2005: The Year We Hog-Tie Data

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-12-30

2005: The Year We Hog-Tie Data

One good bet for a 2005 prediction: Companies are going to get scared into buying something—anything—to help them get a handle on information management.

We can thank the fruition of an alphabets soup worth of regulations for that: HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Basel II.

Do those sound like old hat? Yesterdays news? The fact of the matter is that organizations are still struggling to reach compliance by getting their data reporting, storage, tracking and auditing processes under control.

For example, as eWEEK.com Bio and Healthcare IT Editor Stacy Lawrence reported back in May, IT consultancies at that time found that nearly all relevant parties in the health care system were still working to become HIPAA-compliant—and thats a full eight years after the legislation was signed into law.

The pattern repeats. eWEEK Senior Writer Dennis Callaghan found that as the June deadline for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance neared, U.S. companies were scurrying for compliance, finding it both more costly and more laborious than they originally anticipated.

Whereas Forrester Research just released dour estimates for IT spending in 2005—it found that SMBs expect to spend 4.8 percent on IT, lower than the 6.6 percent Forrester previously forecasted—the analyst firm also found that 61 percent of SMBs are planning to deploy or upgrade major application software packages and that they place a notable importance on doing so.

Mark Warzecha, an analyst for Meta Group, predicted that well see that money come trickling into software licensing expenditures during the second half of 2005, once organizations have a handle on what theyre doing in terms of organizational risks vis-à-vis regulatory compliance.

Thats why were seeing companies like EMC, IBM and Oracle diving into the area of dealing with information from an archiving perspective.

Their histories reveal their plans: EMC, for one, is on a frantic buying spree. Over the past 18 months, it picked up backup provider Legato, content-management provider Documentum and processor virtualization vendor VMware, and just before Christmas it revealed that it will grab the network systems management player System management ARTS.

Put those all together, and you come up with a company thats going to be well-positioned to vie with IBM and Oracle in the realm of document lifecycle management. IBM and Oracle, meanwhile, are both pursuing what theyre describing as Google-like enterprise search technologies that feature a wealth of BI, what with Oracles dashboard-endowed Files 10g and IBMs recently disclosed work on the next generation of the DB2 database.

Next Page: BI, BI everywhere.

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Warzecha thinks that Adobe is well-positioned to benefit from what he sees as being a regulatory-inspired buying spree in 2005, as well. He pointed to what the company has done around .PDFs, what with the ability to combine .PDF documents that contain an audit history with the ability to change the digital rights of the object and to secure the object when its outside the owners control.

For enterprises in this post-Enron era, thats gold. Say youre dealing with a merger or acquisition, for example. What prevents someone from distributing a sensitive document to 20,000 of their closest friends? Conversely, what if its locked down, and you need to distribute it to 20,000 associates or partners? Adobe has come up with some very clever ways to deal with these issues, Warzecha says.

Another easy 2005 prediction: BI will be everywhere. Janet Perna, IBMs information management group general manager, is painting 2005 as the year when databases come into their own with business intelligence. "Its important to our customers, more and more so: Information is becoming central to them and their ability to compete," she told me recently. "If you look at the whole focus that companies have today on growing revenue and growing the top line, it requires they be able to sense and respond more quickly to changes in the environment, to new opportunities they have for services and products, for competitive threats in the environment.

"The ability to leverage information and gain insight from information becomes very, very important in their ability to compete," she said. "That requires more than a database. It requires the ability for them to search, analyze and gain insight from all information available to them. Thats why the whole notion of information infrastructure and the broad topic of information management have become so important and why weve invested so much in the past 10 years."

Both companies say they were the first to do it and are being aped by the other, but Oracle is in lockstep with IBM on the BI front going into 2005. Judging by attendees reaction to Oracle BI 10g at its Oracle OpenWorld unveiling, these BI-fortified databases are going to be hot in the coming year.

One attendee, Randy Zenk, team leader of database administration at health insurer Priority Health, told me he was delighted and amazed by the technologys ability to touch the database, pull in data and modify a report.

Im predicting that information management headaches are also going to drive database users toward these new BI-beefed-up databases as they try to do two things: The first is that theyll streamline the awful mishmash of BI servers, applications and databases and get it down to one, consolidated BI platform, as users have been threatening to do for some time.

Next Page: Why customers want what the vendors are selling.

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The second is that theyll try to apply some type of relevance to the ocean of data in which theyre drowning. Like Oracle user Jack Biliter II said to me at OpenWorld, Oracle BI 10g is a step in the right direction when it comes to figuring out which specific data in the companys ocean of data is relevant. "Weve gone through several phases of being inundated with data," said Biliter, vice president of planning and analysis for EverBank Financial, a private holding company. "Whats worth looking at?"

BI 10gs capability of setting up "stoplights"—i.e., the ability to set parameters around data that flags when sales are slipping too low in a given area or time frame, for example—would help departments start analyzing data more efficiently, as they narrow down their focus to whats really important. For example, when a sales region is doing well, cells in a table turn green. When they slip below a specified limit, cells turn red.

Whats the central theme for 2005? This is the year were going to hog-tie data. Were going to figure out whats really important. Were going to figure out what to do with the damn stuff to avoid getting into trouble with regulations. Were going to figure out what e-mail to delete, how to track who did what with it, and were going to be turning to a very smart new generation of databases to help.

Finally, were going to send our prayers to PeopleSoft employees. Make a New Years resolution right now, as a matter of fact. This is how it goes: You are going to network like mad to make sure those who get laid off are working soon thereafter.

Maybe Larry Ellison is right about the need to consolidate, or maybe hes wrong. From what I can see, it looks like the world in the coming year will be ripe for innovation—and well need all the help we can get.

Write to me at lisa_vaas@ziffdavis.com.

eWEEK.com Associate Editor Lisa Vaas has written about enterprise applications since 1997.

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