How to Solve for Data Fragmentation

Digital businesses need a holistic strategy to get the most value from their data while also protecting against unauthorized access

Nicholas Hollings
How to Solve for Data Fragmentation

Today’s enterprise leaders recognize that data is a resource with tremendous business value. As organizations bring in more data from more sources, the value businesses can draw from their data will increase accordingly. However, increased volume and variety of data also leads to increased complexity.

This is particularly true for organizations that are capitalizing on the benefits of hybrid multicloud. Data fragmentation—where data sets are scattered across different locations, platforms and environments—not only makes it more difficult for businesses to capture the full value of their data, but also opens up cybersecurity vulnerabilities. In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look at data fragmentation—what causes it, why it matters and what IT leaders can do to address it.

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What causes data fragmentation?

In reality, the term “data fragmentation” may be a misnomer, because the data itself isn’t the root of the problem. Instead, the true challenge businesses face is being able to offer secure access to those data sets on demand for many different workloads, from both inside the organization and externally.

Modern businesses rely on a digital ecosystem of partners and service providers to support key business processes. This ecosystem could include cloud providers that enable IT flexibility and performance on a global scale, SaaS providers that offer on-demand access to niche capabilities, and business partners that unlock key collaboration opportunities.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that many digital leaders have already begun to participate in industry data-sharing ecosystems, such as those in the healthcare and manufacturing industries. With data marketplaces expected to become more prevalent in the years to come, businesses must figure out how to safely monetize and draw value from their data now to make sure they don’t fall hopelessly behind the competition.

Since working with many different providers typically delivers the best results, enterprises should plan to share access to their data sets widely. To do this in a secure manner, they must give partners and service providers easy access to the data sets they need to support specific workloads, while also blocking improper access to data sets they don’t need.

What challenges does data fragmentation present?

Perhaps the most obvious method for addressing data fragmentation would be to simply create multiple copies of data sets and distribute them wherever they’re needed. This approach is not ideal, for a number of reasons. For one, duplicate data sets create duplicate costs. If your strategy for overcoming data fragmentation depends on placing the same data sets in multiple locations, you’ll inevitably end up paying too much for storage.

In addition, distributing duplicate data sets across internal and external workloads could make your data less accurate and trustworthy over time. As data sets get updated, you wouldn’t have a single source of truth to make sure changes flow to all data copies. Instead, you’d have to manually update each copy—a process that’s too time-consuming to be feasible.

enterprises...must give partners and service providers easy access to the data sets they need to support specific workloads, while also blocking improper access to data sets they don’t need."

Finally, maintaining multiple copies of data sets creates a wider attack surface. Ransomware criminals only need access to one data copy in order to wreak havoc on your organization. As the old saying goes, your cybersecurity team needs to be vigilant every time, but the attackers only need to get lucky once. By creating more copies of data sets, you’re creating more opportunities for the attackers to get lucky, while placing a heavier burden on your cybersecurity team.

How can businesses address data segmentation?

Rather than creating multiple copies of data sets to be shared and stored freely across your digital ecosystem, the ideal way to address the causes and impacts of data segmentation is to create a centralized repository that aggregates systems of record from across your distributed operations.

This repository should be a part of a cloud-adjacent digital infrastructure; by storing data sets in proximity to cloud providers and other partners, you can ensure cost-effective, low-latency access to data sets for the workloads that need it. In addition, you can integrate user access policies into the data repository, thus limiting the potential for unauthorized access.

A centralized repository enables several data motion patterns that allow you to support specific workloads without creating unnecessary costs or risks. One example is the “project and delete” pattern. This is when a business creates a temporary copy of a data set to share with a provider; the copy is subsequently deleted after the provider has performed the needed compute operations against the data.

Another key aspect of cloud-adjacent digital infrastructure is interconnection, which allows you to move your data sets quickly, reliably and securely. As a general rule, the more data you have, the more you stand to benefit by adopting an interconnection solution.

Platform Equinix® has all the capabilities you need to address data segmentation and ensure you’re granting access to the right workloads at the right time. The Equinix partner ecosystem includes more than 3,000 cloud and IT service providers. In addition, our 240+ Equinix IBX® data centers spread across 70+ global metros are home to on-ramps to many top cloud providers. This means that deploying on Platform Equinix makes it easy to get close to your chosen cloud and SaaS providers.

...maintaining multiple copies of data sets creates a wider attack surface."

In addition, Equinix offers digital services that can help you move data where it needs to go across your digital ecosystem. As the graphic below shows, both Equinix Fabric™, our software-defined interconnection solution, and Network Edge, our portfolio of virtual network services, can help you move data from the centralized repository to cloud and SaaS providers as needed.

Those same two services can also help move data back and forth from the centralized repository to edge locations around the world. In addition to enabling edge use cases, this supports centralized aggregation across distributed data sources. Finally, Equinix Metal®, our distributed Bare Metal as a Service offering, can give you the dedicated compute and storage capacity you need to enable a holistic edge-to-cloud approach to drawing value from your data sets.

To learn more about how leading companies are designing their digital infrastructure to overcome challenges like data fragmentation and set themselves up for success, read the “Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure” ebook.

...the ideal way to address the causes and impacts of data segmentation is to create a centralized repository that aggregates systems of record from across your distributed operations."
Nicholas Hollings
Nicholas Hollings Global Principal Solution Architect
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