Welcome!

Cognitive Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Shelly Palmer, Elizabeth White, Rajeev Kozhikkattuthodi

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo

Containers Expo Blog: Case Study

Data Virtualization at Northern Trust: A Case Study

New integration approach accelerates revenue

Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility is the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. Along with an overview of data virtualization and its advantages, it presents ten case studies of organizations that have adopted data virtualization to significantly improve business decision making, decrease time-to-solution and reduce costs. This article describes data virtualization adoption at one of the enterprises profiled, Northern Trust.

Organization Background
Northern Trust is a leading provider of innovative fiduciary, investment management, private banking, wealth management and worldwide trust and custody services. Clients include corporations, institutions, families and individuals in more than 40 countries.

Based in Chicago, Illinois, the company has over 13,000 employees. At the end of 2010, the company had assets under custody of $4.1 trillion, assets under management of $643.6 billion and banking assets of $83.8 billion. Annual revenues in 2010 were almost $3.7 billion.

For this case study, we interviewed Leonard J. Hardy, Senior Vice President, Operations and Technology. Hardy is a member of Northern Trust's Rapid Solutions group, which provides a solution architecture and consulting facility to other Northern Trust application development groups.

Hardy also manages the company's Integration Competency Center (ICC), which helps other application areas figure out the best way to integrate data. The ICC supports several tools for this, including data virtualization, ETL and data integration best practices. Hardy participated in this case study project in his ICC role.

The Business Problem
An important line of business for Northern Trust is providing outsourced investment management operations for corporate customers, typically investment management firms and banks.

These institutional customers continue to provide front-office investment management functions for their end clients, but outsource all or some of the middle-office and back-office functions to Northern Trust. By contracting these functions out to Northern Trust, the institution does not have to invest in the resources, assets and skills necessary to provide the functions internally. In return, Northern Trust provides guaranteed levels of quality, service, resilience and value-to-cost criteria and management.

The Northern Trust line of business responsible for investment management outsourcing is called Investment Operations Outsourcing (IOO).

The business problem for IOO was the fact that it had a large number of new institutional customers in the outsourcing pipeline and simply could not implement them fast enough.

As Hardy stated, "If we could get customers on board more quickly, we would realize several key benefits. First, revenue would increase. Second, we could go down the pipeline faster. We had customers already signed up for outsourcing who were waiting to be converted and we had to find a way to do that faster. That, in turn, would allow us to open up the pipeline and take advantage of huge new business opportunities in the marketplace."

The Technical Problem
Existing IOO client reporting capabilities had evolved within a traditional systems infrastructure and were both inefficient and inflexible, thereby extending the time it took to set up the end client reporting function for each customer.

For example, value-added client data was stored in multiple separate databases, including legacy, mainframe systems. In addition, some of the business logic to interpret the data structures and create reports was embedded in stored procedure code. The only way to access the data and interpret it correctly was to go through the stored procedures. There was no data warehouse or data mart that consolidated all this data and business logic for reporting purposes.

As a result, according to Hardy, "the old way of reporting required technology intervention for every single customer implementation. As you can imagine, each institution has its own formats, labels, graphics and fonts. A technology expert proficient in our development tools had to get involved and make changes to our reporting process for every customer. The time-to-market on that was very long. We needed the ability to bring on new customers without having to make technology changes for each one."

Two Options Evaluated
IOO considered two solution architectures to meet their business and technical challenges.

Physical Consolidation: One solution for IOO was to physically integrate the data using ETL and data warehousing technology. But that would require pulling all of the business logic out of the stored procedures and figuring out how to get all of the data into one database and have the structure make sense, a massive project that could take up to a year and a half.

Data Virtualization: Instead, IOO took a more innovative approach and decided to virtually integrate the data using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform as a virtual data warehouse. Placing Composite in the middle between the client reporting tool and the back-end data sources would enable IOO to quickly abstract the data into the data virtualization layer, reuse the existing business logic to access the data and generate all of the data needed for end client reporting. This approach required just seven months.

The Data Virtualization Solution - Architecture
Northern Trust's IOO data virtualization solution is a virtual data warehouse implemented with the Composite Data Virtualization Platform combined with a new client reporting front end. The major architecture components include:

Data sources - There are several physical data stores in the IOO environment.

  • Transaction data includes all of the detailed transactions for each end-client account: buys, sells, interest income, dividends, etc.
  • Valuation data includes, for each end-client account, how much it is worth today, how much it was worth yesterday, etc., based on the transaction data.
  • Enterprise asset data is a reference file that contains data about each asset in the client accounts, such as ticker symbol and investment category (equity, bond, money market, etc.). This data comes from a number of different third-party providers.
  • Performance data includes very complicated investment performance calculations that permit performance comparisons between accounts, such as one account against accounts of similar value or with similar investment strategies.
  • Transaction, valuation and enterprise asset data is stored in IBM DB2 and accessed via COBOL stored procedures.
  • Performance data is in Oracle and accessed via web services that call C code.

Data virtualization layer: The virtual data warehouse built using the Composite Data Virtualization Platform abstracts the data in the IOO data stores and creates a unified, virtual view that makes them appear as a single physical data store.

When the reporting platform issues a query to retrieve data from one or more data stores, Composite queries the data by calling the appropriate stored procedures and/or web services, combines the data (for example, associates all of the transactions that make up a valuation and the important performance data that applies to that valuation) and delivers it to the reporting platform.

Consuming applications: The primary consuming application is the client reporting platform. This is the toolset that IOO's internal business/operations partners now use to build, format and produce the reports for IOO's customers and their clients.

Another benefit of the reporting tool is that it supports a data dictionary and business views of the data that directly map to views within the data virtualization layer. These business views, or building blocks, conform the data into reusable components that the business analysts can use to create custom reports.

A key point here is that the solution has enabled IOO to transfer the time-consuming report customization work that previously had to be done for each new institutional customer by very high-priced and very busy technical resources (applications programmers) to IOO's operations partners (business analysts).

As Hardy summarized it, "We have been successful in our goal of taking the technology out of the outsourcing equation. As long as we supply the right data through Composite, the reporting tool handles all formatting, graphing and other functionality that we used to have to hard code within the application program. One reason we had such a big bottleneck in implementing outsourcing customers was the fact that we didn't have enough programmers in our application development group to handle the customization requirements. Business analysts in our operations group can now easily process the building blocks necessary to customize reports."

By combining the capabilities of data virtualization and the new reporting tool, IOO has been able to navigate through and abstract a very complex set of layers of translation to connect the raw IOO data structures to business metadata and finished customer reports.

The Data Virtualization Solution - Best Practices
Hardy offered some best practices and lessons learn based on his experience working with IOO.

Start with a focused project: Hardy stated that a focused initial effort is a key to success. "Don't start with a project to make all enterprise data available via a service." To date, IOO has completed four institutional customer implementations with over ten more in progress or planned.

Centralize support for data virtualization and development: Giving ICC responsibility for the data virtualization technology provided economies of scale and enabled the company to accelerate up the best practices learning curve in effectively implementing the technology in business solutions.

Understand the data: According to Hardy, data virtualization is no different than any other development or physical data integration tool. "The design and architecture of the solution is where you need to spend time. The old carpenter's adage of ‘measure twice and cut once' applies here. Don't just dive in and start coding views. Make sure you really understand the data. This is the key to success in an effort like this."

Educate and support the business: Hardy said it is also important to allocate time to consult with the business and make sure they understand the data. "In our case, they are the ones designing the reports but they don't necessarily have in-depth knowledge about the data in its raw form. So we need to help them understand the raw data and make sure that when the data gets to the end tool, people understand what they are looking at."

Manage business expectations: Although data virtualization is a capability that can get the job done faster, the organization still has to go through the same steps to implement the solution: analysis, design and architecture. "In our case, we could say it saved us a year and a half, but it did take seven months. So it will take time no matter how you do it."

Summary of Benefits
Hardy described the major benefits Northern Trust has achieved with the new IOO client reporting architecture based on data virtualization.

Faster time-to-market increases customer satisfaction and revenue: Data virtualization has dramatically reduced the time it takes to implement a new outsourcing customer by 50%. Moving customers through the pipeline faster improves overall customer satisfaction and gives IOO the capacity to bring in even more business and revenue.

Single point of access simplifies work and cut costs: The fact that the reporting tool, or any consuming application, has a single data access point regardless of the format, access method (SQL, web service, stored procedure, etc.) or data source  significantly reduces application complexity and development and maintenance time and cost.

Reuse benefits grow with adoption: The ability to create reusable data services that can be shared by all applications also reduces costs.

Long run flexibility is improved: Northern Trust is embarking on a three-year project to replace all of its underlying data stores with modern data warehouses and data marts. By putting data virtualization in the middle, thereby decoupling the back-end data from the consuming applications, IOO will not have to change anything that has been defined in the reporting tool when it swaps out the back-end data stores. It will only need to change the views to consume the new data sources.

•   •   •

Editor's Note: Robert Eve is the co-author, along with Judith R. Davis, of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility, the first book published on the topic of data virtualization. The complete Northern case study, along with nine others enterprise are available in the book.

More Stories By Robert Eve

Robert Eve is the EVP of Marketing at Composite Software, the data virtualization gold standard and co-author of Data Virtualization: Going Beyond Traditional Data Integration to Achieve Business Agility. Bob's experience includes executive level roles at leading enterprise software companies such as Mercury Interactive, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. Bob holds a Masters of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CAST Software will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CAST was founded more than 25 years ago to make the invisible visible. Built around the idea that even the best analytics on the market still leave blind spots for technical teams looking to deliver better software and prevent outages, CAST provides the software intelligence that matter ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SourceForge has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SourceForge is the largest, most trusted destination for Open Source Software development, collaboration, discovery and download on the web serving over 32 million viewers, 150 million downloads and over 460,000 active development projects each and every month.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will discuss how from store operations...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...