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Addressing the data problem in a DevOps world

Organizations adopting DevOps principles and moving toward the new world of cloud-native applications may be overlooking an important element in this modernization push: the data problem.

That’s the thinking of Jeff Bozic, principal architect in Insight Enterprises’ cloud and data center division. Data management, he said, involves a host of issues, not the least of which is the basic question of where does the data exist in a complex hybrid IT environment.

“It’s a big challenge and it’s only going to get worse as we create more data,” Bozic said.

Data problem: key factors

A number of factors contribute to the data problem. Bozic cited the DevOps movement, public cloud adoption, microservices-based applications residing in containers, new data sources such as IoT streams, and the pressure to create dynamic apps that react faster to user needs.

Those considerations put a strain on traditional data flows, databases and extract, transform, load (ETL) processes, according to Bozic. The newer development techniques, application models and performance expectations raise data-centric questions for organizations.

“How do these data structures need to start changing, and how do the databases need to start changing?” Bozic asked “How do I protect that data?  Maybe my traditional data protection solution may not make sense. The disaster recovery process may not make sense. I want apps to be portable to run in different clouds; data may have to start moving. How do I know where it is, and how do I follow it?”

Cultural barriers

Blithely acquiring more up-to-date database technology — NoSQL offerings versus traditional relational databases, for example — may not be the answer, however. Similarly, organizations that immediately attack data structure as a point problem, without paying attention to the broader organizational context, may be in for some difficulty, Bozic suggested. He emphasized the importance of getting various internal teams talking together as a precursor to fixing the data problem.

Bozic pointed to Agile as a method for breaking down silos within an organizations and getting the database team, the infrastructure team, the security team and other groups working together to take on challenges. Breaking down cultural barriers is the first step toward understanding how to change an enterprise’s data structure and paving the way toward cloud-native development patterns, he noted.

Success is unlikely “if you don’t have the culture of becoming Agile and processes in place and cross-functional teams,” Bozic explained.

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