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Leveraging Information and Intelligence

David Linthicum

MDM Becoming More Critical in Light of Cloud Computing

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Master data management (MDM) is one of those topics that everyone considers important, but few know exactly what it is or have an MDM program.    "MDM has the objective of providing processes for collecting, aggregating, matching, consolidating, quality-assuring, persisting and distributing such data throughout an organization to ensure consistency and control in the ongoing maintenance and application use of this information." So says Wikipedia.

I think that the lack of MDM will become more of an issue as cloud computing rises.    We're moving from complex federated on-premise systems, to complex federated on-premise and cloud-delivered systems.   Typically, we're moving in these new directions without regard for an underlying strategy around MDM, or other data management issues for that matter.   

As cloud computing becomes more relevant, and more data, applications, services, and processes are moved out to cloud computing platforms, the need for MDM becomes even more important.     The trouble comes in when considering that our data is already a mess before we've cloud-enabled anything.  Moreover, typically MDM is something that enterprise should do, but never find the money or the time for it.   Instead, over the years enterprises have stood up enterprise application after enterprise application without regard for the strategic health of the data.  

The use of cloud computing, while holding the promise of doing much more with less money, has the potential of driving MDM out of reach quickly.    It's tough to get those doing cloud computing to consider the overall enterprise architecture, let alone MDM.   Thus, I suspect that the issues around MDM will get worse as cloud computing continues to be a popular option for enterprise IT.    MDM will be an afterthought, and that means major money spent down the road to retrofit an MDM solution that spans from on-premise to cloud-delivered systems, and that won't be easy.     However, I'm not sure how to stop that from happening.  



I don't think you can stop cloud computing and SaaS applications.

Oddly enough, I see the movement to cloud based applications as a key motivator for master data management. As organizations grow the number of cloud based applications, they have to control the key data that they will use across those applications as well as internal apps, databases, and data warehouses.

The key to successfully doing this will be a strong foundation of data integration and data quality to integrate, match, merge, and improve the master records.

I agree with David that "issues around MDM will get worse as cloud computing continues to be a popular" - not from a perspective of IT not having the money to spend on MDM, but disparate apps on the cloud will exacerbate the need for MDM even more (Mike's point). Siperian has a few customers that are using MDM with cloud-based apps. They're doing the following 2 things-- (1) using MDM to create a single version of the truth before enabling the cloud-based apps (e.g., clean up data from multiple in-house CRM systems, and feed reliable, consistent customer data into salesforce.com) (2) Combine the customer and other data from the cloud-based apps (e.g. salesforce.com) along with internal CRM apps to create a single version of the truth to enable operational and analytical business processes. Visit http://blog.siperian.com for some good information on this subject.

I couldn't agree more. We saw what Business Process Outsourcing did with no business process integration. It fractured processes even more in many cases and sent some of the data outside the enterprise making it more difficult to get at. As applications go off premise there is a real danger MDM could get out of reach. It requires MDM to start to get implemented to get control over data. SalesForce.com data is already coming inside the enterprise via ETL tools into DWs. Several ETL vendors support this. I just don't think that there has been many bringing it back in to populate MDM. The comment by Ravi is certainly worth reading more about via his link. What it does say is that pursuing a cloud computing strategy on external cloud based virtualized servers without a data governance strategy could very well wreak havoc on any enterprise. With virtualization being high on the agenda of many CIOs, I would suggest that they should also keep an eye on risk management and compliance otherwise they could well cause make it harder to achieve trusted data. Without MDM, a clound computing deployment strategy certainly puts an Enterprise Data Quality Firewall and data integration services high up the agenda priority list!


A very insightful look into MDM, David. Could not be more relevant for the time and pace of technology.

Though, Ravi, points out some good initiatives that vendors like Siperian have adopted, I feel it might be difficult for every business to take that route due to

2.Time to "up and run" for the app.

Hence, I wonder if vendors like Siperian, Initiate and others are looking at a model where

1. They take the approach of integrating some minor aspects of data governance and stewardship as small plug-ins into cloud apps like SFDC?
2. Work on a business model that shares the "spoils" - revenues - on the "extent" of data governance and stewardship that helped the business to have "almost clean data" even while on the cloud.

But, moving forward maybe a hybrid approach of CRM+MDM might be more relevant.
More on this at this location.


Nice posting. One aspect of private cloud computing, often missed, is using MDM to access reference data (e.g. code masters, governance data and mostly static data) across the enterprise and to MDM applications in a service oriented way by hosting that data in the application servers and moving them away from the databases in which they currently resides.

Pros - Very Fast access, Reduces data deduplication, Data Quality, etc

Cons - Potential costs since this will involve hardware and deployment costs

Industry expert Dave Linthicum tells you what you need to know about building efficiency into the information management infrastructure

David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the CTO of Blue Mountain Labs, and an internationally known distributed computing and application integration expert. View more


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