by Danielle Bingham | March 25, 2024

Data Virtualization, Reimagined: Session Wrap-Up

dv session summaries

If you couldn’t attend our ‘Data Virtualization, Reimagined’ virtual event, don’t fret. In this blog post, we’ll review the event's high points and go over the sessions. You can also watch the event on-demand right here.

‘Data Virtualization, Reimagined’ attracted hundreds of IT and data professionals around the globe to explore the journey of data virtualization—from its beginnings some 20 years ago to its continuing evolution as part of a modern data ecosystem. Read on for an overview of the sessions and check out some video clips below.

Data virtualization explained

CData co-founder and CEO Amit Sharma joined by CMO Will Davis to kick off the event by offering a high-level description of data virtualization. They explained its history, how it helps organizations manage live data easily and more effectively, and how CData is innovating for the future.

“One important aspect to think about for data virtualization going forward is how to make it accessible for line of business users, not just data engineers,” said Sharma. “Business users are now very savvy, and they want to use data and interact with it in their tools of choice. As the use of data has evolved, data virtualization is changing to meet those needs.”

As data generation and consumption increases, complexity magnifies. Accessing, managing, and analyzing data from disparate sources has become more challenging, yet the demand for that data is only increasing. This puts strain on IT teams attempting to securely govern and enable data access across their organization.

Integrating these data sources is time-consuming and resource-heavy due to inconsistencies in the way APIs are built among different standards and formats. That’s why CData has made connecting and maintaining integrations between systems simple using one common language: SQL. Standardized, fully-maintained connectivity is our bread and butter, and we’ve brought that simplicity to the cloud with CData Connect Cloud, making data access easy, secure, and flexible.

“This is really the secret sauce of CData – the ability to provide access to a wide variety of data sources in a common SQL-based access layer. We make all these APIs look consistent, and the beauty of SQL is that it's not just well understood by the industry and data engineers, but every single tool that was built knows how to use SQL.”

– Amit Sharma, co-founder and CEO, CData

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Scaling growth for live financial data access: A customer’s perspective

Nathan Thompson, VP of Financial Planning and Analysis at Scorpion, witnessed the digital marketing company’s remarkable growth, expanding their staff from a few hundred employees to nearly a thousand in just a few years. Thompson’s four-member financial planning and analysis (FP&A) team faced several challenges during this growth. Scorpion had recently adopted Sage Intacct as their accounting system, but downloading the data and manually manipulating it in Microsoft Excel was cumbersome. Weekly and monthly reporting took several hours. “It was an inefficient process, prone to manual errors, and ultimately unsustainable as the company continued to grow,” said Thompson.

In his search for a better solution, Thompson discovered the CData Sage Intacct Power BI ODBC Driver.

“[The CData ODBC Connector] authenticated with Sage using my permissions and imported all the fresh live data without the need for me to log into Sage, navigate through the interface, and download the specific general ledger entries that I needed.”

– Nathan Thompson, Scorpion VP of Financial Planning and Analysis

Soon, the company outgrew Excel adopted Microsoft Power BI as its reporting tool and Vena as its FP&A solution. Vena had a native connection with Power BI, but it couldn’t go any deeper than the account-level summary. Thompson needed the transaction-level data that only lived in Sage—which did not natively integrate with Power BI.

“We have limited IT support. APIs are complicated, and I'm a finance professional, so I found myself once again searching for a tool to help,” said Thompson. “Fortunately, CData had a product that solved these challenges.”

CData Connect Cloud presented a holistic solution to Scorpion’s multi-faceted challenges. As with the ODBC connector, Connect Cloud is completely self-service, which is a major bonus to Thompson. He had the integration set up in minutes without IT assistance and was able serve live reports in Power BI to his entire organization in just two weeks.

“It was perfect for setting up the automatic refresh feature in Power BI as well because, unlike the ODBC connector, which depended on my laptop running the actual driver, Connect Cloud was able to go and do this seamlessly. I could set a refresh for 5:00 AM and know that when I logged on in the morning, the report would be up to date.”

– Nathan Thompson, Scorpion VP of Financial Planning and Analysis

“Scalability hedges against growing pains,” Thompson said. With Connect Cloud, he no longer has to solve the same problems repeatedly as Scorpion continues to grow. The real-time insights from live financial data help Thompson and his team make informed strategic decisions with better outcomes—for Scorpion and its customers.

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Live data in action with CData and Looker

Bruce Sandell, Partner Solutions Architect at Google Cloud, joined CData’s own Jerod Johnson, Senior Technology Evangelist, to demonstrate how CData Connect Cloud expands Looker’s ability to integrate seamlessly with data from any data source – allowing Looker customers to analyze live data from anywhere in their tech stack, all within one visual dashboard.

Sandell kicked off the session by introducing Looker as a comprehensive platform designed to address data management functions, like reporting, dashboards, embedded analytics, and custom data applications.

Looker stands out with its modern approach to analytics by providing an architecture that operates directly within databases. This innovative design means data does not need to be moved or extracted from its source for analysis. It supports more than 50 unique database dialects and leverages native database functionalities like machine learning (ML) tools and built-in data permissions.

“CData Connect Cloud is such a great complementary technology for [Looker].”

– Bruce Sandell, Partner Solutions Architect, Google Cloud

Jerod followed up by explaining how CData Connect Cloud enhances Looker's capabilities by extending the spectrum of data source connectivity. Beyond the 50 database dialects that Looker supports, CData Connect Cloud offers access to over 100 different SaaS applications, including CRM, ERP, accounting, and HR solutions, as well as big data and NoSQL sources. This broadens Looker’s reach by smoothly connecting to data sources that Looker doesn’t natively support.

Organizations can take advantage of live, real-time data across their entire ecosystem, from operational databases like Cockroach DB to various SaaS platforms, through a standardized SQL interface. This approach simplifies data access and analysis and ensures data security and compliance by adhering to user-based permissions.

Marrying Looker's modern analytics approach with CData Connect Cloud's expansive data connectivity, organizations can make strategic, data-driven decisions based on all available data, maximizing its value.

“CData Connect Cloud makes it possible for you to use Looker for accessing both historical views of your data from your data warehouse and real-time views of your data from both applications and data stores that Looker can't natively connect to.”

– Bruce Sandell, Google Cloud Partner Solutions Architect

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What’s new for CData in the cloud

CData Senior Vice President of Cloud Mike Albritton started his product deep dive session with a brief history of CData and evolution of Connect Cloud, which was designed specifically to meet the growing demands for cloud-native integration.

Since its general access release in 2023, Connect Cloud has helped thousands of customers integrate live data for real-time analysis and reporting from any cloud server anywhere in the world. Today, Connect Cloud processes over one billion rows per day and is experiencing rapid adoption, with a YoY growth of more than 400%.

Customer feedback is a major part of CData’s development process, and this transparency helps CData launch new product releases, adding useful features and capabilities every week. Check out Mike’s demo to find out what’s on the horizon.

“As more reporting tools started moving to the cloud, we wanted a solution where customers could connect to all the different data sources live without having to install any software.”

– Mike Albritton, CData Senior Vice President of Cloud

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Pairing data virtualization with replication for expansive insights

To wrap up the event, Noel Yuhanna, Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst, shared a new report revealing deep insights into the evolving role of data virtualization within the enterprise. Yuhanna has observed and reported on the development of data virtualization for more than 20 years.

Yuhanna emphasized how data virtualization has become a critical component across industries, driven by the need to efficiently integrate disparate data sources. Modern data architecture is complex. The average organization has hundreds of data sources—on-premises, in the cloud, and at the edge—creating silos that make data hard to find, access, and protect. Data virtualization, paired with robust, high-performance data replication, is key to streamlining data management processes and providing accurate insights from consistent and trusted data across applications.

“I know one financial services company with 25,000 databases. How do you connect and give business users access to those 25,000 databases? Through data virtualization.”

– Noel Yuhanna, Forrester Research VP & Principal Analyst

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CData is investing in the future of data virtualization

Data virtualization is undergoing a remarkable transformation, adapting to the shifting terrain of data management. CData is innovating the space to provide wider access to the ever-growing diversity of data sources for the enterprise.

Watch the full on-demand webinar to learn more.