Understanding the rise of data-as-a-service

Data-as-a-service, or DaaS, is data that is available to users on demand over a network, using the cloud. The technology allows for effective storage of masses of data that software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications sometimes can’t.

“Everything about data has exploded in the last ten years, and famously, there is more of it, but we are also able to extract more value from it thanks to cheaper and more accessible processing power and storage,” said Charlie Davies, CEO of TravelTime.

“As the consumption of data continues to rise, so does data as a service as a way to solve business processes and influence decision making.

“Data has become the currency of the digital economy. And in the future, where AI and machine learning dominate, data will continue to rule.”

But what particular benefits does DaaS provide for a business, and what exactly explains the rise it has seen in recent times?

The assistance of APIs

Davies went on to explain the role that application program interfaces (APIs) have in bolstering DaaS operations and getting the best out of data generally.

“On one side you have a set of complex data,”  he said. “On the other, you have a consumer or data analyst who wants a specific answer to a specific question like, ‘What time should I leave my home to take the train and arrive at work for 9am?’.

“APIs are the gateway to being able to access and make sense of that data. It might sound simple but creating an API that can interpret complicated data sets is a massive challenge.

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“To answer the simple departure time question, an API needs to understand average walk speeds, where it’s possible to walk and the fastest route, as well as the most up to date local train timetable data. You simply couldn’t imagine a data-driven world without APIs at its centre.”

Centralisation and seamless exchange

With the speed that the amount of data at a company’s disposal is capable of growing in mind, it’s important that it is all kept under control.

Centralising data and streamlining data processes are good ways of achieving efficient usage and ensuring that nothing goes astray.

“As organisations become increasingly digitalised, many are looking at DaaS models as they move to the cloud to streamline the delivery of data and their data supply chain,” said Simon Field, field CTO EMEA at Snowflake. “Convenient access to data insights is key for organisations and can typically explain the growth of DaaS adoption by organisations.

“DaaS allows for seamless exchange of data between both internal and external stakeholders – all in real-time. Now more than ever, this convenience of data access is essential in informing business decision-making both during and post-COVID-19.

“The impact of the pandemic has rendered prior year’s trends and predictive models redundant, meaning that any data, be that footfall, revenue, supply chain and so on, will differ significantly to the present and future years and is no longer effective to build comparisons against.

“To remain informed, we will see more and more organisations sourcing data from constantly updated and reliable external DaaS sources, combining them with and enriching their own data to support them in navigating this challenging business landscape.”

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Breaking down silos

Having data readily available within one location in the cloud is another benefit of DaaS, for any organisation that wishes to integrate data democracy into its culture.

This way of operating and managing data has been cited as a way to empower the entire workforce on data-related matters and tasks, which in turn can allow for better communication.

“Data-as-a-Service allows organisations to break down the data silos that often exist with on-premise data storage, management and analysis, where one department might miss out on the data stored by another department: limiting visibility of markets, risks, and opportunities,” said Jon M. Deutsch, vice-president and global head of financial services at Information Builders.

“By enabling all employees to access data streams in the cloud, the entire organisation can more rapidly gain information and insights which enable the organisation to make informed decisions, take action and respond in a more agile fashion to changing situations.”

A dark side: Potential for abuse

Overall, the emerging market that is DaaS can be ideal for faster and more organised data management, and along with APIs, more specific queries can be answered.

However, no technology is ever completely perfect across the board, and in the case of DaaS, it appears to have some skeletons in the cupboard that users will need to be wary about.

“While there are many legitimate use cases for DaaS, there is also a dark side to providing access to massive data sets assembled by service providers,” said Robert Rhame, director, market intelligence at Rubrik. “This was clearly evidenced in the Cambridge Analytica case where profiling of Facebook users was combined with an extremely targeted campaign of disinformation and persuasion.

“Ostensibly, things like cookies, trackers, and profiling are to provide a better customer journey and increase marketing effectiveness, but their potential for abuse can be enormous.

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“Equally, can SaaS and social providers be trusted to use the data they have under their control in an ethical manner? History says no. Since others control the data, even with vigilance, further shocking abuses are sure to arise.”


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.