How Cdata drivers help you connect to more data
Earlier this year, we announced a partnership with CData Software, the most trusted name in standards-based data connectivity. As a member of CData’s OEM & Industry Partner Program, Incorta customers will have direct access to analyze and import data from 250+ data sources supported by CData standard drivers, giving them access to data from every corner of their enterprise with unprecedented speed and agility.
We talked with Jerod Johnson, Technology Evangelist for CData, to learn more about how their standard drivers enable you to easily connect to your data and why it matters.
What should data leaders know about standard drivers?
Drivers have been around for as long as databases have been around. The standard drivers--JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) for your Java-based applications, and ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) for anything in a Microsoft environment, or pre-Microsoft-- C++, C#, ASP, .NET. are the default way of connecting to a database.
Ages ago, that’s where all of your data was--in a database somewhere inside the four walls of your organization. But, not all data is in databases anymore. Companies today are using cloud solutions; they’re using on-premise software, and they’re using hybrid, best of breed solutions. There are so many choices of systems and solutions. You get all of these great business features, but how do you get to that data? Historically, drivers were only for databases. We make them for everything else, and that makes connecting to all your data sources a scalable effort.
Tell us more about the Incorta CData OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) partnership.
The term ‘OEM’ is typically used in the context of physical manufacturing. If you build cars for example, it refers to parts that you’re getting from another manufacturer to drop into your car. You can think of our drivers in the same way--you're getting direct-from-manufacturer pieces to build your software platform.
As an OEM partner, Incorta has already done the work to integrate their Direct Data Platform with a variety of data sources. Dropping in CData drivers extends the Platform’s connectivity to any of the data sources that CData supports. It replicates the experience that Incorta customers are already used to--the ability to seamlessly explore and interact with data--from even more sources. Think of it as if you built your car, and built in a radio. That gives you access to lots of audio sources. Then you drop in Apple music, and now you have even more.
Why not just connect through a direct integration, API, SDK or middleware?
Each of these have their benefits. The problem is that these solutions tend to be high maintenance. You have to constantly update the integration as the API changes or as the software library changes, and the techniques you use for one platform may not work for another. You have to learn the Salesforce API, and the HubSpot API, and the Google Sheets API, etc., etc.
With standard drivers, you’re insulated from these changes. All you’re doing is embedding the driver. You’re relying on the company that produces the driver--CData in this case--to manage the API changes. If there's an update, you simply install a new library and you're done. It works just like it did before the update, regardless of what happened on the backend to the data source.
They’re standardized because if you know how to talk to one database, then you know how to talk to any data source. We present a database model of the data. It's kind of self-describing, so there’s not much of a learning curve. You get a common API with a standard driver, using SQL, the database query language, and it becomes a universal API across all of your data. It’s a very scalable approach.
Tell us a little bit more about the 250+ data sources you make drivers for.
SaaS applications--CRMs, ERPs, accounting software. Big data stores, such as Google BigQuery, and Snowflake data warehouse, which is NoSQL (non-relational data), so there are not necessarily predefined structures in place in the data. We make drivers that let you work with that data. We do some work on the front-end to make the data make sense in a way that it would if it was in a regular relational database.
You can even dig down into files, such as a folder on your desktop with a bunch of CSV files containing business data. Instead of having to write an application or scripts to pull the information out of that data, you can just point a driver to it, and now the driver makes it look like it's a database.
You like to talk about “broad-spectrum data connectivity.” Why is that such a necessity for analytics solutions today?
When you talk about broad-spectrum sunscreen, that means you get one product that blocks all of the different types of harmful rays that are coming from the sun. When you're talking about broad spectrum data connectivity, you're talking about connectivity to all the different kinds of data that exist today.
Your data is in the cloud, on your servers, in some hybrid model. If you're going to do analysis on it, you need access to all of it or you're not going to get a full picture of what your business is doing, and you're not going to be able to gain real actionable insights. With broad spectrum data connectivity, you get access to all of your data in the way that you're already used to talking to it.
With drivers, you are getting access to real-time data. Let's say you're building a dashboard that is connected to a database that has copied data from your CRM. When you refresh the data dashboard, the data in the database has not changed, so there's no change in the dashboard. But if you connect that dashboard to a driver that talks directly to the CRM, and you're at a trade show scanning leads, and they’re going into your CRM, every time you refresh the dashboard, it's going to ask the CRM for the leads, and the leads are going show up in the newly refreshed dashboard. That's the kind of real-time that you'll get.
How do standard drivers advance the cause of citizen data analysts?
Everyone knows how to ask questions. Now they can ask questions of any data source we support or Incorta supports without having to know SQL or any special language.
Every major analytics platform’s ETL (extract, transform, load) function uses drivers to talk to a database. Ages ago, your IT team would have had to create this connection, but now the analytic tools do it for you. So when you're in Tableau, or Power BI, or whatever reporting tool you're using, you have a point and click interface that says, "I want to add a filter." Then it asks you, “what do you want to filter?” You make your selection and on the backend, your reporting tool constructs the question asking the database that specific data.
With standard drivers, you get to ask that question to anything, not just the database. We’re leveraging the fact that these tools and platforms already know how to communicate in the language of databases. The drivers simply translate the language of databases to the language of the data source.
So they're magical.
I like to think so.