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By Thomas Been
By Thomas Been, Chief Marketing Officer, DataStax
The concept of real-time data has been around for a while. “Reactive apps” were promoted in the early 2000s as the next big thing that would drive customized experiences for customers and increase enterprise competitiveness. Back then, it was a great vision–but it was just that, a vision.
Yet, as we’ve often seen, technology has an amazing way of bringing a vision to life—in better ways that we might have anticipated.
Enterprises have been working at digital transformation for well over a decade, and I’d argue that it’s only recently that organizations have homed in on modernizing their data architectures. Reducing complexity by putting data in a consistent, standardized format that enables its use in real-time is driving this latest wave of digital transformation.
Why is the time for real-time data now? Two reasons: because the technology is finally here, and real-time data powers our in-the-moment, digital lives.
The importance of immediacy
When the concept of reactive apps was promoted in the 90s, the technology hadn’t been developed to bring the concept to mainstream reality. Eventing worked in highly specialized use cases, but it didn’t garner wide adoption. It was hampered by a lack of standards, high costs, and a resulting lack of developer adoption.
A lot has changed since then. Technological advances from internet pioneers like Facebook and Yahoo!, the establishment of cloud, and contributions from the open source community have made the promise of real-time data a reality.
Immediacy has never been more important. The world has changed, and we all expect our data to create instant intelligence and actions. Real-time data applications are today’s engines of innovation, automating operational decisions and creating the in-the-moment digital experiences customers demand. They are the new competitive advantage that increases as data grows. Unleashing the value of real-time data is today’s enterprise superpower.
Remember shopping online and it was all but impossible to know when a purchase might arrive? There was no way to digitally track a package across its journey. Remember watching only local television and not having a line up of recommended shows based on your watch history?
Those days are over. Brand name disruptors like Starbucks, Netflix, Uber, Priceline, T-Mobile, The Home Depot — and virtually every company is operationalizing real-time data and building industry-disrupting businesses atop it. Those who aren’t are feeling the pressure and scrambling to figure out how to compete with their data-first, digital rivals.
Here’s what we’ve learned in our discussions with CIOs, CTOs, and CDOs about how they use data.
The world operates in real time
Consumers expect immediate updates to the order they placed online just two minutes ago and they demand real-time shipment tracking. When a person logs into Netflix or Hulu, they expect to see personalized show recommendations based on their Squid Game or Virgin River watch history.
It’s not only consumer applications that are leveraging real-time data to compete and win. Business leaders are tracking inventory minute-by-minute, detecting fraud and tracking vehicle fleets around the world. A 2021 research report of over 500 IT leaders revealed that 62 percent believe their real-time data strategy is to differentiate or lead. Another 62 percent gave a top-box rating of the competitive importance of real-time data over the next two years.
Bottom line, real-time has not only become the baseline expectation of people in their daily lives, but a new way to win against the competition for every modern-day business.
Real-time data: The data that matters
Real-time data is available, consumed, or used in the moment. It can be either “data in motion” — streaming from IoT devices or within an enterprise data ecosystem or “data at rest” (captured in a database).
With the momentum behind companies like Snowflake and Databricks, there’s been a lot of focus recently on storing a deluge of data in warehouses or lakes and mining it with sophisticated analytics for future intelligence. These insights can be quite valuable; they’re essentially today’s version of business intelligence (BI). However, while this type of data informs the business, real-time data is the data that runs the business. It’s arguably the data that matters—powering the modern day applications that are part of our daily lives and helps us make instantaneous business decisions on the fly.
In a recent podcast, Ventana Research’s Dave Menninger pointed out, “Historical databases don’t go away, but they become a thing of the past. They store the data that occurred previously. And as data is occurring, we’re going to be processing it, we’re going to be analyzing it, we’re going to be acting on it. I mean we only ever ended up with historical databases because we were limited by the technology that was available to us.”
Data should accelerate innovation—not slow it down
For many enterprises, data and IT architecture complexity are inhibitors to harnessing and activating real-time data. A company’s most valuable data is generated through billions of interactions with customers and devices each day. Yet the data remains isolated in a rapidly growing number of siloed and distributed operational databases making it expensive to license, difficult to maintain and nearly impossible to scale. In fact, nearly 43 percent of IT leaders surveyed gave a top-box rating to having a modern data stack to unlock a trove of data value, reduce IT costs and drive incremental revenues.
Enterprises that are succeeding are simplifying their data architectures by decreasing the number of operational databases and standardizing on a unified stack.
2022: Real-time data gets real
I believe that 2022 will be the year of real-time data, delivered through a convergence of streaming technologies and operational databases. And I’m not alone. DbInsights analyst Tony Baer recently noted that:
“In the coming year, we expect to see streaming and operational systems come closer together. The benefit would be to improve operational decision support by embedding some lightweight analytics or predictive capability.”
As we venture into 2022, I am confident that data-driven applications will drive more real-time data usage and automation. Companies need to look at simplifying for the long haul to take full advantage of the value and benefits. Empowering developers with data and maintenance-free database technologies will be key to operationalizing real-time data.
The future is bright and tapping the power of real-time data via a modern data stack can empower developers to drive future innovations, provide global scale beyond imagination and deliver dramatic infrastructure cost savings.
Thomas leads marketing at DataStax. He has helped businesses transform with data and technology for more than 20 years, in sales and marketing leadership roles at Sybase (acquired by SAP), TIBCO, and Druva.