Data gravity is a term that IT leaders are going to be talking about a lot in the near future. But what is it, how has COVID accelerated it, and what are the implications for IT decision makers?
The term data gravity refers to the way that large datasets tend to attract smaller datasets, and how growth in data leads to more applications and data-generating services. This results in an acceleration in the amount of data organisations need to grapple with.
This phenomenon has sped up with digital transformation during the past two years as organisations responded to the huge impact of the COVID disruption. McKinsey reports that the “share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years”.
And Digital Realty’s Data Gravity Index, shows that data gravity intensity is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 139 per cent through 2024.
Organisations are losing control over where data is located, due to the shift to remote work and the rapid adoption of cloud services. “According to Gartner, around half of all data actually lives outside of the enterprises’ core data centres and cloud providers,” says Digital Realty Solutions Architect, Daniel Ong.
This can have financial repercussions. “One challenge that enterprises are grappling with is that the data growth also means that it’s going to cost a lot of money to upgrade the bandwidths and increase the number of destinations of their networks with the existing incumbent network providers,” Ong says.
“Furthermore, when you have uncontrolled amounts of data created outside of your core data centre, your cybersecurity may be impacted,” he adds. “You could be very prone to attacks from some of these more sophisticated hackers as they collect data for ransomware.”
Latency is another problem resulting from data gravity. With so much data located outside organisations’ core networks, their users’ IT experience can become degraded – applications generating massive amounts of data via US-based data centres can have a latency of 250 ms or more back to Australia.
This can also hinder organisation’s use of edge computing – a key enabler of the next wave of digital transformation, according to IDC.
Planning for data gravity
CIOs can take three strategic steps to effectively address data gravity:
- Plan for growth
CIOs need to anticipate the acceleration of data and plan for where data will be. Digital Realty’s Data Gravity Index notes that “it isn’t enough to plot and strategise for where your data is; you must plan ahead so that your architecture, and therefore your company, has the capacity to scale and adapt to the changing circumstances and the likelihood that you’ll have more data as time goes by.”
- Replicate data across multiple data centres to reduce latency and maximise efficiency
It’s important to take an efficient approach to the volume of data you store, but even more important to prioritise efficient access to it.
For many CIOs, this will require investment in hybrid cloud solutions, according to Ong. “CIOs are juggling a number of competing priorities, and ultimately trying to streamline the on premise to cloud strategies,” he says.
“There's a middle ground, which is hybrid IT, where there's still that potential for you to keep the regulators and those with security priorities happy, while also making end users happy by giving able to give them the flexibility to be able to order and consume services as they need them.”
- Develop solutions for data bottlenecks
Storing data in suitable locations can slow access to it, but that’s not the only cause of data bottlenecks. CIOs also need to be cognisant of the bottlenecks skill shortages can create. The APAC region faces severe shortages in data, cloud and cybersecurity skills, which are needed to address the data gravity problem. The increasing social and regulatory pressures concerning sustainability and the availability of sustainable data centres are also important to consider.
Hybrid IT solutions can help CIOs and other IT leaders get ahead of data gravity. These solutions in include Digital Realty’s full spectrum of data centre colocation and interconnection solutions, including PlatformDIGITAL and the Pervasive Datacenter Architecture (PDx™) solution.
Data gravity won’t go away and its momentum won’t slow. CIOs that are not feeling its pinch yet will feel it sooner rather than later.
With the ability to drive IT to the edge and the security of organisations at stake, preparing for data gravity should be a core part of every organisation’s transformation journey.