Should You Build or Buy Your Universal Semantic Layer?

Semantic layer

It only makes sense that organizations are investing in universal semantic layers. 

Providing analysts and business users universal access to data that can be understood by their BI tool of choice has become mission-critical. And that’s exactly what a universal semantic layer does. All of your data is virtually related into a common business language, so that all the different groups within your company can access and analyze data for their own unique purposes with any BI tool they wish to use. 

But after deciding you need a universal semantic layer, the next question you need to answer is: Do you build it in house, or do you partner with a third-party provider?

Building a universal semantic layer in house

Most people’s first instinct is to build it themselves. You’re already paying for your IT team, and they understand your unique data setup. Why wouldn’t you want to use the resources you already have? 

Here’s why: 

Time: Can you wait months, or even years, to achieve tool-agnostic access to all of your data? Or is this something you need right now?  

Building a universal semantic layer takes a really long time—it took the AtScale team of Silicon Valley veterans working on nothing else several years to build our first system. There are no shortcuts, and no way to deliver only a portion of the solution. Your users have certain expectations based on years of using SQL and BI tools. If you decide to build it in house, time will not be on your side.

Money : Do you have millions of dollars to spend on a large team of dedicated IT and engineering experts for an indefinite period of time? And will you be able to continually fund the maintenance, updates, and refinements it will always require? 

It can be exorbitantly expensive to build your own universal semantic layer, even with your own IT team and resources. And since the technology will be mission-critical, your total cost of ownership has to take into account ongoing post-build maintenance and updates. Ultimately, your ROI of universal data access could be mitigated by these never-ending expenses. 

Resources and expertise: You probably have a fantastic IT team that knows your systems inside and out. But do they possess the expertise to make the universal semantic layer as good or better than current solutions?

Doing this the right way requires expertise in a lot of dialects of query languages, and deep knowledge of the architecture of the datastores you’re connecting to. Your margin for error is literally zero percent. If your analytics solution messes up and gives you faulty or untrustworthy answers, it could derail your entire organization.

Perpetuity: Companies are not static in their datastores or their technology. There will always be new systems, migrations, databases, and BI tools to integrate. Therefore, building a universal semantic layer is never really finished, because it will always need to support new technologies and integrations. If you decide to build it yourself, the project will remain ongoing forever. 

The alternative: Let the experts handle it

A far more advantageous alternative to building your own universal semantic layer is trusting a third-party partner that has the knowledge and expertise to build it for you — or has already built a trusted solution and can configure it for your specific needs. 

AtScale’s technology has been rigorously battle-tested by customers in dozens of verticals with hundreds of different use cases. All of the integrations you need for your systems and BI tools are on the shelf and ready to go. After performing hundreds of implementations for customers across industries all over the world, we’ve mastered the idiosyncrasies of all the systems, tools, and queries you currently have. 

Not only will you have your universal semantic layer up and running in weeks, not months or years, for a fraction of what it would cost to build it yourself, it will also be optimized to bring as much value to your organization as possible. You will be able to leverage Atscale’s capabilities to accelerate and automatically optimize your datastores, significantly improving your BI performance. 

Why spend all that money and wait months or years to be able to use your universal semantic layer, only to have a suboptimal solution that you have to maintain and upgrade until the end of time? Let AtScale’s expertise, experience, support and guidance empower you with universal, tool-agnostic data access across your organization. 

Interested in more on building vs. buying your universal semantic layer? Get the full white paper here.

GigaOm Sonar Chart - semantic layers and metrics stores