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Why Data Gravity is the Single Biggest Challenge for Digital Transformation

Tony Bishop, SVP Platform & Ecosystem Strategy
March 12, 2020

What do you get when you take the laws of physics, the laws of IT, and intersect them with digital transformation? The answer is data gravity—and it’s the single biggest challenge facing all companies, today and into the foreseeable future.

What is Data Gravity?

First coined in 2010 by GE Engineer Dave McCrory, data gravity describes the effect that as data accumulates, there is a higher likelihood that additional services and applications will be attracted to the data, essentially having the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet.

Big Data Leads to Data Gravity

Data is now being created everywhere. By 2025, it’s estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally. What used to be created in a centralized place, which brought users or systems to the data, is now being created everywhere due to digital technology, such as cloud, IoT, social, and mobile analytics. It’s happening in and around our smart phones, buildings, homes and even cities. As that data gets created, it needs to be able to be aggregated together in order to bring insights and improve the process or experience.

As data collects, more and more applications and services start to use it. Gartner predicts that, by 2021, there will be more than 25 billion IoT end points. Against this proliferation of devices, data gravity comes into play—and it becomes a compounding effect. As a result, the data becomes almost impossible to move. Barriers brought on by data gravity will cause unfavorable complexity when factoring business locations, proximity to users, regulatory constraints, compliance, and data privacy.

As businesses look at global growth, it will become fundamental to solve for data gravity barriers brought on by digital transformation.

Data Gravity Impacts Global Businesses of All Sizes

The typical organization grows through geographic expansion. Even as small to mid-size businesses grow, reach new audiences, create new channels and participate in new digital ecosystems, it becomes imperative to build support for and to maintain data wherever they do business. These businesses must consider where they place, host and connect data because of the challenge of data gravity. For business processes to execute successfully, they need to be able to bring the data together and bring the user, applications and the networks to the data—and maintain that.

Data Gravity: At the Forefront of Every Data Compliant Business

Every industry will have unique requirements around addressing data gravity; it does not discriminate. In securities trading, for example, data gravity brings complexity due to the highly regulated transactions and maintenance of market data. Consider the data around the buyer and seller, the time of day, the type of security; all of that data becomes aggregated and needs to be hosted, maintained and regulated.

For retail banks, ATMs and mobile banking are great examples of where data is being created in many different places, so it needs to be brought together. As soon as you bring it together, you’re not going to be able to move it to other places.

In healthcare, consider the regulations and standards of what’s occurring between a provider and a patient. Whether it’s a specialist or a general doctor of a specific type of treatment that’s occurring, all of these interactions are activities that act like workflows. And those workflows have associated regulations of every item that needs to be completed, documented, connected and secured.

Data Gravity Challenges Hinder the Customer Experience

The digital age puts the power of “now” right at our fingertips. Thus, today’s customer is in complete control, pressuring businesses to dazzle with immediate service delivery. When Amazon Prime arrives on our doorstep, transportation logistics make it all possible. Just like an airport hub, transportation logistics create a paradigm where physical movement through different vehicles and transportation methods generate data on every single micro moment. That data has to come together to track the delivery status against a running time clock—which directly impacts the customer experience.

As a result, data gravity challenges will exist because as systems and applications come together to enable the processes, physical movement and coordination to work, they’re going to deal with many centers of data being maintained to enable those processes wherever they’re going to geographically distribute.

Data gravity describes the effect that as data accumulates, there is a higher likelihood that additional services and applications will be attracted to the data, essentially having the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet.

The Digital Transformation of Data Centers

With the explosion of data happening everywhere, data centers themselves are going under a digital transformation. Gartner predicts that, by 2022, more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. This means the centralized infrastructure we once knew will soon become a thing of the past. The influx of data across a multitude of users, locations, clouds, networks and geographies has created the need for centers of data exchange.

According to Gartner, “By 2022, 60% of enterprise IT infrastructure will focus on centers of data, rather than traditional data centers.” This trend supports the needs for businesses to improve performance by participating across global ecosystems and reduce the time to connect to partners, providers and markets.

Optimizing Data Exchange to Control Centers of Data

Irrespective of industry, solving data gravity barriers requires a network footprint that allows traffic to be aggregated in and out between the public internet and the private enterprise. Even more critical, mitigating security breaches requires the ability to place security infrastructure in a secure facility adjacent to where the network traffic flows in and out into a specific region or zone or country. Because of the effects of data gravity, strategic IT infrastructure must be able to aggregate and maintain data, whether in public or private clouds, from the core to the edge and across every point of business presence to control centers of data exchange.

By 2022, 60% of enterprise IT infrastructure will focus on centers of data, rather than traditional data centers.

Solving Data Gravity with a Pervasive Data Center Architecture (PDx) Strategy

A successful digital transformation will enable companies to operate ubiquitously and on-demand, augmented by real-time intelligence, serving customers, partners and employees across all channels, business functions, and points of business presence. This is forcing IT to re-architect towards a decentralized infrastructure which removes barriers to due to data gravity.

Digital Realty created the PlatformDIGITAL™ solution model to solve global coverage, capacity and ecosystem connectivity needs with a prescriptive combination including:

  1. Network Hub: Consolidates and localizes traffic into ingress/egress points to optimize network performance and cost
  2. Control Hub: Hosts adjacent Security and IT controls to improve security posture and IT operations
  3. Data Hub: Localizes data aggregation, staging, analytics, streaming and data management to optimize data
  4. SX Fabric: Adds SDN overlay to service chain multi-cloud and B2B application ecosystems. Connects hubs across metros and regions to enable secure and performant distributed workflows

PlatformDIGITAL® is the physical implementation of a Pervasive Data Center Architecture (PDx) Strategy, which results in a decentralized IT architecture bringing users, networks, clouds, controls, systems and things to the data, which removes barriers of data gravity, creates centers of data exchange to accommodate distributed workflows and scales digital business.

A Pervasive Data Center Architecture on PlatformDIGITAL is the key for solving data gravity and succeeding with digital transformation.

Find out why PlatformDIGITAL enables the ever-changing data, control and networking demands of global enterprises. Explore how PlatformDIGITAL solves data gravity.