Exploring Data Fabric and Data Mesh in Business Operations
Brian Fitzgerald | June 29, 2023
In the fast-moving dance we call business, companies constantly search for ways to streamline their processes and stay ahead of the competition. One area where this is particularly important is data management. With so much valuable information about competitors, prospects and customers flowing in each day, it's essential that business operations have an innovative and flexible approach to data infrastructure. And two new concepts that are transforming the world of data management are “data fabric” and “data mesh.”
Although they aren’t yet household terms, Gartner defines the two concepts1 in the following manner: “A data fabric is a technology-enabled implementation capable of many outputs, only one of which is data products. A data mesh is a solution architecture for the specific goal of building business-focused data products.”
While the definition is abstract and somewhat unclear, it gets us thinking about the concepts correctly. Simply put, data fabric2 is a technology framework for managing all types of data, regardless of where it's stored or how it's processed. On the other hand, data mesh3 is an architectural concept that aims to create decentralized data ownership and management systems. But if that still stumps you, here’s a better explanation based on what I learned while participating in a panel discussion at Gartner’s recent Data & Analytics Summit in sun-soaked Orlando, Florida.
What is Data Fabric?
Data fabric is a new way of designing data architecture4. It involves creating a network of interconnected datasets that can talk to each other seamlessly. In other words, it connects different data stores, applications, and cloud environments, creating a single source of truth for all critical data. This structure enables information to be shared between different systems and applications quickly and easily, without the need for complex data transformations.
In a sales context, this could mean linking data from market research to manufacturing processes or connecting product data with supply chain information. By creating a data fabric, companies can unlock the power of their data and gain new insights into their business processes.
How Does Data Fabric Work?
Data fabric relies on the following core principles:
It must be scalable so that new data sources and destinations can be added as required.
It must handle complex, unstructured data, such as images and videos.
It must be able to handle data in real-time or near-real-time.
It must support multiple interfaces so that different applications can access the same data.
By meeting these requirements, data fabric enables companies to create a flexible, agile data infrastructure that can adapt to changing business needs.
What is Data Mesh?
Data mesh is another innovative approach to data management5. It goes beyond data fabric to create a decentralized, self-service system for managing data. The idea is to empower individual teams or departments to manage their own data rather than relying on a central IT team. Each team creates its own microservices for data management, which are then connected together via APIs.
Essentially, data mesh creates a network of connected data services rather than a centralized data repository. It replaces the traditional centralized data management approach with autonomous data domains. This approach offers many benefits, including faster development cycles, greater agility, and stronger alignment between data and business units.
How Does Data Mesh Work?
Data mesh relies on these guiding principles.
It is designed around domain-driven design, meaning that each team owns its own data domain.
It is designed to be self-organizing so that teams can independently create their own data services.
It is API-driven, which means that services can be connected to each other flexibly.
It is decentralized, meaning there is no central control point for the data.
By following these principles, companies can create a more dynamic and responsive data infrastructure better aligned with their business needs.
The Importance of Data Fabric and Data Mesh
Companies are under constant pressure to optimize their products, reduce costs, improve the quality of their products and increase sales. Data fabric and data mesh can help companies achieve these goals by creating a more efficient data ecosystem. For example, data fabric enables stakeholders to access the required data from a single source, which can help accelerate decision-making processes. It also helps organizations reduce costs associated with accessing and maintaining their databases.
Furthermore, data mesh provides domain-oriented governance that accommodates changes in the data ecosystem. It allows decentralized domain teams to add domain-specific processes or protocols better suited to their needs.
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How to Harness The Power of Data Fabric and Data Mesh
Data fabric and data mesh have vast potential, particularly for advanced analytics, enabling faster and more accurate data analysis. These technologies work in unison to provide companies with a unified, dependable, and well-organized data ecosystem. By identifying and prioritizing the most valuable data sources, companies can employ data fabric and data mesh for newer product launches, predictive maintenance and supply chain optimization.
Because these new data management concepts enable organizations to efficiently integrate ad decentralize data from different locations and sources, they can provide crucial insights to improve business outcomes. For example, historically, real-world data collected from development, manufacturing, sales and other departments has been siloed. But with the data fabric and data mesh approach, all that data can yield better outcomes by connecting systems and enabling more insights into a company’s decision-making processes.
While the winner in the race between data fabric and data mesh has yet to be determined, both are exciting new concepts that are revolutionizing the world of data management. By creating interconnected data networks, increasing data accessibility and empowering teams to control their data domains, companies can gain new insights into their business processes, improve their agility, and gain a competitive edge. These technologies can also yield collaborative, well-structured, unified data systems to enable advanced analytics for better business outcomes. So, whether you're looking to optimize your supply chain, improve products, streamline manufacturing processes or increase sales, data fabric and data mesh offer the tools needed to help your teams make the most of their data.
References1. https://www.enterprisetimes.co.uk/2022/10/18/digital-weaving-stitching-the-thread-between-data-fabric-data-mesh/ 2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tableau/2023/01/23/how-data-fabrics-help-you-boost-efficiency-in-times-of-economic-uncertainty/?sh=272fa1b33632 3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/12/26/exploring-the-benefits-of-a-data-mesh-for-your-organization/?sh=312147c23159 4. https://venturebeat.com/data-infrastructure/what-is-a-data-fabric-how-it-helps-organize-complex-disparate-data/ 5. https://devops.com/how-to-achieve-data-mesh-with-four-key-principles/