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Data Vault or: How I learnt to stop worrying and love Data Governance

Now more than ever Data Governance is playing a key role in Cloud Data Analytics! Data-centric regulation such as

· General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR),

· California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and,

· Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) …to name a few

has made the focus on analytics to not only deliver innovation but to do it ethically and securely as well! With so much focus on regulation and security data-driven companies must still find the resources to deliver innovation and value; one such data automation movement is DataOps!

What is DataOps?

DataOps extends DevOps[i]

Inspired by DevOps[ii] (for software engineering), DataOps is a set of practices and processes that extends on the principles of DevOps by focusing on data analytics as repeatable, test driven and agile data pipelines. Easy hey? Well… what is DevOps?

For over a decade software engineering has evolved and produced the practices and tools to turn software deployment from development and into production-ready code by leveraging

· version control into code repositories,

· apply configuration over code,

· self-organizing teams and the use of collaboration software and,

· Continuous Integration /Continuous Deployment (CD/CD) tools to automate code changes through a pre-defined test suit …

…in order to churn out high quality code deployments rapidly into a production environment. Code is modularized and designed to scale. Future changes should not introduce regression.

DataOps applies this same rigor but to data pipelines that govern the flow of data from source (recorded business events) through to consumption (dashboards, reports, self-service, machine learning) by using data automation patterns. Patterns in code, patterns in automation, patterns in agile delivery all the while monitoring data pipelines to proactively detect data quality problems before they happen and therefore reduce waste. These are themes also described in Lean and Total Quality Management (TQM).

True DataOps emphasizes ELT over ETL but elaborates on the little “t” in EtLT, what is it? The necessary step to deal with personally identifiable information (PII) by applying obfuscation on the column contents. As data is landed from a source platform it may appear as plain text, this is okay for data that cannot be used to identify a person uniquely (and perhaps impersonate a president and launch a nuclear attack on USSR! — “Wing Attack Plan R”). PII content is not restricted to a single column but may involve a number of columns that together can uniquely identify a person. The little “t” is the processing we do either before landing or in staging to obscure that data consistently by applying data masking or hashing and encryption methods before loading to the enterprise data warehouse.

Modern analytics platform

Where is the Data Governance?

DG Steerco

“Governance is often stated as ensuring that the right people use the right data for the right business purpose at the right time using the right technology”- DAMA

At the center of the DAMA-wheel[iii] is data governance (DG), it is an inherent separation of duty between oversight and execution and it touches every other point of the DAMA framework. This means that the nominated data stewards (nominated in a federated manner) define and

· manage the business glossary,

· document the business rules, data standards, data quality rules,

· manage data quality issues,

· ensure that the DG policies are adhered to and

· the organization meets regulatory compliance

Within the context of DataOps, DG is engrossed into every component but not by sacrificing agility or auditability but instead it is automated through modularity and patterns … each component of the analytics platform can act independently and be versioned individually, including the data governance.

A balance is struck between agility and governance… too much governance and it can stifle innovation, too little and it can lead to unnecessary exposure to risk such as data privacy and not being able to fulfil industry compliance requirements that can lead to fines and reputation risk.

What does this have to do with Data Vault?

Data Vault 2.0 is the methodology that describes the best practices for data architecture, agile delivery and data modelling. It does this by focusing on the thing that is important to the business: the customer. The idea of data vault 2.0 is to automate ingestion into the enterprise data warehouse as data arrives, this is supported by a repeatable loading framework (pattern) configured to load an enterprise data model as hub, link and satellite tables. As the common data vault model delivers the historical reference to everything important to the business through a historized data model, making changes to the enterprise data model does not impact the existing data vault model and can be delivered through parallel running sprints.

Parallel sprints working on an enterprise data vault model

This means that the data vault model is a manifestation of the enterprise data governance practice and data pipeline automation as the hubs map to the enterprise ontology and the links represent the relationships between business entities that are often called business processes or unit of work.

What about the automation you say? Well, there are only three loading patterns to data vault, and this is where the repeatable patterns through configuration come into play, we only load hubs (unique list of business entities), links (unique list of relationships) and satellites (change-tracked descriptive data about hubs and links) for raw vault and business vault. As a data vault modeler, you need to identify what those business entities are, understand the relationships between them and track the historical data about those entities and relationships. Where the source application does not supply certain information, we need we build them into business vault reusing the same but decoupled automation patterns. As either surrogate-hash key or natural key based data vault; all data vault artefacts can be loaded independently without having to implement a staggered loading paradigm ensuring data analytics is delivered as flexibly as possible and at any time portions of the overall data vault model is updated via platform orchestration.

Raw + Business vault = Data Vault

Every data vault artefact includes the record source, extract/applied date, load date and task id metadata tags that gives you the data lineage right down to the record level. In addition, Data Vault provides the flexibility to deal with PII data by recognizing a very distinct attribute about PII data, they hardly (if ever) change, observe… satellite splitting

Improved data governance with data vault

With extract/applied date available this essentially means you can version records for any point in time. Why is this important? It means if corrections are made to a business entity’s or relationship’s timeline the update can be applied historically without removing the record the correction is updating. This ensures that the optimal level of auditability is achieved with data vault that even corrections can be explained by just querying the data.

Complete record auditability

Data Vault 2.0 provides the necessary components for building your data analytics and business intelligence platform and because these are all repeatable and modular patterns, a test suite based on repeatable test patterns can be utilized to build trust in the data platform. The methodology supports change without regression and schema evolution without refactoring when the business processes evolve and ultimately because data vault artefacts reflects the corporate history of the enterprise ontology, data vault provides the agile means for integrating your entire analytics platform with data governance at the top of mind and incorporated by design… until next time…

#thedatamustflow #datavault #dataops

[i] True DataOps,

[ii] What is DevOps,

[iii] DMBOK2,



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