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A Data Architecture that Leaves You Glueless

variety of small crafting tools placed on a white work mat

My kids love crafts. You probably think that at this point I’m going to use a few superlatives calling out their creativity and share their Pinterest handle, but none of that. Sure, I love them and yes, I think they are creative, but if you have primary school aged kids, you'll know what “crafts” really mean.

First, it means watching five-minute-craft videos on YouTube. You may have seen one of these well-produced clips and will know that the "five minute" part in the title is a blatant lie, because they are wildly addictive, so you’ll be watching them for five hours. In case you haven’t seen any, these videos typically feature someone taking a colored plastic bottle or a glossy shoebox and cutting, taping, and gluing everything together, transforming it into something you don't really need, but at least it looks good on the screen.

The second step is obviously the kids trying to do the same thing, all by themselves. And honestly, how could you possibly refuse them these important creativity sessions? It's obviously a sustainable form of entertainment too, giving a real purpose to all those used bottles, cardboard boxes, and other trash. The few shiny ingredients that aren't recycled are not very expensive and easy to get by. Generally speaking, these videos must be important for their development and will undoubtedly turn them into successful designers, architects, and influencers.

Here's the catch: the glue.

Our family crafts budget (yes, that's a thing) is almost exclusively spent on glue and tape. Over the past few years, I've learned there is glossy tape called "washi tape", glittering glue for the glue gun, and glow-in-the-dark Pritt stick that shines at sticking to kitchen tables more than shining or sticking anywhere else. Luckily my employer pays me enough to foot this bill, but if you are a parent, maybe you share my mild frustration that all this money is spent on keeping stuff together, rather than on quality stuff itself.

Data flows between systems is costly

And this is where my mild personal frustration overlaps with a feeling I often have when I see enterprise architects describe their environment. They combine proven open-source technologies such as Postgres and MySQL, or their cloud equivalents, with one or more fancy special-purpose technologies like Clickhouse, TimescaleDB or CouchBase into a data architecture. On the surface, that makes perfect sense. We owe a lot to those proven open-source technologies, and as a technologist, I’m often very impressed by the innovations productized by those special purpose solutions. However, the composite data architectures this approach yields, is often not as simple or budget-friendly as intended, precisely for the same reasons my kids regularly request a crafts budget increase: the glue.

Good data pipeline or ETL software is not cheap, and neither are the data engineers or consultants who build these data flows. And often worse, just in the same way that my kids’ washi tape wears off, data flows between systems require costly maintenance, because they need to remain operational for longer than the 5 minutes shown in the video.

An efficient data architecture in a single technology

A unified data platform like InterSystems IRIS provides a data architecture that supports transactional and analytical workloads and offers efficient, concurrent access through many different data models, all in a single technology. By building your applications, warehouses, and other solutions on InterSystems IRIS, you can save a ton on glue and manual effort, without sacrificing the special purpose data handling your use case is asking for, because there is no copying, syncing, or pushing around of your data. What’s more, with this type of data architecture, you’ll end up with a resiliency that’s been proven in healthcare, financial services, and many other industries, rather than the lowest common denominator of five different tools.

I just wanted to end with what I ask my kids every other week or so: “I’m not asking you to be less creative; I’m just asking you to use less glue.”