Al Smith on integrated data management, Optim, and IOD 2009


developerWorks: This is a developerWorks podcast. I'm Scott Laningham, here with Al Smith, Director Worldwide Optim Engineering. Here's here to talk a bit about IBM®'s integrated data management solutions and the Optim family of products that support that.

And we'll be hearing about what all will be going on around Optim at the Information On Demand Global Conference that's coming up October 25 through 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Also joining in the podcast is Todd "Turbo" Watson, Rock Star, IBM blogger, who will be joining to cover the conference. Welcome Al and Todd. Thanks for being here.

Smith: Thanks, Scott.

Turbo: Rock on.

developerWorks: Al, could you kick us off here with a bit of an overview of integrated data management and something on what customers are doing with Optim?

Smith: When we talk to customers, we realize there's a common set of challenges they have around the life cycle of design, develop, test, deploy, maintain, optimize, and even dispose of data through its life cycle across all the different application development that they do which feeds into the information and the quality decisions they try to make based on the information running their company.

And when you look at IBM's portfolio, we have some really discrete products that directly address each of those different phases of data life cycle. And many of them are branded under the Optim family, where we do things like help people with data growth management or test data management; or privatizing the sensitive data they may have that has compliance requirements or regulatory requirements like HIPAA or PCI; and those are all part of solving the problem that customers have to deal with.

Integrated data management builds on that and says, you know what? We can put together a consistent experience from the point of designing data and any applications that support it through its development phases, through its tests, through its deploy, etc.

And so that's what customers are really taking and it's a kind of universal set of problems; it's not specific to any one industry. It has more resonance in some industries where there's heavy regulatory or the cost of not doing this has a bigger business impact, but it's something that everybody has a need around and we're having a lot of success helping them out.

Turbo: Hey Al, this is Todd. Thanks for that. I think we probably can't go into all of the different areas of the life cycle that you just mentioned, but I know one of the areas that I'm interested in, I think our audience is interested in after having spoke with Jeff Jonas [Chief Scientist, IBM Entity Analytics] recently, is the privacy implications of data integrity across the life cycle. Is that something you could speak to and just give us a little glimpse into what kind of discussions might go on around that particular area?

Smith: Yes, absolutely. So let's start with the challenges customers have. In today's world, sensitive data that flows through the systems that run your business has kind of two implications.

  • One is if you don't protect this data and there's a loss or a risk, there's a public risk to your company from a brand point of view. We've all heard about banks that have lost tapes or lost laptops and it has personal information on it, and there's a risk to the business with fraud of people taking identity theft, etc.
  • The other aspect of it is there's regulatory compliance that, you know, in certain industries and in certain countries there is absolutely a requirement where they must not only know where the data is, but take steps to guarantee the protection of that data and then prove and be auditable that they've done it.

A good example of this is the PCI standard — Personal Credit Information — for Visa/Mastercard. If you're a bank that does transactions, ensuring protection of your credit card number, your name, your address, etc., is actually something that they spend a lot of time and money on, dealing with where is that data in our enterprise? How does it move, and how do I actually protect it? And that costs a lot, too.

Then you take on the phenomena that's going on which is a lot of companies are working on a global basis basically doing development and test of their systems in many different countries in the world. And there you start to run into different country regulations about the ability to export information or not.

So where Optim comes into play is first of all, helping on the discovery side with a number of different products — and this part of the overall integrated data management family — helping you discover your sensitive data.

One thing we hear over and over from chief security officers of large companies is that when they analyze their enterprise, there's usually somewhere in the range of 35 to 40 data elements that either have compliance or personal information liability around that they want to protect.

What they then want to figure out is no matter where it manifests itself in the enterprise, how they consistently can protect it either in the form of encryption with things like Data Encryption Expert or in changing it and obsfucating it in places that are non-production — a good example is in a test environment or a training environment where people regularly in the past took a copy of production databases and just used them. And now what they're realizing, that opens up the business to a lot of risk.

So products like Optim help them take that data, identify what's sensitive in it, and then make intelligent substitutions in that data that leave the resulting test database or training database absolutely valid to the application criteria, but totally different and useless from a personal information reuse point of view.

developerWorks: So Al, what's going on around this topic at the IOD Global Conference that we mentioned that's coming up the end of October?

Smith: Well, you know, in a general sense there's a lot of different technical sessions, birds of a feather, and hands-on labs. Data privacy is one of the themes that's woven through a number of them, both as a standalone type of capability, as well as integrated with a dev, test, release process.

Another area that's going on that I think is going to be in one of the hands-on labs is, very often as companies do new application development they know from a design point of view right up front what might become sensitive data.

And one of the things that we've done in the IBM offerings is allow people to during the design time with InfoSphere Data Architect [formerly Rational® Data Architect] actually specify a privacy policy on the data model...

So that then when a developer is building code to work against that data model and needs to generate some test data with Optim Test Data Management, we automatically pick up that data privacy and generate the data with the proper classifications and substitutions.

An example of what I just gave you there of a common workflow is some of the things that will be in different technical sessions and hands-on sessions.

developerWorks: And people can check all that out on the smart site at the conference registration Web site, right, to find out what those sessions are and to sign up for them.

Smith: That's right. And so if they look under IBM offerings, there's over 30 technical skill-building sessions. I think there's over 10 hands-on labs. There's several birds of a feather.

I know also, for example, myself, I'm co-presenting for IBM kind of past, present, and future — I'm co-presenting with Curt Cotner [Integrated Data Management presentation], one of our software Fellows who kind of leads the overall data-management vision. And we're going to be going through the current state of where the technology is inside of customers' companies themselves, where our portfolio is today, what we're announcing and talking about at the conference and then where we see that going and where that's progressing.

developerWorks: And again, people can get more information about all of this and sign up to attend the event at That's for the Information On Demand Global Conference coming October 25 through 29 in Las Vegas.

Al Smith, Director Worldwide Optim Engineering. Thanks for your time, Al.

Smith: Thank you, I appreciate it.

developerWorks: And thank you, Todd.

Turbo: Thank you.

developerWorks: This has been a developerWorks podcast. developerWorks is IBM's premiere technical resource for software developers with tools, code, and education on IBM products and open standards technology. I'm Scott Laningham, talk to you next time.

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ArticleTitle=Al Smith on integrated data management, Optim, and IOD 2009