Data acts as the foundation of organisations across the globe, but as more data is produced and customer demands grow, how that data is managed, analysed and used becomes more complex.
A hybrid data management system is required to make sense of the ever-increasing influx of data from various sources within organisations.
Actian is one company that makes it possible to analyse data from multiple data sources – hybrid data management.
It spun out of Ingres years ago, and now is a $100m turnover/300 employee database management, data integration and analytics vendor – focused at the very big end of big data management, integration and analytics.
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Actian also helps companies to take ‘hybrid’ data spread across multiple cloud and on-premise systems and keep it synchronised for the many hundreds of cloud and on-premise applications and analytics platforms that today’s modern, large businesses run. Attaining this holistic view of an organisation is a major challenge.
Following a somewhat turbulent management during 2016, the then CEO and some of the executive team at Actian left. A new CEO – Rohit De Souza – and a largely new team is leading Actian and its customers in a new direction.
In an interview with Information Age, De Souza and members of his executive team – Jeff Veis, SVP, Marketing and John Bard, Senior Director of Marketing – discussed this transition and the launch of Actian X – the first combined big data platform that combines both an operational/transaction processing database, with a fast analytics engine – all on one platform.
The name of the game is speed, and this platform provides real-time analytics for applications like fraud detection in real-time transactional data streams (banks) and real time personalised offers to customers in stores.
In the interview, the Actian executive team ran through a number of case studies, where hybrid data management helped run and improve operations. For example, the Irish revenue is tracking tax-return fraud through analysis of data, and Oxford University uses it for huge analytics of genetic data on ½ million people to hunt for genetic causes of diseases and early death to help save lives.
Is hybrid data management now a necessity?
De Souza: Absolutely. If you think about applications today, whether they be in manufacturing trying to do predictive analytics on the supply chain or optimise supply chains, or whether you’re talking about fraud detection in finance or insurance, or real-time dynamic pricing – these things don’t just need information from your typical transaction systems. They’re reliant on social interactions from open source systems, machine observations from all sorts of real-time systems and this includes extraction or processing of information from traditional enterprise systems.
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All these things are taken together to provide real-time inside-driven applications. The phenomenon here that we see is businesses trying to drive these applications – these pieces of data is now flattened across the organisation – no longer present in one single large repository deep in the enterprise, but they come from a number of different places really spread across the enterprise.
It’s now incumbent on the company/companies that claim that want to profit from this information to be able to extract it, process it and analyse it from these multiple sources in multiple formats to really drive some of these insights.
Can you talk about what exactly is ‘real-time’?
De Souza: A lot has been made of real-time. Real-time is individual based on different needs. The issue is that the information is available to you when you need to activate it and when you need to act on it. So, you can act on the information in the time horizon that you need to produce a different result. Not everything needs to be ‘real-time’. This type of system help with compliance requirements, like those from the impending GDPR.
Actian has a largely new boardroom, what direction are you taking the company in?
De Souza: The company has been around a while and the board isn’t completely new – we have a couple of people who have been on the board for quite a while.
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Actian was previously and still is to an extent private equity led, and it has gone through and acquired a number of companies in the data management, integration and analytics spaces. But we never pulled all of these assets together into one common framework, with a series of assets that help manage various sets of data of various different types. That is what we are doing today, and we’re driving this into hybrid data management arena.
Can you tell me about some of the Actian’s case studies?
Bard: We do have a number of success stories in the UK. One of the ones we have for the new ActianX product – which is the hybrid database that we offer – concerns Oxford University.
Oxford University has a clinical trial service unit – part of the Nuffield public health department. They collect data from over 5,000 data points for half a million patients to help them evaluate what factors contribute to premature death and provides a lot of information to the public health community to understand the effectiveness of different environmental factors or different treatment regiments for clinical trials.
They’ve been an Ingress user for a long time and they’ve also used Vector to do data analysis on their different data sets, and when they did their trial of ActianX, which combines those two technologies together they found it was a real game changer for them. It reduced their workload, it gave them increased access to more accurate data and allowed them to complete their analysis more quickly. They were very pleased with the technology and the solution that they got from us.
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The Irish Revenue Commissioners is another example that is the equivalent of the IRS in the US or HMRC in the UK. They run the country on the database technology that we provide them with to manage their tax system.
Unlike most smaller companies the technology that we are providing is enterprise intensive in mission critical environments. For example, with the Irish Revenue Commission, the country runs on Actian. In essence if our stuff doesn’t work, they either don’t collect revenue or the customs services go down. To this point they haven’t had an issue with us – since the early 1990’s.
In the closing comments of the interview, Bard suggested that a fundamental shift in computing is taking place.
‘A lot of people have been talking about big data, they’ve been talking about cloud, and computing on the edge with IoT. These are all very important pieces, but they are pieces. What we saw was, again and again, with both legacy customers who have been doing computing for awhile and startups is that they need to connect these pieces together. They need to do it in a way that is a real shift from the days of past, where data integration was a very painful term. It meant things going slow. It made complexity, and what we saw was that rather than just deal with the fact that you may have decentralised systems and diverse systems, companies needed to put this strategy together for hybrid data.’
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‘Where we’re unique is that we’re one of the few companies that does three things really well: data management, data analytics and data integration. We needed to bring those technologies together.’
‘ActianX is the first native transactional database that has real-time analytics embedded in it. Being able to do real-time analytics on the fly is a breakthrough from an economic and a technological standpoint. This is the next big shift, and we want to be synonymous with it in the UK, because it’s the centre of so many industries that prides itself on IT to drive up government and commercial initiatives.’
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