Use Data Gravity to Give Your Business a Lift

August 27, 2019
Use Data Gravity to Give Your Business a Lift

If you’re a gymnast or a pole vaulter, you’re going to do a better job if you’re always mindful of gravity. It’s ironic: to reach new heights, you need an intuitive sense of a strong, invisible force pulling things in the other direction.

In data science and enterprise IT, there’s an analogous force that IT organizations should keep in mind: data gravity.

We might think that enterprise IT is more distributed than ever. After all, more devices, services, and storage are moving up to the cloud and out to the network edge. But data gravity reminds us that there are forces pulling things in the other direction, too.

The term “data gravity” was coined by Dave McCrory in a blog post he wrote in 2010 while he was working as a cloud architect for Dell. The idea is this: As even more data collects in one place, it becomes more valuable, encouraging users to move more data sets to that same location, and to move applications and services closer as well.

Data gravity has “the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet,” McCrory wrote. He used the concept to explain the product launch of a new data service, but it can explain a lot of things, including IT development strategies and overlooked opportunities for data analytics. Find a center of data gravity, and you'll find the place where you can get answers to a lot of questions.

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Data Gravity in Action

Here’s an example of how an IT organization can take advantage of data gravity to get more done, building on data management habits that employees are adopting on their own.

Imagine a financial services company that uses Hadoop to collect data in a data lake. Because the data lake accepts a wide range of data formats and can store structured, unstructured and semi-structured data sets, it’s easy to start uploading data into the data lake.

As time goes by, more data collects in the data lake. Maybe originally all the data came from just one source — perhaps it was data about customer behavior from the marketing team — but as the data lake grows, accumulating many terabytes of data, it becomes more valuable, so people might begin adding data from other sources, too. An example of this would be starting with data from a marketing automation system like Eloqua, then adding Salesforce and Workday data as well.

Now, if anyone wants to analyze any of the data collected by marketing or from Workday or Salesforce, they know where to find it. So people across the organization start building applications, services and reports to work with the data lake, especially if they want to correlate data that comes from different sources. The Hadoop repository’s data gravity is pulling together an ever-increasing volume of data, as well as analytics about that ever-increasing volume of data.

A large organization might end up having multiple centers of gravity, because of its large volume of data, its various applications and databases, and the different needs of various departments in the organization. Each of these centers of gravity will become more valuable over time, and more applications and services will develop around them, attracted by the amassing of all that data.

These centers of gravity don’t need to be on-premise. They might be in the cloud. We’re seeing a lot of clients setting up Snowflake cloud data warehouses and using them to aggregate data quickly for analysis. Businesses can take advantage of whatever location works best for them.

Data Gravity Benefits From Low-Code Integration

This is where low-code integration comes in. Using a cloud-native platform like Dell Boomi, you can connect data really quickly. You don’t have to spend months hand-coding integrations; you can use a low-code interface to build them in just days, even hours. Integration is no longer a barrier to getting the data you want.

Low-code integration helps organizations make the most of data gravity in three ways.

1. Low-code integration makes it easier to amass data

Low-code integration makes data gravity stronger, because it makes it easier to move data into those centers of gravity quickly and easily.

Let’s go back to our Hadoop example. If the marketing department wants to pull together customer data from in-branch reporting systems, core banking systems, mobile location services and web analytics servers, they can easily connect all those sources to the data lake.

The Boomi Platform offers ready-to-use connectors for popular applications and standard protocols such as FTP and JDBC, so companies can quickly set up connections and pull in whatever data they want. That makes it easy to grow data volumes.

Using Boomi and data gravity, we can turn an asteroid into a moon, and a moon into a planet. We can increase the volume of data and increase its value, too.

2. Low-code integration, combined with a data hub, improves the quality of data being collected

Because a platform like Boomi can run data transformations and enforce data quality rules on the data it works with, businesses can ensure that data going into a center of gravity is accurate and consistent.

Not only can developers quickly build data transformations in Boomi’s low-code environment, adjusting data formats as needed, but they can also use Boomi Master Data Hub to govern data quality to all applications connecting to a data store, ensuring that data fields and data types are consistent and accurate across all applications connected to the hub.

3. Low-code integration streamlines access to reporting, AI frameworks, and other data services

Businesses can take advantage of low-code integration again to connect that massive data store to reporting tools, AI frameworks and business intelligence applications to analyze or report on information in the data stores.

Just as Boomi simplifies moving data into the center of gravity, it also helps with pulling data out and connecting it to the applications and services that businesses have set up to take advantage of data gravity.

Low-Code Integration and Data Gravity Get You the Answers You Need Faster

In any business, employees typically know who the experts are — who’s got the information they need, the “inside scoop,” even if that expertise isn’t something you could naturally derive from an org chart.

Data gravity works the same way. A center of data gravity is where you know you can go to get answers to all kinds of questions, such as questions about customer behavior, sales trends and financial results, even if it resides in a database or data lake rather than an officially sanctioned business application.

Enterprise architects, IT engineers, business analysts and others should find these centers of gravity and use Boomi data integration and data governance platform to make the most of them. An iPaaS platform like Boomi helps make centers of gravity bigger and more powerful. It also helps business analysts, data scientists and department leaders derive the most benefit from those concentrations of information.

Accruing naturally through the habits and inclinations of users, centers of data gravity are bound to appear in any large organization. iPaaS puts you in control of these forces of attraction, so that, regardless of what industry you’re working in, you can more quickly reach the heights you’re aiming for.

To learn more about all the ways the Boomi unified iPaaS can help your organization get more from its data, contact our partner Slalom, or speak with a Boomi integration specialist today.

About the Author

Oliver Asmus is an information management and analytics leader at Slalom, New York. Slalom is a Dell Boomi partner specializing in IT consulting and systems integration projects.