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What is data fabric, and how can you use it?

While digital transformation has become a priority for business leaders over recent years, a proliferation of new digital technologies and tools has created complex enterprise data management challenges for the IT teams responsible for implementing digital strategies.

An increasing number of data sources mean organisations generate exponentially more data than they once did, so companies are frequently hamstrung by disconnected systems, inefficient processes, and poorly connected data silos that are hard to integrate.

Forrester highlighted the business implications of these challenges in recent research, concluding, “Poorly integrated business data leads to poor business decisions, bad customer experiences, reduced competitive advantage, slower innovation and growth.”

A data fabric can easily connect data without moving it, so organisations can dismantle data silos and build robust business solutions. It is an architecture layer and toolset that connects data across disparate systems and creates a unified view—a virtualised data layer. There is no need to migrate data from where it currently lives, whether that is on-premises or in a cloud service.

A data fabric covers both transactional and analytical systems and allows an organisation to combine business data in new ways as they undertake digital transformation work. This is a concept Gartner calls “composable design,” one of Gartner’s top strategic technology trends for 2022. This contrasts with other data management architectures like data warehouses and data lakes that only support analytical data.

How can your business benefit from a data fabric?

Data fabrics centralise data without time-intensive and costly data migrations, meaning valuable data is no longer hidden in silos. Traditionally, data warehouses and lakes have only supported historical data, but data fabrics provide real-time access to information, which means your business gains real-time insights.

They also enable organisations to build with speed. Data-driven applications can be delivered to business leaders faster because they bypass extensive migration time or the hard coding of data connections that other solutions require. This is a key difference between data fabrics and data warehouses or data lakes.

Speed is further increased because data fabrics don’t require technical database admins to optimise performance. They also provide quicker responses to user queries because data comes straight from the source.
According to Gartner’s Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021, data fabric reduces the time for integration design by 30%, deployment by 30%, and maintenance by 70% because the technology designs draw on the ability to use, reuse, and combine different data integration styles.

Security is a vital consideration when businesses commence a digital transformation journey. A data fabric democratises access to data sources without compromising security. It makes building robust security controls simple, with the ability to define row-level security across the data fabric. Row-level security creates precise control by applying filters and business rules based on the data itself, which have advantages for data analysis.

A data fabric thrives in situations where data is constantly changing, such as applications that involve partner data-sharing. As organisations democratise data access, sharing more internally and externally with customers and partners, data fabric gives IT teams confidence they have a governed, secure data architecture. That is vital as regulatory demands continue to increase.

The power of combining low-code and data fabrics

You can get even more value from a data fabric architecture by combining it with no-code data modelling tools with record-level security. A low-code platform with a built-in data fabric combines data management, integration, automation and low-code development tools to build impactful and data-rich digital solutions.

Critical capabilities to look for when choosing a low-code platform with data fabric include:

  • Data discovery to discover and model your enterprise data
  • Unified data in a data fabric for a complete view of your enterprise
  • Data security to create unique security controls to govern your data
  • Auto-optimised data to reduce data management and ensure applications are always performant

How data fabrics enable digital transformation

According to Gartner analysts, “By 2024, data fabric deployments will quadruple efficiency in data utilisation while cutting human-driven data management task in half.”

For digital transformation to be successful, organisations must be capable of removing data silos, spinning out applications and making data-driven decisions with speed and agility.

At times of competitive disruption, changing market conditions, increased customer expectations and a challenging economy, business leaders need to have a complete view of their organisation’s data to be able to build an innovative business. Data fabrics allow informed decisions to be made quickly, unconstrained by data silos, complex integrations, and IT bottlenecks.

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