Kathy Gibson reports from InterSystems Virtual Summit 2021 – Leveraging data to get the best possible insights is not a trivial process, which is why organisations are turning to smart data fabrics.

Scott Gnau, head of data platforms at InterSystems, explains that a smart data fabric can help organisations to build real and sustained business advantage.

“As we know, businesses today are awash with data,” he points out. This data could be generated internally or come from external sources. What makes it difficult to consume is the fact that so much of this data is siloed – with more siloes being created all the time – and often extremely volatile.

At the same time, it’s becoming more important than ever for users to gain insights from data. “Consumers are more connected today, and have high expectations. The insights they demand need to be relevant and timely,” Gnau says.

The bottom line is that organisations are looking for ways to provide a consistent, accurate, realtime view of their enterprise data assets to make better decisions.

Gnau points to two industries that epitomise the complexity facing organisations: supply chain and financial services.

Global supply chains have experienced enormous disruption over the last months. “These supply chains are built on siloed data, with a lot of integration required. There are huge spikes in demand, and consumer expectations are high.”

In financial services, volatility is growing and this industry also experiences big spikes in demand. In addition, there is a growing need to manage risk across the enterprise.

The traditional ways of managing data aren’t good enough anymore, Gnau points out.

“Today, there are lots of new types of data – including ERP systems, images, sound, weblogs and more. And there are new types of analytics – from the traditional to analytical process to deep learning and online analytics.”

All of these factors mean that the traditional data warehouse simply cannot any longer provide what organisations need.

“Today users need to know what is happening right now. And the answers and insights have to be delivered at the right time and place for the person or system downstream to take timely action.”

Importantly, this all needs to happen without the fragility of a cobbled-together solution, Gnau adds.

Some organisations aim to address these issues by implementing data lakes, or moving their data warehouses to the cloud – but these solutions may not work.

“Companies are working with new data, new types of analytics and new timelines, so the traditional solutions may not solve their problems.”

InterSystems’ vision is the smart data fabric that addresses the entire data lifecycle, from connections to data collection and refinement, and on to analysis and actionable insights.

This has to happen in an elastic and scalable footprint that works across all systems.

And, once it has collected, refined and analysed data it needs to iterate through timely new pieces or data and timely new analytics because the business never stops.

“The smart data fabric needs to get access to all data; it should capture what is relevant, refine it to make it consumable to users or other systems, plug in multiple analytics paradigms to extract value, and deliver insights at any scale at the right time,” Gnau explains.

“It sounds like magic, but we believe it needs to be able to do all these things – and do them well.”

The underlying technology needs to be multi-modal, with traceability back to the underlying data; it needs to scale extensively without adding latency; it needs to be elastic and autonomously build processing systems that synchronise memory; and an extensive analytics engine should allow any type of analytics anywhere along the chain.

“It is important to do this all in one technology footprint,” Gnau says. “And this is the definition of our smart data fabric.”

Gartner describes the enterprise data fabric as the future of data management. Smart data fabrics take this approach one step further by embedding a wide range of analytics capabilities, including data exploration, business intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning directly within the fabric, making it faster and easier for organisations to gain new insights and power intelligent predictive and prescriptive services and applications.

By allowing existing legacy applications and data to remain in place, smart data fabrics enable organisations to maximise the value from their previous technology investments, including existing data lakes and data warehouses, without having to “rip-and-replace” any of their existing technology.

The InterSystems smart data fabric is underpinned by its IRIS data platform.

“The smart data fabric is the lifeblood of decision-making,” Gnau says. “By giving people access to the information they need to make the right decisions, organisations can unleash their business potential. They will be able to scale their businesses in new ways, drive competitive advantage and discover new opportunities.”