Introducing Solix Common Data Platform

Big Data, Common Data Platform, Data Management, Enterprise Applications Comments Off

For companies to be data driven, they have to be able to process the new types of Enterprise data, be it social, IoT, machine data etc., and make real-time decisions. If companies do not evolve into data-driven organizations, they risk serious business disruption from competitors and startups.

Current Data warehouses are just not ready to be able to handle the volume, velocity and variety of this new data. New Data Lakes based on Apache Hadoop provide a low-cost answer to the problem of capturing this high volume structured/unstructured data using low-cost infrastructure and open source software. The Data Lake is a storage repository that holds a vast amount of raw data in its native format until it is needed, without imposing a data schema or requirements. When a business question arises, the data lake can be queried for relevant data, and a schema tailored to the question applied to that smaller set of data.

But, there has been significant opposition to this concept. According to Gartner, a Data Lake accepts any data, without oversight or governance. Without descriptive metadata and a mechanism to maintain it, the data lake risks turning into a data swamp. And without metadata, every subsequent use of data means analysts start from scratch. Without appropriate governance measures, Data Lakes can create a ‘data free-for-all’ that exacerbates issues of data quality and data lineage.

It is essential that semi-structured and unstructured data adhere to metadata conventions that have been formally defined by governance principles to ascertain meaning from data. Ensuring that data has uniform metadata standards enables users to understand how data relates to other data—such as how proprietary data from CRM relates to sentiment data, for example. The danger with Data Lakes is that individual end-users are liable to ascribe those attributes that they need within the specific context of their particular business problem or use, which may not follow governance conventions, to the entire data set.

Another risk is security and access control. The security capabilities of central data lake technologies are still immature. Metadata and semantics are essential for ensuring compliance with regulations governing the security, use, and location of specific kinds of data, such as personally identifiable medical information. In theory, independent data marts are no longer necessary as Data Lakes enable the enterprise to distance itself from a silo-based culture while emphasizing sharing and integration. In practice, without Metadata, data marts remain the best way to ensure regulatory compliance and adequate data security.

We believe that with a well-defined business process for data ingestion and with Information Governance, we can address the issues and make Data Lakes Enterprise-ready. Further, if you add the Enterprise Archive to the Data Lake, we can vastly expand the reach of analytics and create an Advanced Analytics Platform. We don’t believe this is a replacement strategy for the data warehouse; in fact it is more a complement to the existing investment. With that as a goal, we have been working on our new offering – Solix Common Data Platform.

Solix Common Data Platform = Enterprise Archive + Enterprise Data Lake + Information Governance

Here is the comparison on how it differs from a traditional data warehouse and a Data Lake:

Comparison on how it differs from a traditional data warehouse and a Data Lake

How to avoid tax audit disasters with print-and-archive

Big Data, Data Archiving, Data Management, Print and Archive Comments Off

Data Today and Data Then

The other day I was talking to a major distributor who had just gone through a tax audit nightmare. The taxes in question vary based on the location to which the goods were shipped. What should have been a straightforward audit turned into a complex, expensive process because in many cases the customer shipping addresses had changed over time, and the distributor’s ERP system, like most such systems, kept no historical records of those old addresses, so they could not guarantee that the invoices they generated for past shipments showed the actual shipping location.

Like most distributors and retailers, their shipping process is highly streamlined. They receive an order, generate the invoice and shipping label, and ship the product through their ERP system. When customers call in address changes, the new address is entered, from that point, every time you print any old invoice, prints with the new address. The old address is literally wiped from the distributor’s records.

This all works fine and ensures that the right invoices and products are shipped to the right location. But when the auditors arrived they quickly discovered that they could not be sure of where anything had been shipped to in past years. The problem is that many taxes, including U.S. sales tax and European VATs, vary by geographic region. But generating a duplicate invoice for a transaction from a year ago would show the customer’s present address, not necessarily the address last year. Eventually they had to restore data from old backup tapes to discover the old shipping addresses of customers. What should have been a fairly straightforward audit turned into an expensive mess.

The problem is that everything – customer name, address, VAT or U.S. sales tax registration number, all can change at any time. Few ERP systems capture changes to their master records. An invoice is a legal document that is important not just in tax audits but in lawsuits and other legal actions. It should be immutable, but in fact companies that depend on their ERP will often be unable to guarantee that a copy of a historic invoice is correct.

How can you solve this problem. The answer is print and archive, when you generate an invoice, you print and archive a digital copy with the Solix virtual printer – Solix Big Data Suite. This creates an immutable copy of the original invoice that is accessible and acceptable in an audit or other legal action. This can make your life much easier when the tax man calls.

To learn about the print stream archive and our Solix Big Data solution, please contact us.

Enterprise Data

Big Data, Data Management No Comments »

Data Today and Data Then

The world is becoming data driven. The other day I read about a first class passenger on a major airline tweeting about bad food he’d been served. This person was an important customer – a frequent flier with a large Twitter following. So this was exactly the kind of publicity that a company does not want. Fortunately the airline monitored tweets in real time, and the team immediately alerted the cabin crew on the airplane, who spent the flight pampering this passenger. By the time he landed he was so pleased that he tweeted that it was the best flight he’d ever taken. Not only had the airline kept the customer, it had turned around a publicity problem that threatened to hurt its reputation.

I was talking recently to the CIO of a large retail home improvement services company with 8,000 field service agents. The company tracks the routing of its delivery trucks for route optimization, they now want capture data from mobile phone to analyze how long each service person spends with each customer. They want to correlate the same with customer feedback and see how customer retention is being impacted.

One of the largest security issues of any company is internal espionage by employees. One of our customer, semiconductor company that monitors when employees go in and out of the office, what they print on company printers, and what data and applications they access. It analyzes this combined data to identify suspicious activity.

The point is, Enterprise data foot print is expanding, it is no longer ERP, CRM, Supply Chain and other traditional systems of record. It is streaming past on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms and generated by devices ranging from Fitbits, smartphones to sensors. There are new kinds of data from new sources and need for real time analysis to discover both potential problems and opportunities. Capturing and analyzing all this data to extract knowledge requires a scalable platform that supports all three “V”s – volume, velocity and variety of data types, at the lowest cost.

The answer to this is the Solix Big Data Suite. This includes Solix Enterprise Archive and Solix Enterprise Data Lake on top of Hadoop. If you want to discuss how your company can leverage Big Data for business advantage – Optimized infrastructure, Data Security and Advanced Analytics platform, call us.

Customer Panel Highlights: Why Our Customers are so Loyal

Application Retirement, Data Archiving Comments Off

I always like to talk with pride, why our customers are very loyal to Solix. It’s one thing to talk about our technology and high customer satisfaction, it’s another to hear it directly from customers.

Recently we conducted a group webinar with three of our customers from different industries to discuss best practices for application retirement. The full recording of the hour-long live discussion is available here

The three panel members were:

Mark Parmet, Senior Director, Finance Solutions, Avery Dennison Corp.,
Gary Frederick, Global Vice President of Application Services,
   Stanley Black & Decker, and,
Richard Ilnicki, UK Team Leader, Santander Group.

All three were targeting the same problem, retire legacy applications and reduce costs while meeting the compliance regulations: They needed to retire multiple obsolescent applications and aging hardware, while maintaining access to the data, including reports. Santander had to meet stringent compliance requirements including an absolute guarantee that the data was completely unchanged by the retirement. And it had the largest number of potential retirements because it grows mainly by acquisition. Every independent bank it buys runs on its own infrastructure, which has to be integrated into Santander’s IT environment, which always includes retiring non-standard applications.

All three needed a solution that is independent of applications, operating system, and database platform. They needed a solution that is proven and scalable for all their applications. All three started by researching the field, including talking with Gartner and other industry analysts and looked at several possible solutions including build vs buy. Mr. Ilnicki in particular said his team at Santander looked closely at a large field of vendors, analyzing the costs and other business factors involved in each before arriving at a final list.

Mr. Frederick said that after consulting with several sources his team at Stanley, Black & Decker narrowed the list of candidates to four or five, including Solix. Some offered services only, some provided services and software, but none of the others provided as robust an overall solution as Solix. Mr. Parmet said Solix integrated technology and services, provided the most cost-effective solution. Santander narrowed the choices to Solix and one other vendor and conducted a proof-of-concept with both. “Ultimately Solix provided the best value for the money in functionality and cost.”

One of the largest challenges in any technology change is selling it to the end-users, who generally do not like changes in how they are used to working. Each of the panelists, however reported that the move went very smoothly. Solix sold itself both to the IT staff and to the business users.

Today all three customers have finished their initial retirements, which in two cases involved multiple applications and at Avery Dennison involved the retirement of its financial system. All are continuing to use Solix solution for their ongoing application retirement.

If you are looking for either Data Archiving or an Application retirement solution, to clean aging, seldom-accessed data from operational databases, to improve performance, cut costs, and possibly support a move from spinning disk to flash storage, I urge you to watch the recording of this panel and learn why our customers believe Solix is the best solution.

© Solix Technologies, Inc.
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