The explosion of data gravity

Following the recent Gartner Symposium a few weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, there seemed to be a common topic with most of the attendees that I spoke with: the concept of data gravity. While last year, CIOs at the conference were concerned with what data to maintain and manage on-premise, CIOs this year turned to look for strategic advice on how to move out of their own data center facilities and move toward the cloud. One thing was clear – CIOs aren’t committing 100 percent of their infrastructure to the cloud. Instead, they are more commonly utilizing a mix of infrastructure combining the advantages of the cloud with managed infrastructure in facilities that provide superior network access to the cloud.

The concept of data gravity is fairly simple, but let’s look at it in further detail, Dave McCrory originally proposed the idea a few years back and states:

Consider data as if it were a planet or other object with sufficient mass. As data accumulates (builds mass) there is a greater likelihood that additional services and applications will be attracted to this data. This is the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet.  As the mass or density increases, so does the strength of gravitational pull. As things get closer to the mass, they accelerate toward the mass at an increasingly faster velocity.

Simply put, as organizations adopt and migrate infrastructure to the cloud, data that remains outside of the cloud starts to gravitate to those applications running in the cloud. As data is pulled closer to that infrastructure, it can reduce latency, increase efficiencies and speed, as well as increase application performance, all of which can positively impact the end user’s experience. The idea of being able to transform one’s operations through the use and placement of data is a revolutionary one. And while some processes and workloads physically are restricted to the cloud, with the likes of AWS, Google, Microsoft and others continuing to refine what it means to physically store data, it’s making more sense for enterprises to increasingly move more workloads and applications to the cloud. (Note: for a perfect example of the impact moving apps to the cloud can have on an organization, take a look at what we did for McDonald’s.)

If you are asking yourself, what should I consider when moving my data outside of my data center walls? Here are some best practices to keep top of mind:

  • Workload purpose – Is it a workload or application that needs to be in the cloud? Cloud brings agility, flexibility and cost efficiency but not all applications need to be moved. Decide which apps will benefit most from the agility of the cloud and prioritize as needed.
  • Security considerations – Do you need to have complete control over your data? What security protocols are you willing to give up, or hand over? This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t move to the cloud, there are certain managed service providers who can guide you through this process or ensure you maintain control over your data, however it’s a key question to ask and process to analyze when deciding what to move.
  • Compliance – Are you legally bound to keep some infrastructure in-house? Government agencies in particular have strict regulations on what should and shouldn’t be moved outside of physical data centers. Be sure you are clear on the regulations as you approach moving data outside of your physical infrastructure.

Data gravity is a key trend we see being particularly explosive in 2016. We’ll be revisiting the topic in more detail in the coming months so stay tuned for further best practices around what moving outside of your data center walls really means.

Rich Dolan briefly served as Senior Director of Corporate Marketing at Rackspace. Before that he was Senior Vice President of Marketing for Datapipe, where he spent 16 years developing and driving its world class marketing team as the company grew into one of the leading global managed service providers, from the early days as a start up to a global enterprise player. He built and oversaw digital marketing and demand generation, event management, content management, internal communications, brand management, partner marketing and web properties. Rich managed the consolidation of marketing resources from five acquisitions, and led Datapipe to thirteen Gartner Magic Quadrant recognitions across the globe, including four placements in the Leaders quadrant. Before Datapipe, Rich spent four years with web design firm RareMedium, where he designed and architected web presences and client facing applications for Madison Square Garden, JP Morgan, Atlantis, XM Radio and Credit Suisse First Boston. Rich graduated summa cum laude from the New York Institute of Technology with a BA in computer graphics. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.