Challenges of Data Gravity

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Unless something is entirely weightless it has the potential to be pulled earthward by gravity, and the term is used figuratively for data when used in a discussion of data gravity. As you likely know from being here we do like to talk about data in our blog, and given the fact that 4GoodHosting is a Canadian web hosting provider that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. But anyone and everyone who’s operating in the digital space has more demands than ever before when it comes to managing and warehousing data, and so if you’re not familiar with data gravity that’s where we’ll start this week.

The clinical definition for data gravity is to say that is the ‘propensity for bodies of data to draw an expanding swath of applications and services into closer proximity’. It affects an enterprise’s ability to innovate, secure customer experiences, and even deliver financial results on a global scale. As such it’s an issue that major businesses will have to deal with if they’re going to continue to have the same benchmarks for themselves operating their business in the way they have for likely more than 2 decades now. If not longer.

No one anywhere is taking their foot off the gas even a bit with making progress, so data storage and management challenges continue to be magnified. Data gravity is certainly one of them, so let’s look at it in more detail with this week’s entry.

Heavy Sets

When data piles up, applications and services are always going to move closer to the data sets and this data gravity at work. It’s already been identified as a key megatrend for certain industries, and the prominence of it is foreseen to double in the next couple of years. It may mean problems down the road with some organizations and their IT infrastructure.

Data should be openly available to access by its related applications and services, easily managed, analyzed, and activated regardless of location. In order for that to happen traffic must flow easily everywhere across a company’s network footprint and including – among other point-to-points – from the public internet to every private point of presence for the business.

The problem is that the gravity of massive data sets can lock applications and services in place within one particular operational location. When the stored data is trapped there it can’t be made useful anywhere else, and this problem related to inevitable centralization can affect every other aspect of the system as a whole.

The fix is to make sure that no particular data set becomes uncontrollable by overwhelming IT capacity with excessive data volumes. But how is that done?

Agile Architecture

The starting consideration in evaluating that approach has to be the volume of data being generated and consumed. The number and type of places where data is stored and used, the way data is distributed across such places, and the speed the data is transmitted also needs be to taken into account.

But managing data gravity effectively can become a competitive differentiator, and if you have solid and well-built infrastructure you’ll be more ahead of the curve. Data gravity affects a company’s IT ability to be innovative and agile, and whether or not that’s a big deal depends on what you’re doing with your venture.

The main thrust of addressing data gravity has to be two-fold. Teams need to start with maintaining multiple centers where data processes take place. From there they must design an architecture where applications, compute and storage resources can move efficiently within and throughout those centers. But the cost and time involved with moving data around once their IT elements are decentralized is often considerable and underestimated. Unanswered questions around scale can cause transaction and egress fees to pile up. Having vendor lock-in causing headaches is common too.

Colocation Fix

Colocation data centers can be one fix when hybrid or multi-cloud setups are being utilized. If they’re located near a cloud location, they are able to facilitate solutions from multiple clouds. This eliminates data duplication and reduces latency at the same time. The right colocation provider can provide cross-connects, private circuit options and hyperscale-ready onramps. The only hang up can be geographical distribution.

Doubling down on major urban centers to creating an emphasis on expanding interconnected ecosystems around existing data gravity isn’t always such a straightforward solution. But one newer approach that is being seen is where organizations differentiate themselves by focusing on data hubs in multi-tenant data centers near cloud campuses at the edge. By placing data closer to the end user they solve much of the latency problem. Further, the ability to process some data close to cloud computing applications can solve the problem of data storage being too dense to move.

Edge Data Servers to Meet Need

This leads to the seemingly most ideal approach to dealing with data gravity – using Edge data centers where the architecture is prepped for the needed hybrid or multi-cloud solutions. The best ones will be working closely alongside cloud-based models where storage capacity at the edge can reduce the size of otherwise centralized data sets. This is done by discarding unneeded data and the compressing the vital stuff.

These ones will also need to be set up for increased bandwidth as more and more processing will take place in the one data storage location. If configured properly, Edge data servers can serve as the first stop for processing before it moves to the cloud and it is predicted that within 3 years 75% of data will be processed at the Edge, including 30% of total workloads.

Looking into an industry crystal ball, it’s hard to predict which ways data gravity will influence the ways networks work and look. That said, solving data gravity in the future will involve an intermeshed collaboration between parties such as content providers, edge data centers and enterprise IT teams.

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