Data virtualization is a technology that enables organizations to manage, integrate, and analyze their data by providing a logical view of the data that can be accessed from multiple sources as if it were a single, unified database.
In today’s digital business environment, enterprise data is generated and collected from a wide range of sources, including internal systems and processes, external partners and customers, and third-party data sources. This data can be structured, such as data stored in a traditional database, or unstructured, such as documents, images, and video files.
This data is often stored in a variety of different locations, including on-premises servers and storage systems, as well as in the cloud. As a result, it can be challenging for organizations to get a comprehensive view of their data and to manage and analyze it effectively. Data virtualization can be a useful tool for addressing this challenge.
What is Data Virtualization?
Data virtualization is a concept in which data from multiple, disparate sources is integrated and made available for access as if it were a single, unified data store. It allows for the creation of a virtual data layer (VDL) that can be accessed and queried by applications and users without the need to replicate or move the data from its original source physically.
This virtual layer is responsible for abstracting the data from the underlying physical data sources, making it appear as if it is coming from a single data source.
Data virtualization is often used in conjunction with other data management and integration technologies, such as data lakes, data warehouses, and data integration tools. It can be particularly useful for organizations that have a large and diverse data environment, with data stored in a variety of formats and locations.
Data virtualization has a number of benefits that make it useful for a variety of industries:
- Increased agility: Data virtualization allows organizations to quickly and easily access data from multiple sources without requiring complex and time-consuming data integration processes. This can help organizations make faster and more informed decisions based on a more complete view of their data.
- Reduced complexity: Simplifies the process of accessing and integrating data from multiple sources, which can help reduce complexity and improve efficiency.
- Enhanced security: It also helps improve data security by allowing organizations to access data without physically moving or copying it. This can help reduce the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive data.
- Increased scalability Allows organizations to scale up their data integration easily and analysis efforts as their needs change without needing additional hardware or infrastructure.
- Reduced data duplication: Data virtualization can help to reduce the need to physically replicate data, which can save on storage and computing resources. It can also help to reduce the risk of errors and inconsistencies that can arise from duplicating data.
And also data virtualization concept can be used to enable real-time analytics, data-driven decision-making, and agile data management. This can be particularly useful in industries where data is constantly changing, such as finance or e-commerce.
Data virtualization can also support data governance and compliance efforts by allowing organizations to more easily track and control access to data, as well as ensure that data is being used in a compliant manner. For example, it can enable organizations to enforce data access controls and apply data masking or redaction to sensitive data.
How Data Virtualization is Done
Data Virtualization is typically done using specialized software or tools or by building custom solutions. There are several approaches to implementing data virtualization, including:
Using a data virtualization server:
One common approach to implementing data virtualization is to use a data virtualization server. Data virtualization servers can be accessed through a web-based interface or through APIs.
They can be used in conjunction with various data sources, including databases, flat files, and cloud-based data stores. This can be useful in situations where data needs to be shared across departments or organizations or where data from multiple sources need to be integrated for analysis or reporting.
Building a custom data virtualization solution:
In some cases, organizations may choose to build their own data virtualization solution using custom software or tools. This can involve creating a custom data integration layer that sits between the data sources and the users or applications that need to access the data.
Using cloud-based data virtualization services:
Cloud-based data virtualization services, such as those offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, allow organizations to access and integrate data from multiple sources without the need to build or maintain their own data virtualization infrastructure.
Steps in Data Virtualization
The process of data virtualization typically involves the following steps:
#1. Identify data sources
The first step in implementing data virtualization is to identify the data sources that need to be accessed and integrated. These data sources may be databases, files, applications, or other sources of data.
#2. Connect to data sources
The next step is to connect to the data sources and extract the data that needs to be virtualized. This may involve using connectors or drivers to access the data and may require configuring access permissions and authentication.
#3. Transform and cleanse the data
Once the data has been extracted, it may need to be transformed and cleansed to ensure that it is in a usable format. This may involve applying transformations or data quality rules to the data or removing duplicates or invalid records.
#4. Create the virtual data layer
The virtual data layer is the central component of a data virtualization solution. It involves creating a virtual view of the data that can be accessed and queried without actually moving or copying it from its original location. This may involve creating logical data models or views that map to the underlying data sources.
#5. Access and query the virtual data
Once the virtual data layer has been created, users and applications can access and query the data using standard SQL or other query languages. The virtual data layer translates the queries into the appropriate format for the underlying data sources and returns the results to the user or application.
#6. Monitor and maintain the virtual data layer
Data virtualization solutions typically include tools and processes for monitoring and maintaining the virtual data layer. This may involve tracking changes to the underlying data sources and updating the virtual data layer to reflect these changes. It may also involve optimizing the virtual data layer for performance and ensuring that it is aligned with changing business needs and requirements.
Data Virtualization vs. Data Visualization
Data virtualization and data visualization are two different concepts that are often used in conjunction with each other, but they serve different purposes. Here are some key differences between data virtualization and data visualization:
|Data Virtualization||Data Visualization|
|Enables access to and integration of data from multiple sources||Presents data in a graphical or visual format to help people understand and interpret the data|
|It involves creating a virtual view of data that can be accessed and queried without moving or copying the data||Involves selecting and transforming data to create charts, graphs, or other visualizations|
|Provides a virtual data layer or interface that can be accessed by users or applications||Produces graphical or visual outputs that can be viewed by people|
|Often used in scenarios where data is stored in multiple locations, formats, or systems or where it is not practical to consolidate the data physically||Often used to communicate complex ideas, highlight key insights, or support decision making|
|This may involve using specialized software or tools, building custom solutions, or using cloud-based services||This may involve using tools such as charts, graphs, maps, or infographics, as well as techniques such as data manipulation, aggregation, and transformation|
|It can help to reduce data duplication and latency and improve data integration and interoperability||It can help to reveal patterns, trends, and relationships that may not be immediately apparent in raw data|
|It can be used to support data governance and compliance efforts|
It can be used to present data in an engaging and interactive way
|Can help to enable agile data management|
Can help to communicate data-driven insights to a wider audience
In practice, data virtualization and data visualization are often used together. Data virtualization can provide the data needed for visualization, and visualization can provide a more intuitive and interactive way to explore and understand the data.
For example, a business might use data virtualization to access and integrate data from multiple sources and then use data visualization to create charts, graphs, or dashboards that help to reveal insights and trends in the data.
Use Cases of Data Virtualization
Here are a few use cases of data virtualization.
Data Preparation: Data virtualization can be used to prepare data for analysis or other purposes by providing a virtual view of the data that can be accessed and transformed as needed. For example, a data scientist might use data virtualization to access and integrate data from multiple sources and then apply transformations or data quality rules to the data to prepare it for analysis.
Cloud Data Sharing: It is also used to share data stored in the cloud across different teams or departments within an organization. This can help ensure that everyone has access to the data they need while also reducing the need to replicate the data.
Data hub Enablement: Data virtualization can be used to create a centralized data hub that allows users to access and integrate data from multiple sources.
For example, an organization may use data virtualization to create a data hub that integrates data from various business systems, such as ERP, CRM, and HR systems, to support data-driven decision-making.
The data hub can be accessed by users and applications through virtualized views, which can help reduce the complexity of accessing and integrating data from multiple sources.
Data virtualization can improve agility, flexibility, and data quality while reducing costs and improving security. It has many applications and uses cases across a wide range of industries, including finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and government.
Considering implementing data virtualization in your organization, it is important to evaluate your data sources carefully, choose the right data virtualization tool, and set up and optimize your data virtualization system to meet your business needs.
I hope you found this article helpful in learning data virtualization. You may also be interested in learning about virtualization monitoring tools.