October 28, 2022

What is a Data Fabric?

Data fabric is a term coined by the research firm Gartner to describe a distributed IT architecture in which data is governed the same way whether it is located on premises, in the cloud, or at the edge of a network.  According to Gartner it is “the future of data management”.  Creating a unified data fabric means that your organization’s data will always be available to authorized users no matter where it resides.

A data fabric can help eliminate data silos where data gets stuck in an isolated environment and can’t be used for new and often important uses.  It becomes essentially a traffic infrastructure where data is better able to move to destinations that are easily accessible by authorized users.  Think of it like the US system of interstates created by President Eisenhower.  Freeways connecting cities allow you to more easily get from one to the other.

Let’s take a look at a couple of real-world examples of some typical data scenarios.

Example 1:

Company A’s financial team uses QuickBooks online for their accounting.  Their sales team uses Salesforce Sales Cloud for their CRM.  These are both cloud based external data environments.  Their payroll team uses custom commissions software to produce commissions and QuickBooks Payroll (online).  The commissions data is in a Microsoft Access database on their local file server.  The payroll data is a cloud based external environment.

There is already a freeway between QuickBooks accounting online and QuickBooks Payroll.  What about connecting CRM or commissions data either to each other or to the external QuickBooks freeway?

Example 2:

Company B’s financial team uses Microsoft Dynamics GP for their accounting.  Their sales team uses Dynamics CRM module.  Their payroll team uses custom commissions software to produce commissions and Paylocity.  The commissions data is in a Microsoft SQL Azure data center.  All of the data is cloud based, and some of it has ready access to the same freeway.  Other data is in a separate cloud based system and it is more difficult to get data from more than one location to combine together.

Why is it important?

A data fabric works as a framework and a model for data transit.  This way each individual data system does not need to build their own freeway but can make use of the freeway already provided for them.

A data fabric can also utilize metadata assets to unify, integrate, and govern disparate data environments.  They help improve data security and accessibility and allow you to bring together data from many different sources like CRM, marketing, operations, finance.  Each of these types of data sources may be in different repositories that may use different technologies.  Some might be modern and others legacy data systems.  Your organization may be spread out geographically, and/or have data stored across the cloud, on premise, hybrid, and/or edge devices.

What are the benefits?

  • Breaks down your data silos
  • Achieves consistency across disparate environments
  • Provides a semantic knowledge graph for your data to label it in a way to be used from outside sources effectively
  • Prepares your data for machine learning
  • Creates a holistic view of your data for your organization, giving your users the power to find relationships across systems
  • Simplifies infrastructure configuration and reduces development time
  • Makes it easier for business users to explore and analyze data rather than needing to rely on data analysts
  • Makes data management more efficient

How do I implement a data fabric?

Currently you cannot use a single, stand-alone tool or platform to establish a data fabric architecture.  You’ll need a mix of solutions.  The research firm Gartner suggests you consider four pillars during implementation:

  • Collect and analyze all types of metadata
  • Convert passive metadata to active metadata
  • Create and curate knowledge graphs that enrich data with semantics
  • Ensure a robust data integration foundation

You will also need to make sure you have mechanisms to collect, manage, store, and access your data as well as have a governance framework in place to manage your data.

What types of data challenges warrant considering utilizing a data fabric?

Is your business experiencing any of the below challenges?

  • It takes too long to access data, by which time the data is outdated
  • I can’t get data from all the needed sources
  • I can’t get the information in the format I need
  • I can’t report on all the data or I have to make assumptions and summarize the data in which case it loses the granularity
  • I can’t explore, analyze, or interrogate the information myself.  It requires support from IT
  • I can’t find the information I need
  • I don’t trust the data

Most of these challenges are a symptom of overly complex data infrastructures and/or disjointed sets of technologies and applications.  This leads to data silos which make it hard to obtain information and gather insights in a timely manner, or in a way that is easy to interpret and share or consume.  A data fabric can help break your data out of silos and bring it onto the freeway in a labeled vehicle where it is easier to interpret and share or consume as long as you have the key!

Barnes Business Solutions can help you get started improving your data freeway system and take the next steps to implement a data fabric thanks to proven technology solutions customized for what your business needs and what your budget can afford.  Investing in technology today will pay dividends and ROI that are currently unattainable to you. Want to learn more? To get started, download the Barnes Business Solutions Action Guide Now. Or contact us at 630-715-4452.