data combinations in order to be faster to market and to gain competitive advantage.

Thirdly, we see the pressures on organisations to ensure data compliance. On top of GDPR, there are many regional or industry-specific requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley, MiFID, IFRS17, POPI and many others. They drive the need for increased control and audit over access, rectification, erasure and reporting. As the data grows and gets repeatedly moved and curated into new locations and for new purposes, understanding the provenance, purpose, context, permissions, timeliness and consumption of the data within the confines of these regulations gets ever-more difficult.

4. What does Denodo data virtualization platform offer?

Most traditional data integration solutions involve the movement and copying of data to new curated stores. Data virtualization offers a totally different approach. Instead of physical movement, it provides consumers with a view of the integrated data, whilst leaving the source data exactly where it is. Why copy huge volumes of data multiple times into new physical stores on the off-chance that it will be needed by the business when it can be left at the point of creation and only abstracted if and when it is needed?

Data virtualization, therefore, offers a unified and integrated view of the data only when it is needed by the consuming applications, business users, processes, etc. It integrates data from the disparate sources, different formats and locations without replication, creating a virtual data layer that delivers unified data services. This means near real-time data with faster access and less replication bringing reduced cost and far greater agility.

5. Data Virtualization would be a key part of modern organizations’ digital transformation journey. What do you think?

Data virtualization is without a doubt a key enabler for businesses, providing for the execution of queries against disparate data stores with the federation of results into different data consumers; an “hour-glass” architecture if you will, with many data sources connected to many data consumers via a common unified data virtualization layer. The data consumers tend to be query and reporting tools and applications as well as message-orientated middleware and various data management components.

There will, of course, be some cases where you do need copies of the data to be made and stored in data warehouses, for example for historic and trending purposes or if the data is not persisted in the source location when perhaps snap-shots of the data are still required for regulatory reports.

Data virtualization is therefore complementary to traditional ETL/data warehouse strategies and likewise to service bus/API tools, with all three methods of data integration complementing the other, depending on the need. Use cases where data virtualization is particularly appropriate to include cloud migration, agile BI & self-service, data services provisioning, customer-centricity/single views, applications integration, big data usage and data science/AI.

6. What sets Denodo apart from its competitors or other service providers?

Denodo Technologies is the market leader in data virtualization, whether you look at the installed base, a number of dedicated staff, years in the market, analyst views or perhaps most importantly, customer ratings. We’re passionate about what we do and are proud to have a vibrant and enthusiastic user community (as you’ll see from our customer case studies and testimonials on the web). It is both exciting and gratifying to see the transformational impact on companies when they adopt Denodo’s data virtualization. I regularly hear customers reporting improvements in development and deployment times of 80 or 90%. Whilst these efficiencies clearly help with IT costs, the biggest value-add is definitely the agility to the business and competitive advantage it brings. Why wouldn’t you include it in your data integration armoury?

7. What major trends do you foresee in the data virtualization space in the coming years?

In their data virtualization market guide, industry analysts Gartner predicted that through to 2022, 60% of all organizations will implement data virtualization as one the key delivery styles in their data integration architecture. This prediction is reflected in our own experiences where we continue to see strong demand for adoption and expansion into new use cases and from new sources.

Picking three of these areas of expansion, one would be cloud adoption & multi-cloud orchestration which continues at pace with data virtualization playing a key role in insulating business users from the changes being made by IT underneath the virtual layer. We also see growing demands for advanced analytics through Agile BI and self-service. In some organizations, this extends to big data with social media or the Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios. A further area of innovation requiring a vast number of sources is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning which is now reaching beyond chatbot applications to areas such as real-time fraud detection, improvements in operational efficiencies and, specific to banking, algo-trading and robo-investment. All of these being exciting areas for Denodo to add value.

8. What does the future look like for Denodo in 2021. Any major announcements coming up?

In 2020 we launched the acclaimed Denodo Version 8 which brought many exciting new features and widened the gap further from the rest of the data virtualization market. These are outlined on our website. For 2021 we continue to work closely with our customers on sharing roadmap plans and gaining insights from them into their future needs and trends. This ensures the continued strong customer partnerships that we enjoy and our ability to address new industry needs early. Watch this space for more innovations!

From a commercial perspective, we are seeing accelerated adoption of data virtualization across all market sectors resulting in Denodo’s average growth rate in recent years of some 50-60% per annum. This year, despite the obvious challenges of the pandemic, thanks to our many new customers and the expansion by existing users we’ve continued to grow, adding a substantial number of new staff as well as 5 new offices covering Mexico, Brazil, Russia, UAE and Saudi. We expect this trend to continue in 2021 alongside the continued expansion of the Denodo team across all locations.

9. What keeps you busy other than work?

Outside work I enjoy a mix of recreations and hobbies including cycling, sailing and flying light aircraft. This year has clearly been personally challenging for all of us and the limited opportunities for sailing yachts and piloting planes is of trivial concern given the difficulties and losses faced by many this year. I remain optimistic for 2021 and look forward to a return, not to the ‘new normal’ but to the ‘normal normal’!

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