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May 27, 2008

Thoughts From the IDUG Conference

This past week the 2008 IDUG North America conference was held in Dallas. This was the conference's 20th anniversary, and as usual it was an impressive event.

In the keynote address, Arvind Krishna, IBM vice president of Data Management and Worldwide Information Management Development, and Curt Cotner, IBM fellow, vice president and CTO for Database Servers, shared IBM's vision for data management and information management development.

Krishna presented a vision of where information management is going. He noted that over the past decade, companies have spent considerable time and money automating business processes like supply-chain management, call-center operations, customer-relationship management (CRM), enterprise-resource planning (ERP) and package tracking. Now many of these companies are moving from a focus of business-process automation to business optimization in an effort to gain greater business insight through their data. Some companies have built costly systems to extract this data and move it to a data warehouse for discovery. However, this can be time-consuming and costly, and it doesn't provide for real-time information. The idea behind business optimization is to--rather than throw out what you have and start over--provide access to your existing heterogeneous data sources with integration across these silos of information to provide real business insight in real time.

Then Cotner explained the technology that's being used to make this vision a reality. He talked about the problems companies have with portability of people with skills to develop on systems using these different silos of data found in IMS, DB2, Oracle or SQL Server. The solution, he said, is Data Studio, an integrated development environment (IDE) that developers can use to support the full life cycle of development.

Cotner talked about the regulatory climate and the need to manage the life of your data. He pointed out that your company is at risk of being sued if you keep data longer than what is legally required. If you're required to keep the data for seven years, you should purge anything older than that. If you keep the data for 10 years and someone files a lawsuit. you must provide all of the data--not just seven years' worth. This is just another form of risk management. The other area companies are dealing with is sensitive data in test environments. The reality is that companies need to be aware that keeping credit-card information in test environments is no longer OK. If you don't mask this data, your company is at risk of losing business.

Finally, Cotner discussed how XML is the glue that will tie these systems together. He said that, as a leader in this area, IBM continues to look for new ideas. To promote XML research, the company is having a "Search for the XML Superstar" contest. Details on this will emerge in the coming months. IDUG has a small news item about the contest on its Web site.