Judith Hurwitz discusses critical business issues facing today's enterprises, the role of open source databases in the information management space, anticipation management, and cloud computing
Bob Zurek: Welcome to Database Radio. I'm Bob Zurek, CTO of EnterpriseDB and your host of Database Radio. Today we would like to welcome Judith Hurwitz, who is a well-known analyst and founder of Hurwitz & Associates, an independent business consulting firm. Judith is also co-author of the book Service-Oriented Architecture for Dummies. Welcome, Judith!
Judith Hurwitz: Thank you so much, Bob.
BZ: You've been actively engaged in helping many businesses focus on the topic of information management. What are some of the critical business issues facing today's enterprises as they tackle this big growth in data?
JH: Organizations have more data than they've ever had before. I think the difference right now is not just the volume of data, but the forms of data. We get data not just from traditional customer databases, but from our partners, from data sources, from information coming over the web from customer suppliers and customers, from information coming from social networking sites that talk about our companies and what they're doing and how I as a customer might feel about them ... so there are so many sources of data that it really has exploded.
BZ: I guess a lot of that is in the form of unstructured data, as you point out.
JH: Yes, there is so much unstructured data. There have been many statistics out there that report that as much as eighty percent of a company's data is actually unstructured. Put that in perspective with everything else we're dealing with around data, the fact that we have so much data that does not have that traditional database format makes it very challenging for organizations because that's critical information in truly getting an understanding of your organization.
BZ: What role do you see open source databases playing in the information management landscape, and what do you think is driving their adoption?
JH: We're seeing more and more organizations looking to open source databases not just as a tool to experiment with, but also as the foundation of their data management strategy. I think probably the biggest driver for that is that we're out of the era where the open source database was basically dangerous; it was not well-documented, it was not well-maintained, and you used it at your own risk. Today's open source databases are really professional products, managed and run as professional businesses, but they have the added support of a very active, sophisticated community behind them.
BZ: As organizations pursue the use of open source databases, what advice do you give organizations that are exploring or beginning to experiment with them?
JH: My biggest advice is that all open source databases or technologies are not created equal. You can get yourself in a lot of trouble if you just pick up something and think, "Well, it's open source, so it must be okay." You really have to do your homework. You have to vet that product the same as you would any product that you would bring into your organization. What has been fearful in my eyes is a failed product, a failed company that says, "I know how we can solve our problems. We will just open source our product and therefore we can live another day." These are dangerous types of open source offerings because they don't have a strong technical community behind them, they don't have a company that backs it up with support and other resources. So you really do have to do your homework.
BZ: You recently introduced your blog readers to the topic of 'anticipation management.' Can you tell us a little bit more about this subject?
JH: It's really the aspiration of what IT management and business management want to get out of their data. Yes, they want the monthly report that says, "We sold ten widgets in five states, and that's how we did last month" or "We initiated a new marketing campaign and we got a ten percent response rate." That's the traditional way we've thought about using that data. But what business management really wants to do is to say, "Okay, we have all this data about our customers: what they bought before, what they're asking us, what they're sending us email about, what they're blogging to each other about, what they're saying on these different sites where people form little communities about our product. What does all this information tell us about what we should be introducing in the future? What products are they going to want to buy in three years?" So if you can use your data sources as a way to anticipate where markets are going, or where your customers are going, or where your competitors are going, and use that as a real planning tool, you will be able to leapfrog the competition. That's what I mean by 'anticipation management.'
BZ: What are your thoughts on cloud computing?
JH: If you think about the evolution of computing as a service, if we look historically, we in the industry have been talking about this ideal of utility computing for at least the last fifteen or twenty years, but it was always an ideal. And if we track this back fifteen, twenty years ago when we started to have this notion of an application service provider, we had big data centers that basically provided organizations with what they called "ping, power, and pipe." It's really building on that. The difference that we are reaching is, if you think about where we've been with software as a service, cloud computing really has started with that, where you no longer have applications that you own that are in your own data center. Companies like Salesforce.com create a cloud that runs that application for you. You don't have to do the backups, you don't have to do the updates to software; that is handled as a service remotely, and vendor controls that. I think we're still early, I think it will be a phenomenal transition in technology, but I think it will not be without risks, because not all clouds will be created equal. So I do think it will be a very important trend.
BZ: Do you have any additional words of advice with regard to their information management strategies?
JH: I think information management strategies are more important than ever. They really are the crown jewels of your company. When used and managed appropriately, they will tell you everything you need to know about your customers, about your suppliers and your partners. They really are the keys to your kingdom. It's not like, "I've got a database, I've got a warehouse - I'm all set!" They really are the keys to the kingdom.
BZ: I want to express my personal appreciation for participating in today's Database Radio podcast, and hope we have an opportunity to speak with you again soon about your industry views and perspectives. This is Bob Zurek, your host of Database Radio. Thanks for listening, and all the best.