This article was originally published in The Data Warehousing Institute’s FlashPoint newsletter.
Whether you call it software-as-a-service or cloud computing, deploying enterprise applications via the Internet continues to gain momentum. In fact, pioneers such as Amazon, Google, Rackspace, Salesforce.com, and NetSuite have experienced rapid growth in demand, despite global economic uncertainty.
Although we’re still in the early days of cloud computing, its benefits are compelling. Dave Powers, Eli Lilly’s associate information consultant for discovery IT, recently said “We were … able to launch a 64-machine cluster computer working on bioinformatics sequence information, complete the work, and shut it down in 20 minutes. It cost $6.40. To do that internally–to go from nothing to getting a 64-machine cluster installed and qualified–is a 12-week process.”
Master data management (MDM) is also moving to the cloud. MDM is a set of disciplines, processes, and technologies for ensuring the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, and consistency of multiple domains of enterprise data across applications, systems, and databases, and across multiple business processes, functional areas, organizations, geographies, and channels. Note the key words: “multiple,” “across,” and “enterprise.” MDM spans multiple domains of master data and reaches across the many silos that exist in today’s enterprises, and cloud computing helps organizations integrate master data across multiple data centers in different geographies or from different acquisitions.
When I talk to people about moving MDM hubs from corporate data centers to cloud computing environments, security and compliance are by far the most frequently raised issues.
Ironically, corporate data centers may actually be less secure than cloud computing environments. Over the last few years, there have been thousands of well-publicized breeches at “household name” organizations. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has compiled an extensive list of known data breaches, along with the number of records exposed with each incident. Of course, there have also been attacks on, and breaches by, cloud computing providers such as Google, but there are far fewer of these incidents. That being said, there’s both a perception issue and a real need for improved security by cloud providers, particularly as security threats continue to grow and evolve.
When it comes to compliance, moving enterprise applications into the cloud doesn’t absolve a company from the laws and regulations it falls under compared to when the company provides that service inside its firewall. Depending on the industry involved, evaluating potential cloud providers against that industry’s compliance requirements can definitely be a nontrivial effort.
MDM vendors–Oracle, IBM, SAP, Informatica/Siperian, Initiate (an IBM company) and smaller providers–are evolving to the cloud. Oracle’s Fusion MDM hub will offer a cloud deployment capability when it ships early next year. IBM and Initiate are likely working on future versions of their products that will operate smoothly in the cloud. Informatica, having acquired Siperian, has also made major investments in cloud computing.
Security, legal, and technical issues still need to be resolved by the cloud computing providers, software vendors, systems integrators, and their enterprise customers. This will involve firewalls, encryption, backup solutions, disaster recovery, service-level agreements, and so on, but technology and legal teams are good at solving these kinds of problems.
Meanwhile, the benefits are too large to ignore. Economically, it makes more sense to share complex infrastructure and pay only for what you actually use. From a time-to-value perspective, cloud computing allows you to skip hardware procurement and capital expenditure and instead just order from a “menu.”
Maintenance and updates are a constant headache for most IT shops. Thankfully, most cloud providers continuously update their software, adding new features as they become available. As for scalability, cloud systems are built to handle sharp increases in workload. Furthermore, cloud solutions are designed to work with a simple Web browser, so users can access them from their desktops, laptops, or smartphones.
The MDM market will probably trail the rest of the enterprise a bit, but the appetite for building large, multi-million dollar applications inside the firewall is cooling. CIOs see the economics of buying, maintaining, and upgrading the applications and accompanying servers, and end up saying, “On the whole, I think I’d rather rent!”
I’d love to know what you think of the question of moving MDM into the cloud. Please click the “Leave a Comment” button and share your thoughts.