Data Fabric: How to Architect Your Next-Generation Data Management
A data fabric empowers an organization to effectively manage, analyze, and leverage its data assets for true business success. How can you get started?
- By Mayank Mehra
- July 20, 2023
Organizations face significant challenges when it comes to data integration and generating insights from data silos. One of the biggest hurdles in the current data landscape is data fragmentation, where data is distributed across various systems and platforms, making it difficult to access, analyze, and manage. With the increasing number of data sources in a hybrid and multicloud world, organizations are struggling to integrate data from multiple heterogeneous sources to create a unified view of data.
Understanding the Struggles of Data Integration
This may be why Gartner said that by 2024, “data fabric deployments will quadruple efficiency in data utilization, while cutting human-driven data management tasks in half.” Despite the awareness of data fabrics as a potential solution, the absence of appropriate tools and technologies continues to hinder the efficient extraction, transformation, and loading of data from various sources. Diverse data types (e.g., structured, semistructured, and unstructured data) and data sources require different approaches for integration and processing. Additionally, incompatible data formats and the coexistence of on-premises data centers and cloud platforms add to the complexity of the task.
Enterprises need an efficient data management strategy for integrating and orchestrating data across multicloud and hybrid environments. Although solutions such as data virtualization have been used to eliminate data silos and provide a consolidated view, the lack of automation prevents these solutions from addressing key data quality requirements. In contrast, a data fabric offers an intelligent orchestration engine with metadata at its core, enhancing value and business outcomes.
Data Fabric: Exploring the Concept
The data fabric encompasses a broader concept that goes beyond standalone solutions such as data virtualization. Rather, the architectural approach of a data fabric integrates multiple data management capabilities into a unified framework. The data fabric is an emerging data management architecture that provides a net that is cast to stitch together multiple heterogeneous data sources and types through automated data pipelines.
A data fabric offers several capabilities that differentiate it from other solutions:
- It utilizes intelligent orchestration by analyzing metadata to provide recommendations for effective data orchestration.
- It incorporates data quality measures within pipelines to ensure the data delivered to end users is highly reliable.
- It provides data observability, allowing for the detection of schema drifts, lineage, and anomalies. Users get real-time alerts that allow them to correct errors.
This all-encompassing data fabric meets the needs of both key data stakeholders and business users. For business teams, a data fabric empowers nontechnical users to easily discover, access, and share the data they need to perform everyday tasks. It also bridges the gap between data and business teams by including subject matter experts in the creation of data products. For data teams, a data fabric improves the productivity of these resources by automating data integration and accelerating the delivery of the data business teams need.
Tips for Stitching (and Executing) an Efficient Data Fabric Architecture
Implementing an efficient data fabric architecture is not accomplished with a single tool. Rather, it incorporates a variety of technology components such as data integration, data catalog, data curation, metadata analysis, and augmented data orchestration. Working together, these components deliver agile and consistent data integration capabilities across a variety of endpoints throughout hybrid and multicloud environments.
To create an efficient data fabric architecture, start by following these five critical processes:
1. Establish a data integration framework
Integrating data from heterogeneous sources is the first step in building a data fabric. To begin, employ data crawlers, which are designed to automate the acquisition of technical metadata from structured, unstructured, and/or semistructured data sources in on-premises and cloud environments. Use this metadata to initiate the ingestion process and integrate diverse data sources. By implementing a metadata-driven ingestion framework, you can seamlessly integrate structured, unstructured, and semistructured data from internal and external sources, enhancing the effectiveness of the underlining data fabric architecture.
2. Practice active metadata management
Unlike traditional methods that focus on technical metadata storage only, a data fabric incorporates operational, business, and social metadata. What sets a data fabric apart from other options is its ability to activate metadata, allowing seamless flow between tools in the modern data stack. Active metadata management analyzes metadata and delivers timely alerts and recommendations for addressing issues such as data pipeline failures and schema drifts as needed. This proactive approach also ensures a healthy and updated data stack within the data fabric architecture.
3. Gain better insights through a knowledge graph
A key advantage of a data fabric is its ability to leverage knowledge graphs to showcase relationships among different data assets. In a knowledge graph, nodes represent data entities and edges connect these nodes to illustrate their relationships. Leveraging knowledge graphs within the data fabric enhances data exploration and enables more effective decision-making processes. This contextualization of data facilitates data democratization, empowering business users to access and understand data in a meaningful way.
4. Foster collaborative workspaces
A data fabric enables diverse data and business users to consume and collaborate on data. These collaborative workspaces enable business and data teams to interact so together they can standardize, normalize, and harmonize data assets. They also support the development of domain-specific data products by combining multiple data objects for contextual use cases.
5. Enable integration with existing tools
In the data fabric architecture, it is crucial to establish seamless integration with existing tools in the modern data stack. Your organization can leverage a data fabric without replacing your entire tool set. With built-in interoperability, the data fabric can work alongside your existing data management tools such as data catalogs, DataOps, and business intelligence tools. This allows users to connect and migrate curated data to any preferred BI or analytics tool so they can refine data products for specific use cases.
Summary of Benefits
Unlike other solutions that struggle to handle large and/or complex data sets and provide real-time data access and scalability, a data fabric presents an agile solution. Through a unified architecture and metadata-driven approach, data fabrics enable organizations to efficiently access, transform, and integrate diverse data sources, empowering data engineers to adapt swiftly to evolving business needs.
By providing a consistent data view, a data fabric enhances collaboration, data governance, and decision-making. Workflows get streamlined, productivity improves, and resource allocation is optimized. More important, a data fabric can empower your organization to effectively manage, analyze, and leverage its data assets for true business success.
Mayank Mehra is head of product management at Modak, a leading provider of data engineering solutions. For more information, visit them at www.modak.com or follow them on LinkedIn.