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Enterprises jump into deep end with cloud data quality, now must learn to swim

Many enterprises deploying cloud-based applications don't appear to have plans in place to address issues such as data quality and data governance, according to a survey by Ventana Research.

Enterprises are increasingly using cloud computing applications, but most have yet to develop plans for the new challenges they will face in cloud data quality, consistency and data governance.

According to a recently published report from Ventana Research Inc. in San Ramon, Calif., 43% of enterprises have three or more cloud-based applications deployed, with that number expected to rise to 66% in the next 12 months. However, not everyone is ready.

“The processes around all these cloud-based applications have not fully developed,” said David Menninger, vice president and research director at Ventana and author of the report, which surveyed 141 executives and managers across a broad range of job titles via e-mail questionnaire from May to July. “You could say [enterprises] jumped into the deep end and now they need to learn how to swim.”

Menninger expressed no surprise that organizations were increasing their presence in the cloud, but what was unexpected was the lack of planning that went along with it.

“What appears to have happened is everybody said, ‘Hey, this cloud stuff is interesting,’ or ‘Hey, we can get around IT and buy a cloud-based application,’ ” Menninger said. “Now all the sudden, people are starting to realize there are issues.”

While the market shows a craving for more cloud technology, research also conveys a distrust of it. The majority of users are still skeptical about the quality of their data. Just 21% of organizations fully trust cloud-based data, less than half of the number that trusts data from on-premises technology. IT users have a higher level of trust with cloud data (30%), while business users have considerably less faith in it (11%).

“That was really surprising to me that the difference was so large,” Menninger said. “Some of it is a little bit of irrational concern: the [feeling that] ‘I can’t touch it, I can’t walk down the hall and see it, then I don’t trust it as much.’”

Menninger sees two other sources for the data trust issues -- an inability to integrate cloud data with other applications and the lack of a process to report on the quality of cloud-based data. He believes that once quality-checking processes are in place, users will presumably see that the quality is there.

The data integration problems that have eroded trust are largely caused by less-savvy users exporting data to spreadsheets, copying and pasting and allowing multiple versions of the same file to exist across many individual desktops.

Moving ahead with cloud computing applications
Menninger sees the tech market as one that goes where the crowd goes, and he expects to see solutions offered in short order to the problems facing cloud-based applications. He sees the data integration problem -- and to a larger extent the trust problem -- as one that can be solved by users taking advantage of tools from cloud application vendors or tools designed specifically for cloud computing, rather than to continue using the applications they have now.

“That’s how they will tackle these problems in the future,” Menninger said. “The tools should be modified and extended to be aware of cloud information.”

Menninger forecasts that cloud vendors will expand past just data integration tools and begin offering applications for data quality, master data management and cloud data governance. Likewise, he expects on-premises vendors to begin work on applications that will integrate their offerings with the cloud.

“That’s where the interest is going to be; that’s where the money will be invested, so you’ll see these on-premises vendors expanding their cloud-related activities,” he said.

Cloud data quality problems to consider
While the data integration and data quality issues will be largely solved by utilizing new cloud-based applications, Menninger sees a larger looming problem -- what to do with all the data.

“That process of archiving data, I don’t think people are thinking about that yet,” Menninger said.

A plurality of organizations (76%) said that someone other than its cloud provider will archive its data, and 64% said that cloud-based data will be moved on-premises. Just 12% said cloud-based data will be stored with another cloud provider.

Bringing the data back on-premises for long-term storage is the preferred method for 88% of companies with high annual revenue, according to the report, but the cost of long-term storage on-premises may in some ways mitigate the financial and resource savings aspect of cloud computing.

“As you’re moving more and more off-premises, you need to think about off-site storage capabilities,” Menninger said.

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