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How VMware's CDO views data management

The chief data officer of the virtualization vendor details her views on the increasing challenges of dealing with growing volumes of data and the critical importance of data governance.

As organizations grow both organically and with acquisitions, their data management challenges tend to increase commensurately.

VMware is a large enterprise software vendor that is well known for its virtualization technologies. Over the last few years, it has been Wendy Batchelder's job to help VMware figure out its data management strategy in her role as vice president and chief data officer.

Batchelder joined VMware as head of enterprise data management in December 2018 and became CDO in October 2020. Before VMware, she held data management positions at Wells Fargo as well as audit roles at Aviva North America and KPMG US. As CDO of VMware, Batchelder's area of responsibility is how VMware uses and manages its own data, including governance and master data management. 

In this Q&A, Batchelder provides insight into some of the challenges and opportunities for data management at VMware.

What are your responsibilities as chief data officer at VMware?

Wendy BatchelderWendy Batchelder

Wendy Batchelder: VMware is very much in the state of really solidifying our data foundation and organizing our data so we can use it better.

I have responsibility for data management, data governance and data quality. I also have responsibility for master data, our insights and analytics team, and our data science division.

Most of the work that I do today is internal in that we are providing a lot of the insights and data to run the company.

What is the basic data architecture for VMware's data efforts?

Batchelder: Most people hear the term data architecture and think about systems and software. From a data architecture perspective I often think about flow.

So, the way I think about data architecture is how we connect data so that we can derive the insights we need. Today that is complicated. Companies like ours have had a lot of acquisitions and data is everywhere.

You don't have to move data to get the insights that you need but you do need to access it. Which is why I think that metadata, data lineage and data quality are going to become very important.
Wendy BatchelderChief data officer, VMware

I have the opinion that you don't have to move data to get the insights that you need but you do need to access it. Which is why I think that metadata, data lineage and data quality are going to become very important.

So one of the areas we're looking at now is how do we access data in different places and how do we make it easily accessed by others. I don't see a future where every single report or every single insight has to come to from a central data office in order to get produced. We should be empowering more of a self-service environment where people can get to the data that they need, when they need it. A part of our data strategy is really building that self-service capability for the organization.

What do you see as the role of data lakes in a modern data architecture?

Batchelder: I think there are some really interesting technologies emerging around being able to compute without storage. So being able to pull data together in near real time in order to create the insight on the spot without having to copy it over.

The less risk you have in the process, the better you can control security and access. That provides a safer alternative than putting everything in a single location, which I think creates concentration risk.

I do think that there are some benefits to data lakes and there are going to be cases where we use them. But I also think there's not a need always move data in order to get to it.

How do you manage the challenge of data governance at VMware?

Batchelder: We are in the in the process of implementing what we call VMware unified, an initiative that we launched shortly after I came into this role, and it's really around data management.

It's about how we manage data properly, including data governance, and today it is a lot of manual work. We certainly comply with all the laws that we need to, and our chief privacy officer handles a lot of that. We work very closely together to make sure that we know what is where and how we protect data properly.

We are in the process of implementing Informatica's Axon data governance and some of their other products to help us with more proactive data governance and management for VMware.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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