Grid-Tools Carves Itself a Niche for Test Data Management
August 23, 2011 Alex Woodie
Effective testing plays a big part in running a successful in-house IT department. Whether it’s functional testing, user acceptance testing, or regression testing, no CIO worth her salt would promote a new or modified application into production without first making sure that it actually works. And since testing requires data, it’s usually a good idea to have something in place to manage all that test data. Such is the purpose of Data-Maker, the flagship test data management software from Grid-Tools.
Test data management is one of those classes of software tools that often gets overlooked. After all, most companies are already up to their gills with multiple file systems and databases and other tools specifically designed to manage all that data that keeps building up in organizations. So why would you need a separate tool just to handle data used for testing?
The biggest driver of test data management is security, which means suitably masking any personally identifiable information (PII) data that may find its way into a batch of test data, says Mike Cartina, Grid-Tools’ head of sales and alliances for the Americas.
“A lot of companies outsource non-production functions, such as testing, QA [quality assurance], and even development, so they have to mitigate any risk of production data escaping or being exposed to people outside of the company,” he tells IT Jungle. “In many cases, any PII or PHI [personal healthcare information] data needs to be anonymized, for compliance with HIPPA, SEC, etc.”
Datamaker is a client-server tool that runs on Windows and supports production databases running on Windows, Linux, Unix, IBM i, and z/OS environments. The software includes a Windows-based workbench that enables users to manipulate the test data warehouse to ensure that quality data is provided to application testers, who often use testing tools from HP, IBM, or Original Software. Datamaker also includes agents that deploy to target databases (DB2/400 and other major RDBMSes) and run SQL-based transformations for tasks such as data masking.
Most of Grid-Tools 100-plus customers are large to mid-size organizations in the financial services, healthcare, retail, telecommunications, and government markets. Once a customer has adopted Datamaker to meet its data masking needs, Cartina can often get the customer to adopt some of the product’s other capabilities, including data quality management, data archiving, data subsetting, and data generation features.
The product’s data generation capability, in particular, is helping Grid-Tools to develop a reputation as a thought-leader in its particular niche of the $2 trillion IT industry.
“We have a unique ability to manufacture synthetic data. It has the looks and referential integrity of production data, but it’s fake,” Cartina says. “That’s a particularly useful capability when you’re dealing with new application development, where data doesn’t exist, or in support of functional testing. We can improve that functional testing by supplementing production data.”
The seven-year-old privately held company, which is based in Oxford, England, and has an office in Chicago, has been having a particular bit of success lately selling Datamaker to banks in Latin America. Because many of these banks are running their core banking systems on IBM i servers, the company is becoming more attuned to the test data management needs of IBM i shops.
“It’s becoming more of a part of our business,” Cartina says. “It’s really driving our ability to gain market share in the Latin American market, because of its prevalence there, at least in the banking space. What we’re finding is that there are just pockets of it in a lot of the bigger organizations, and they need a means to support it.”
Grid-Tools partner Green Light Technology is spearheading the growth in Latin America. The professional services company is based near Orlando, Florida, and serves the IBM i-related needs of many companies in Central and South America.
“Our customers have been interested in securing their test and development environments by not using real production data for many years now,” Green Light Technology project manager Jaime Penagos states in a press release. “This is especially the case for our customers in the finance, banking and insurance sectors. About 85 percent of these types of organizations in Latin America are using DB2/400. The ability to offer this kind of solution to them, specifically for DB2/400, is incredibly advantageous.”
Grid-Tools is currently working on Datamaker version 2.7, which is slated for release in late 2011 or early 2012. The company is sensitive to its customers’ desire not to be overwhelmed with patches and updates and new releases of software that must be tested before seeing production use, which is why it ships major releases every 12 to 14 months.
But today’s trend of fast-paced, agile development is magnifying the need for tools that can automate and streamline the application testing process. “One of the things we provide with Datamaker is project and version control,” Cartina says. “When there’s an application upgrade, or a change to the data model, that’s referenced as a different version from the previous data model or schema that we’re managing or subsetting or masking or providing data for. That helps companies identify what the differences are…and help them stay in lockstep with those changes.”
For more information on Grid-Tools, check out its website at www.grid-tools.com.