Actian Blog / A moment of Zen for your resting IoT data on its journey to data nirvana

A moment of Zen for your resting IoT data on its journey to data nirvana


Early in my career I studied Systems Engineering at night which is where I first came across the term IPO which is an acronym for Input-Processing-Output. My lecturer taught us every software function has three basic sequential steps, reading input data, processing that data and eventually outputting it.  In a more complex system, such functions are strung together, typically in a hierarchy. State transition diagrams are a great way to visualize these transformations.

The data that the above functions use takes a journey in which it is read, filtered, transformed and stored in a persistent form, which is when it gets to rest. In the Internet of Things (IoT) use case this journey often begins with the data being created by way of an event that is detected by sensor, which triggers this raw data instantiation.

Once created, the data continues its journey, being consumed and refined multiple times making it more and more valuable. At the beginning of the journey raw data often persists in flat files. For it to be efficiently accessed, it needs to be in a database. When the database is close to where it originates it is often referred to as the “edge” network in the IoT world. The culmination of the journey is, as the title suggests is when it can provide insights or provide feedback that results in positive business outcome.

Edge devices exist in large numbers which means they cannot present a high administration overhead, which would make them unusable. The mindset needed to make phased improvements in such administration overheads is known in as Kaizen, meaning change for good. Actian Zen is particularly well suited to the role of an edge database as it has a tiny footprint, is made for hands-off administration and runs on embedded devices based on Android, iOS and Raspberry Pi. This could explain why in this instance the term “Zen” is an acronym that expands to Zero administration, Embedded and Nano footprint. I suspect that this is probably not a coincidence 😊

Onward with the data journey to enlightenment. The Data travels from edge devices through IoT gateways (where it is often filtered and consolidated) before entering the physical data center or cloud data center service. This is another area where Action Zen shines. Zen database files are portable across platforms, eliminating the ETL process that other stores require.

Now we are in the realm of operational databases that typically use relational technology. Actian X is an operational and analytical hybrid because it can handle relational database organization and has a built-in analytical database based on Actian Vector. Actian Vector is an in-memory, columnar analytical database which can be harmonized between operational and analytical worlds using a trigger on the relational table which updates the columnar database as changes are made, thus providing real-time analytics without an onerous extraction-transformation-loading process.

A relational database is great for producing simple reports, but not complex analytics that provide real insights that drive prescriptive actions. This is the digital equivalent of nirvana for data as it is driving real change for good for an organization.

Data must be managed or administered whether in motion or at rest. Reaching data nirvana is not easy. Data all too often ends up in a lake or worse, a swamp where it can get stale or stinky. So, it’s important to take incremental steps to improve the economics of your data management, which means you need to squeeze the most value out of it while keeping the management overheads low. Actian applies Zen philosophy so data exist in harmony with an organization using a minimalist footprint.

Learn more about Actian Zen here or talk to us in person at IoT world in Santa Clara on May 14-17 2018

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