Languages are rich in the ways they help us to understand our world. But even with a precise dictionary definition, context is everything. The Inuits have a hundred words for snow. But if you lived in the tropics, why would you care?
A word we use frequently is “lifecycle” (as in the announcement we made last week of new Actifio features designed to help automate DevOps across the full “lifecycle” of application data). But the word immediately conjures different notions depending upon your frame of reference. (Does the word make you immediately think of the 2008 album “Lifecycle” by the Yellowjackets? Probably not, unless you’re a jazz fan.) “Lifecycle” meanings can range across the context of business, science, academia, software development, engineering, arts and entertainment.
Wikipedia has a wonderful word they use to address the different contexts and the multiple meanings of some words when used as a search term. It’s “disambiguation” – “removing uncertainty of meaning.” However, even the narrow arena of information technology contains different contexts for “lifecycle”. Although they’re still best understood as connected. Nested. If you’re dealing with information lifecycles they don’t stand-alone. They’re linked to engineering, software, business, markets, and even enterprise lifecycles. They’re connected. Interdependent.
Information lifecycles are integral to business transactions. Information is typically most valuable in the early stages, just as it is created. A sale is made, a prescription written, a test taken and scores recorded. As the transactions complete and the data saved, there’s a lull. But that data becomes important again when quarterly results are tabulated or the time comes for annual checkups or report cards. In the context of data storage, some used to call this “ILM”, Information Lifecycle Management. It was the idea that that data would be moved up and down storage tiers based upon currency and importance. Automating that movement would help to manage performance and price. (It also had a positive impact on energy consumption because the denser storage tiers consumed less energy per gigabyte.) But now Actifio has a better way. We virtualize the data, which eliminates unneeded copies and saves many terabytes of physical storage.
In order for the enterprise information lifecycle to flow, it requires a host of applications that record, process, analyze and control data. And, as the amount of data has exploded, so has the number of apps. It’s estimated that as many as 2000 new applications are released daily. They cover manufacturing, social media, analytics, mobile, collaboration and even games. And because the information lifecycle is tied to application lifecycle is tied to business lifecycle – all are tied to revenue. Together they’re indispensible in making an enterprise function.
Its no wonder that businesses want to accelerate every phase of the application lifecycle – development, management, refresh, decommissioning. But there are obstacles. The difficulty is that application lifecycles often have built-in and time consuming obstructions. Most critically, there’s a lack of rapid access to valid production data. Without it, initial application development and continued care becomes problematic. Slow. One Gartner survey placed the speed of application development as the #1 priority for most businesses. Yet they’ll continue to suffer without new approaches that can streamline their processes and overcome application development backlogs.
With all of this, businesses are understandably impatient. Missed opportunities mean missed revenues. Developers can waste weeks – even months – waiting for storage provisioning, data transfers, masking and data refresh. Production applications also can necessitate complex, sometimes conflicting requirements to provide data access across enterprise infrastructure that interfere with development and operations. And later, when applications are retired, regulations and analytics require that data access and security continue to be maintained.
So let’s go back to our discussion of multiple lifecycles. Because information management (and its lifecycle) is dependent upon applications, there is a heavy burden on application developers to provide modern, integrated, worry free applications in a very short time frame. And they need to reiterate quickly with new features, functions and competitive benefits. Their ability to do so has an impact on business flow, which in turn impacts revenue and the lifecycle – the viability – of an enterprise. Data virtualization provides the transformative potential to meet that need.
In the next few blog posts, we’ll break it down and provide examples of businesses already doing it with some inspiring results.