Data Fabric: Hype or Hyper Effective?
Fabric is a wide reaching term that has been in use now for a few years. I first came across the idea of a Fabric approach whilst working closely with Cisco. At the time the term didn’t make much sense to me, I was working for a networking company and the idea of everything being connected and interwoven just seemed EVERYDAY. But what is a fabric in compute terms?
Wikipedia define a compute fabric as
“Fabric computing or unified computing involves constructing a computing fabric consisting of interconnected nodes that look like a “weave” or a “fabric” when viewed/envisaged collectively from a distance.
In it’s most simplest terms this is fairly accurate. Although not very descriptive to the actual challenges a data fabric helps resolve, and doesn’t really tell you what is involved in a data fabric. In fact the above can make the whole thing sound very confusing.
(If you take one thing form this blog, note that Wikipedia is not a very good source of information)
What is the Fabric?
Let’s clear something up straight away, there is a common misconception that a data fabric is an appliance or a piece of software. Whilst these elements do help make up the data fabric, be a NetApp, Nimble or any other storage provider, they are just part of a strategic approach to how you manage your data and storage. The Data Fabric itself is the strategy that you are applying to how you store, manage, transfer and maintain your storage. Whether you are looking at on premise solutions for high performance workloads, or an offsite cloud solution to push your backup and archive data into, applying a data fabric strategy covers all of these silo’s as if they were just one.
Yes, a data fabric is most likely not just going to cross over between your traditional, virtual, hybrid and cloud environments it is going to have to cross over different management platforms. This is where solutions such as ONTAP by NetApp are particularly effective, being able to support multiple environments, and multiple platforms through one simple to use software package.
Why should I care about a fabric approach?
Like most IT departments you will have seen where data is stored and how data is used change dramatically in the last 20 years. Gone now are the Central data centres housing large mainframes as the only place of compute storage. Where just a few trained technicians could manage your data and make sure the information was flowing where it needed to be at the right time. The whole topography has changed. Storage is now separated into silo’s depending on what the data is used for, how quickly you need information to travel and the level of complexity in your network. You could have multiple environments to manage, increasing the pressure on internal resources. In the cold light of day IT is being asked to manage a wider estate than any of us thought possible in the 90’s.
Add on top the trends in the work place such as BYOD, mobilisation and the increased expectation of end users and board members and suddenly not only have you got to manage an estate you need to provide real tangible results that are impacting the bottom line.
IT is both the saviour and the devil when it comes to applications performing and providing the speed that our on-demand culture requires. End users do not want to wait to be able to action their work loads, similarly boards are now seeing the value in increasing their agility, and flexibility to deal with seasonal bursts, industry news or simply to beat a competitor to market.
How has this impacted you? Are you now finding that there is an increased pressure and expectation now?
A data fabric strategy manages all of the above, it brings it together into a singular view, it provides the links between systems and reports on every element, saving untold man hours trying to bring together analytics from across different systems. With tools like ONTAP you can work cross platform and environment simply and effectively. The business case for adopting a data fabric is one of driving enterprise class performance across your entire storage footprint, reducing management time and increasing business performance as a result. To find out more about Data Fabric here are a couple of resources you might find useful