The Fortress Cloud

In 1066, William of Normandy assembled an army of over 7,000 men and a fleet of over 700 ships to defeat England's King Harold Godwinson and secure the English throne. King William, recognizing his susceptibility to attack, immediately constructed a network of castles to preserve his kingdom and improve his status among followers. 

The word 'castle' comes from the Latin word castellum, which means 'fortress.' While Medieval castles evolved in structure and function through the years, their core role has not changed:

1. To protect, as a defensive measure.
2. A platform to wage battle, as an offensive measure.
3. To ensure orderly governance. 

Medieval castles were well planned in terms of their location and several key attributes. They were built near or on a water spring. They had direct access to key transportation routes and were built on high ground to make defending the stronghold a bit easier. 

I have written extensively about The Big Data Revolution, researching how digital technologies and data exploitation are impacting industries in the Data era. While every industry is different, there are clear patterns in how data is reinventing business processes and disrupting traditional business models. Most notable is that the Revolution cannot be effectively waged without the right protection, foundation for an offensive, and orderly governance. We need a modern day castle for The Big Data Revolution; a fortress cloud.


The first wave of big data has hit, creating great opportunities, but also cracks in company security, worries about customer data privacy, and showing the limitations of current analytics. Perhaps the Big Data Maturity curve captures it best:

Most of the investments to date have been focused on cost reduction and extending existing IT capabilities. We are now entering an era that will be marked by business re-invention on the basis of data. Incumbents beware. This demands a thoughtful approach on security measures companies may have to take, how improved analytics can help all achieve stronger insights, and how consumers are demanding a new privacy contract. 

The traditional IT stack is giving way to a fluid data layer: a new set of composable cloud services, defined by next generation capabilities. With this new approach to analytics, we must re-imagine all aspects of data movement and governance for that world. I see 3 defining capabilities:

1. Ingest- The ability to lift data from wherever it resides and integrate it into a cloud-based fluid data layer. This must be done seamlessly and at incredibly high speeds, with little to no manual intervention. 
2. Preparation- The ability to massage, filter, and select only the data most relevant to the task at hand. 
3. Governance- The ability to catalog, describe (metadata), and manage access to sensitive data sets.

Companies will require a new approach to data integration, data preparation, data governance, and data pipelining; a modern day fortress, on the cloud, ready for The Big Data Revolution.


The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) announced regulation 239 in January 2013. For many institutions, this immediately put them on the defensive. However, Sun Tzu reminds us, "Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive." BCBS 239, for the data-era organizations, represents an opportunity for an offensive.

For those less familiar, the principles of BCBS 239 center on governance, data and IT architecture, accuracy, timeliness, and completeness in reporting, when it comes to an organizations data assets and processes. While these may appear to be defensive measures, the endgame is a platform from which to wage battle: a true governance offensive.

With the right data architecture, established on the cloud, a new set of opportunities emerge for an enterprise that embraces governance as an offensive measure. An enterprise will find itself with a castle for the Data era, armed with key offensive weapons:

a) Self-Service: designed to empower the citizen analyst, data engineer, and data steward to engage on their own accord. A user does not need to ask for access to data; they simply engage and discover.

b) Hybrid: taps into data everywhere...ground to cloud. Where the data resides does not matter to the consumer/user; it’s just data.

c) Intelligent: embedded analytics makes everyone a super human and automates many manual processes.

d) All Data: works with both structured & unstructured data

These are the principles that have guided the construction of our fortress destination on the cloud. This is IBM DataWorks.


When William of Normandy assembled his fortress many years ago, he adorned his castles with a number of attributes: towers, curtain walls, moats, drawbridges, portcullis, etc. All were a set of best practices designed for defensive protection, coupled with a base from which to wage an offensive. It was modern protection, for an unmodern time.

Our fortress cloud, like that of William of Normandy, is designed around governance as a strategic lever: offensive and defensive. It’s a unique destination, for our modern time.


Special thanks to @danhernandezATX for editing and guidance.

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