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A recent study by IT analyst firm IDC estimates that the average company has 49 applications in 14 different databases that need to be integrated, and typically has no more than 20 percent of its customer data residing in any one location. IDC also reports that over the next three years the world's data will increase six fold annually.

At most companies, the number of systems continues to grow, not shrink, which is exacerbating the problem of data proliferation. Most business leaders agree that data is a critical strategic asset, yet effective management of information has remained elusive. The core of the problem is an inability to easily share data between systems or make systems work better together.

Too often, companies try to solve their interoperability issues by replacing their systems, building numerous point-to-point interfaces between them, customizing them, or trying to scale them to be the single "master" of highly shared data. These approaches are extremely disruptive and lead to overall brittleness in system integration.

By properly employing a service-oriented architecture (SOA), enterprises can leverage their existing systems, while largely leaving them alone, and create a new integration solution for more effective information sharing across disparate applications. A well-designed SOA enables a company to create a consistent, accurate and complete view of its most important data, which can enhance data quality management, improve compliance with internal and government regulations, and provide performance and agility gains.

Moreover, since services run on their own layer of infrastructure (an enterprise service bus or ESB), SOA implementations are easier and more cost effective than solutions that involve more invasive "rip and replace," point-to-point integration, or customization strategies

Even when using an SOA-based approach, the ultimate goal of strategic information management cannot be fully achieved unless specific care is taken to understand and manage the underlying data as a strategic asset. Unless special attention is paid to shared data, SOAs run the risk of failure, because the proliferation of "bad" data can actually lower the overall quality of a company's most critical information.


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