Data Fabric: The Right Remedy for an Unhealthy Cloud

In this special guest feature, Krishna Tammana, Talend CTO, digs into why data fabric is seeing hype now, versus 10 years ago during the big data boom, and how companies can actually take advantage of this technology. Krishna is responsible for scaling the product and engineering organizations to drive innovation and Talend’s continued market growth. Previously, he spent nearly a decade as VP of Engineering at Splunk where he led global engineering teams and cloud operations during the company’s successful portfolio expansion and transition to the cloud. Prior to Splunk, Krishna held engineering management roles at Dun & Bradstreet, YouSendIt, RIGHT90 INC. and E * Trade.

In 2021, Gartner named data fabric an emerging technology in its annual Hype Cycle report. However, a recent survey found most enterprises are still struggling to become data-driven, even though a record number of companies reported investing in AI and data. Given current investment trends, it’s safe to assume many large companies will decide to begin integrating fabric data into their governance processes. But why now, and how can executives make the most of data technology to drive tangible digital transformation and intelligent business outcomes?

Cloud acceleration channels hype for data fabric

Data fabric has been available to enterprises for about 15 years, but the hype cycle around the technology is building rapidly now – and we have only just begun to see the impact. What’s responsible for its sudden boom in popularity? In a word: cloud. Major shifts to cloud computing have created the perfect storm for enterprises.

Due to the working conditions created in response to the pandemic, most major enterprises rapidly transitioned to cloud, hybrid or multi-cloud environments. This trend shows no signs of slowing, with most major enterprises listing cloud investments as their top tech spending priority for 2022. However, rapid cloud adoption without a fleshed-out data governance strategy slows business analytics because data is left disparate, spread out and hard to manage efficiently – making it “unhealthy”. Many executives view data fabric as a solution to increase data health and positively impact business outcomes.

Shadow IT creates an “unhealthy” data problem

Cloud modernization and expansion efforts have helped many businesses navigate nearly two years of a tumultuous business landscape, but those efforts’ speed created new problems. When decisions are made about cloud acceleration too quickly, enterprises implement new systems and processes without considering their impact on their teams and core business. This leads to sprawl, which can hinder an executive’s ability to make data-driven decisions. In fact, 78% of executives report they still struggle to base business decisions on their data, and the root of this struggle comes from unhealthy collection and governance practices.

This environment lays the groundwork for shadow IT and the unknown unknowns that go along with it. Shadow IT is the root cause of many of the problems businesses face in the cloud. While employees can conveniently complete their job tasks using shadow IT systems, the technology introduces unprecedented risks, inefficiencies and costs to the organization. For example, two teams that unknowingly could stand up to two different solutions storing the same data at the same time, possibly in different formats. This disorganization makes it impossible to account for the integrity of that data.

The challenges of rushed cloud transformation, poor governance and negligible IT practices all create a proverbial “data landfill” of low-quality data. That unreliable data leads to bad business decisions. Data fabric solutions are essential for addressing these issues, as data landfills get bigger and impact more bottom lines.

Data fabric remedies and removes risks of unhealthy data

Data fabric prevents data landfills from forming by effectively centralizing and making data more accessible across an entire organization. The data fabric provides the connective tissue for disparate data across clouds, data lakes and devices to be easily visualized and accessed from the same source. By providing a specific, unified data entry point across the enterprise, the data fabric equips users and workflows with cross-functional visibility and instant answers to inform their work. In a moment, they can ask and answer: what data assets does each team have? Who owns and controls them? Who is using them? What is the quality level of the assets?

It’s impossible to make accurate decisions without having this information. The data fabric allows organizations to become fully informed about the state of the business. Healthy data empowers executives and decision-makers to make choices and pick directions faster, ultimately positively impacting business. It also creates a grounded work environment in healthy data, and ultimately in more trust in the organization.

Building a healthy data culture with data fabric

It’s encouraging to see more collaboration across teams because of the simple shift to a data fabric: it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead creates a better base of information. To get the maximum potential out of data fabric, leaders need to factor this key consideration into adoption: creating a company culture around healthy data.

Simply turning on the data fabric isn’t enough to create a triumphant return on a data fabric investment. Companies must democratize their data processes to include new citizen data scientists at all technical levels. Culture and technology must work in concert to enable members of different teams to engage, collaborate and add value across the lifecycle of the company’s data. Only then can a company maximize a return on its data fabric investment.

For example, data engineers are often the experts in the underlying systems and the mechanics of data management. Still, a marketing team may know more about its data’s expected formats, calculations and metrics. When data teams engage the company’s true data experts, like a marketing team, with collaboration workflows supported by their fabric, decision-making gets faster, and the data fabric delivers true business value.

As Gartner points out, there’s a lot to like about data fabric. It has so much potential to clear data landfills, speed up strategic decision-making and create a culture of trust. But executives who adopt the technology without properly addressing data health and their company’s data culture may find it difficult to see what the “hype” is all about.

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