Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace helps our business users answer questions without IT assistance, which has really improved our turnaround time.
Schoeman Loubser Information Architect, GetSmarter
  • About Get Smarter

    GetSmarter collaborates with leading universities worldwide to offer short, online courses that help professionals acquire new skills and certifications. The company, which was recently acquired by 2U for US$100 million, provides its students with end-to-end services, including registration, academic support, and credential issuance. Founded in 2008 and based in Cape Town, South Africa, GetSmarter employs about 350 full-time staff.

  • Services Used

  • Benefits of AWS

    • Business users can answer questions without data skills
    • Simplifies access control and data governance across more than 15 disparate sources 
    • Supports customer growth without requiring new employees or other resources  

GetSmarter has recently been experiencing rapid growth. As its customer base and company size expanded, so did the number and variety of repositories for its vital company data. The company accumulated more than 15 different data repositories, including traditional databases running on Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, as well as complex Google Sheets and several software-as-a-service (SaaS) data-storage solutions from which data could only be extracted with APIs. With all signs pointing to continued fast growth, the company decided it was time to head off the challenges of storing data in so many diverse systems.

"We knew having multiple disparate data sources was going to complicate meeting data-protection requirements, especially at scale," says Schoeman Loubser, who is responsible for data infrastructure and analytics at GetSmarter. According to Loubser, meeting the 2018 deadline for complying with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was a key goal. "Our other major challenge was that we weren't able to answer business questions from internal and external customers as quickly as we wanted."

GetSmarter needed a solution that would provide a single, enterprise-wide view into company data held in disparate systems and simplify data governance and security. To support continued growth, the new solution couldn't require significant new staffing or other resources.

After considering traditional data-integration solutions, GetSmarter decided to implement a data-virtualization solution based on the Denodo Platform. Because GetSmarter was already using Amazon Web Services (AWS), it could access Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace.

"We looked at data warehousing," says Loubser. "But we just didn't have the time needed to set that up, and it wouldn't have supported the near-real-time decision making that is key to our strategy."

Instead of collecting data from disparate sources, the Denodo Platform connects to those sources and presents their data as a virtual, abstracted, semantic layer, where business users can access, analyze, and report on it with no special data or IT skills. Because this virtual data layer sits between the data sources and the people and systems accessing the data, Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace also simplifies imposing granular access roles. As a result, GetSmarter doesn't need to manage access at each data source.

After testing a proof of concept on the free version of Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace, GetSmarter moved to the unlimited version to connect all its disparate data sources. The solution was fully operational in just three months. The company now uses Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace as its business intelligence layer and can run real-time queries on as many as one million records at a time, regardless of data source.

With a data-virtualization solution based on Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace, GetSmarter achieved its goal of obtaining a single, real-time view into student-lifecycle and other company data stored in its many disparate systems. Now that the company can use enterprise-wide data analysis to answer business questions, its planning and decision-making processes are faster and easier.

One of the biggest benefits of the new solution is that users are able to answer questions based on data stored in multiple systems without needing to know anything about the technical details of those systems. "Before the new solution, business users had to request specific reports, each of which needed about a week to develop,” says Loubser. “Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace helps our business users answer questions with no IT involvement and zero development time.”

Other key benefits of the new solution are improved and simplified data security and governance. "Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace lets us impose granular access controls for both users and systems, so our compliance with GDPR and other data-protection requirements is even stronger," says Loubser. “That helps us keep our current customers satisfied as well as easily demonstrate to potential new customers that we conform to international standards.”

As new customers—and their associated new data sources—come aboard, the new solution helps GetSmarter grow without incurring large additional costs. “The number of data sources we need to connect to is only going to keep growing, with no end in sight,” says Loubser. “By using Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace, we avoid the cost of hiring data professionals to manage shipping and securing new data at the data source level, so expanding our customer base doesn’t result in new staffing requirements.”

Because Denodo is available in AWS Marketplace, the GetSmarter data-virtualization project was easier and less expensive than if the company had licensed it directly. "We didn't need to license Denodo directly and provision for it ourselves, so we avoided upfront server costs and license fees," says Loubser. "What Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace has allowed us to do is implement and test a data-virtualization system at relatively low cost, without procuring new servers or releasing resources on existing servers. The pay-as-you-go pricing model of Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace makes it easy for us to make sure we're not paying for anything we don't need."

Loubser describes Denodo Platform in AWS Marketplace as adding value to the company's investment in AWS. "We're already committed to AWS for its reliability, its fast scalability, and the worldwide reach that helps us comply with certain countries' requirement that data be stored locally. Denodo is a great, user-friendly platform for any data professional, and being able to access it through AWS Marketplace makes AWS even better for us."

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Denodo, an AWS Standard Technology Partner, is a leader in data-virtualization software. The Denodo Platform, which is available in AWS Marketplace, helps customers obtain unified access to their enterprise, big data, cloud, and unstructured data sources and supports agile data services provisioning and governance—all at a lower cost than traditional data-integration solutions. Denodo customers gain business agility and return on investment by using the Denodo Platform to create a unified virtual data layer that provides flexible business intelligence capabilities, big data analytics, web and cloud integration, single-view applications, and data services.

Learn more about AWS Marketplace.