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What happened to the ‘data gravity’ concept?
A few years ago, one of the emerging thoughts in the data storage sector was the idea of 'data gravity' – the concept that the information a business generates has mass that affects the services and applications around it. The more data firms create, the more 'pull' it has on surrounding parts of the organisation.
The term was coined back in 2010 by Dave McCrory. In his original post, he spelled out how as data volumes grow, the effect they have on other parts of the IT environment becomes more pronounced – in much the same way that a larger planet or star exerts a greater gravitational pull than a smaller one.
Back then, when big data was still in its infancy for many companies, there was a great deal of uncertainty about the impact that growing volumes of data would have on a business, and Mr McCrory's concept helped get IT professionals used to the idea of data as having a tangible, real-world impact on how a firm operates.
These days, it's not a term that you hear very often. But why is this? It's not exactly the case that the concept hasn't worked out, but as big data technology has evolved, its rather been overtaken as the accumulation of vast quantities of data becomes the new normal for many firms – the influence has moved from local planet gravity to cosmos 'market' scale gravity.
When Mr McGrory first described the concept, tools like Hadoop were still a long way away, and the impact that the platform has had on the big data market has been huge. As a result, the notion that data has a 'pull' on just parts of the IT department has progressed to an enterprise level influence.
Many strategies are now more guided by ideas such as the 'data lake' – where all of a business' generated information is pooled into a central resource that businesses can dip into whenever they need it. Is this the ultimate evolution of the gravity concept – a data black hole – hopefully one where information escapes!
The idea of data having 'mass' that can affect other parts of the business hasn't gone away – it's just become the accepted truth, the norm, as more companies put data, and the information derived from it, at the heart of their activities.