Datapipe’s Tony Connor explains the concept of data gravity.
In an age where data is considered the new oil and technology companies account for the global top-five largest companies by market capitalisation – overtaking the oil conglomerates in the process – businesses need to give due consideration to how best to utilise data. One concept that is becoming particularly popular is called data gravity.
Data gravity is the concept that, similar to how a planet exerts a gravitational force pulling other objects towards it, accumulated data draws further data and applications towards it. The term has been around for years, but few in enterprise really understand its benefits for their business.
By its very nature, data gravity vastly improves the speed at which data is processed and communicated within a business. As organisations migrate infrastructure to the cloud, data outside the cloud begins to gravitate towards applications running inside it. As data is pulled closer to that infrastructure, organisations will experience reduced latency, increased application performance, and improved business efficiency. When data makes its way to the cloud, it will attract more applications and the data will become more valuable as its utility increases, it becomes a virtuous circle. Any enterprise, regardless of industry, can make use of data gravity.
So how do you take advantage? There are three key concepts to consider when adopting data gravity:
Latency: missing out by a second
A defining concept of data gravity is location: the further your data has to travel, the longer it takes for the various pieces of your organisation’s infrastructure to communicate with each other. This lost time, whilst measured in only seconds, could easily mean hundreds of lost customers every day, depending on the size of your business.
A 2015 Microsoft study found that since the year 2000, the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to only eight seconds. Consider what this could mean for an advertising company. Long load times for ads could result in them rarely, if ever, being seen. Another study found that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and 40% will abandon a website that takes more than three. Data gravity reduces the effective distance between the relevant parts, reducing the time it takes for data to be transferred to the consumer. The more infrastructure, applications and data you have in the cloud, the more you can leverage data gravity to reduce latency and boost the connection to your consumers.
The processing power-play
Every organisation by now knows that it needs data. Data on sales, information from marketing and social media activities, website logs, customer feedback and so on. However, all that data is useless if it can’t be processed efficiently. It’s an excellent resource, but its value decays quickly over time – it becomes stale.
For instance, if data isn’t analysed quickly, consumers who recently made a purchase could be targeted with ads for the very product they just bought. With proper analysis, they should be targeted with ads complementary to their purchase. The problem isn’t in the data, it’s in how efficiently it is processed and not receiving data in a timely manner can be disastrous for sales. When taking advantage of data gravity, it is therefore critical that you employ an architecture that can communicate very quickly. Hybrid infrastructures, as well as technologies like AWS Direct Connect or Azure ExpressRoute, provide ideal solutions for high-speed access to their respective infrastructures, enabling and leveraging cloud-based data processing even when the data is hosted on-premises or in data centres.
Fielding the whole team
The final consideration has more to do with implementation. Whilst it may be tempting to silo data gravity within IT, its value extends far beyond one team. For example, CMOs and sales leaders both benefit from increased response times and data validity. Better targeting can result in new leads for the sales team to pursue, and more precise analytics for the marketing team’s overall strategy.
Company-wide buy-in can magnify the value you extract from your data gravity initiative and increases the likelihood that the available data will be put to its best possible use. Clearly defined roles within each team when deploying a system to leverage data gravity will further extend the potential of your project, circumventing the miscommunication and inefficiencies that are the antithesis of an effective data strategy.
In a world where insight and analytics are key to staying ahead of your competitors, poor data quality and slow internal processes translates to lost customers. Data gravity is a concept with far-reaching benefits for any business willing to embrace it. The closer your data is to the cloud, the faster it can be gathered, analysed and put to use. Partner with an experienced managed service provider who can provide the right technology and guidance necessary to accelerate your business.