Planning For The Future: Understanding Scalability Requirements

November 29, 2013
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ImageWhen organizations embark on any analytics, data warehousing, BI, or broader software project, much of the focus remains on how to meet current goals and challenges. Requirements gathering looks at current data requirements and business rules in order to support development for solutions that will be supported on the premise of current data volumes, number of end users, data sources, etc.

ImageWhen organizations embark on any analytics, data warehousing, BI, or broader software project, much of the focus remains on how to meet current goals and challenges. Requirements gathering looks at current data requirements and business rules in order to support development for solutions that will be supported on the premise of current data volumes, number of end users, data sources, etc. And although many of these solutions are successful, the reality is that they are only successful in as much as they will also be able to support future requirements. 

When evaluating software, platforms, new analytics, or BI expansion, the following considerations need to be addressed in order to ensure that a solution can scale:

  1.  Type of platform: The type of platform selected will determine the range of expansion available as well as the restrictions that exist in terms of licensing, new data sources, storage, latency, etc.
  2. Number of data sources: Over time any BI initiative will expand simply due to the amount of data being stored. Keeping historical data and adding additional years worth of data naturally expands the storage required. The number of data sources also need to be taken into account. Additional data sources translates into more data integration, new business rules, and additional resources.
  3. Number of users/departments: Although solutions generally start off addressing a few issues, the more successful BI projects are, the more likely they will expand into other areas of the organization. Consequently, IT departments need to take expanded use into account so that any licensing and development requirements will be evaluated to make sure they meet these needs.
  4. Types of users: Different roles within the organization will interact with BI differently. Coupling this with market trends such as self-service and data discovery requires solutions that have built-in capabilities enabling flexible interaction and easy expansion for new development.
  5. Integration: In some cases data integration requires the bulk of the development effort. Expanding BI and analytics use potentially leads to new integration considerations. Although not always possible to think of everything in advance, understanding how broader solutions integrate with each other can lead to less hassles down the road.

This 5 considerations are a subset of many and just scratch the surface when looking at scalability. All of these areas look at internal aspects, and do not take into account the solutions being used which have their own criteria to evaluate when identifying how they scale. Even though it isn’t always easy to know what future projects will entail, the reality is that the more forward looking an organization is, the more likely less rework will be required in the future.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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