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Data gravity: What is it and how to manage it



Data gravity: What is it and how to manage it

Data gravity can attract increasing amounts of data, and brings with it onerous management overheads. We look at how to mitigate data gravity in datacentre and cloud

Stephen Pritchard


Published: 17 Jun 2022

When it comes to enterprise applications, access to data – and lots of it – is usually a good thing. And the greater the volume of required data held locally to where it is processed, the better for the business, its applications, decision-making and, in some cases, compliance.

But the need to store and manage data brings its own problems too, including higher costs, lower system performance, and management overheads. Here we are dealing with the idea of data gravity.

There is growing evidence that data-rich systems attract more data. This, in turn, attracts even more data-dependent applications, which then bring in yet more.

The idea of data gravity was first coined by IT researcher Dave McCrory in 2010. He argued that as organisations gather data in one place, it “builds mass”. That mass attracts services and applications, because the closer they are to the data, the better the latency and throughput.

As more data comes together, the process accelerates. Eventually, you arrive at a situation where it becomes difficult or impossible to move data and applications elsewhere to meet the business’s workflow needs.

As a result, costs rise, workflows become less effective, and firms can encounter compliance problems. McCrory, now at Digital Realty, publishes a data gravity index. He expects data gravity, measured in gigabytes per second, to grow by 139% between 2020 and 2024. This will put strain on IT infrastructure, he says.

At Forrester, researchers describe data gravity as a “chicken and egg” phenomenon. A recent report on datacentre trends sets out the problem.

“The concept states that as data grows at a specific location, it is inevitable that additional services and applications will be attracted to the data due to latency and throughput requirements,” it says. “This, in effect, grows the mass of data at the original location.”

Harder to scale

Examples of data gravity include applications and datasets moving to be closer to a central data store, which could be on-premise or co-located. This makes best use of existing bandwidth and reduces latency. But it also begins to limit flexibility, and can make it harder to scale to deal with new datasets or adopt new applications.

Data gravity occurs in the cloud, too. As cloud data stores increase in size, analytics and other applications move towards them. This takes advantage of the cloud’s ability to scale quickly, and minimises performance problems.

But it perpetuates the data gravity issue. Cloud storage egress fees are often high and the more data an organisation stores, the more expensive it is to move it, to the point where it can be uneconomical to move between platforms.

McCrory refers to this as “artificial” data gravity, caused by cloud services’ financial models, rather than by technology.

Forrester points out that new sources and applications, including machine learning/artificial intelligence (AI), edge devices or the internet of things (IoT), risk creating their own data gravity, especially if organisations fail to plan for data growth.

The growth of data at the enterprise edge poses a challenge when locating services and applications unless firms can filter out or analyse data in situ (or possibly in transit). Centralising that data is likely to be expensive, and wasteful if much of it is not needed.

Impact on storage

The impact of data gravity on storage is essentially twofold – it drives up costs and makes management harder. Costs will increase with capacity requirements, but the increase for on-premise systems is unlikely to be linear.

In practice, firms will find they need to invest in new storage arrays as they reach capacity limits, potentially needing expensive capex spend. But there is a strong chance they will also have to invest in other areas to improve utilisation and performance.

This might involve more solid-state storage, or tiering to move less-used data off the highest-performance systems and redundant systems to ensure availability, and storage management tools to control the whole process.

Some suppliers report that firms are turning to hyperconverged systems – which include storage, processing and networking in one box – to handle growing storage demands while balancing performance. By bringing processing and data closer together, hyperconverged systems deliver proximity and cut latency. But again, these systems are harder to scale smoothly.

In the cloud, capacity scales more smoothly, so CIOs should be able to match data storage more closely to data volumes.

However, not all businesses can put all their data into the cloud, and even those whose regulatory and customer requirements allow it will need to look at the cost and the time it takes to move data.

Proximity of data to processing is not guaranteed, so firms need cloud architects who can match compute and storage capacity, as well as ensure cloud storage works with their current analytics applications. They also need to be careful to avoid data egress costs, especially for data that moves frequently to business intelligence and other tools.

Cloud-native applications, such as Amazon QuickSight, are one option. Another is to use cloud gateways and cloud-native technologies, such as object storage, to optimise data between on-premise and cloud locations. For example, Forrester sees firms co-locating critical applications in datacentres with direct access to cloud storage.

At the same time, CIOs need to be rigorous on cost management, and ensure that “credit-card cloud” purchases do not create data gravity hotspots of their own. Technologist Chris Swan has developed a cost model of data gravity, which can give quite a granular picture, for cloud storage.

Dealing with data gravity

CIOs, analysts and suppliers agree that data gravity cannot be eliminated, so it needs to be managed.

For enterprise CIOs and chief data officers, this means striking a balance between too much and too little data. They should challenge business on the data they collect, and the data they hold. Is all that data needed? Could some be analysed closer to the edge?

Tackling data gravity also means having robust data management and data governance strategies. This should extend to deleting unneeded data, and applying effective tiering and archiving to cut costs.

Cloud will play its part, but costs need to be controlled. Firms are likely to use multiple clouds, and data gravity can cause costly data movements if application and storage architectures are not designed well. Analytics applications, in particular, can create silos. Firms need to look at the datasets they hold and ask which are prone to data gravity. These are the applications that need to be hosted where storage can be designed to scale.

Tools that can analyse data in situ and remove the need to move large volumes can reduce the impact of data gravity and also some of the cost disadvantages of the cloud. This comes into its own where organisations need to look at datasets across multiple cloud regions, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, or even cloud providers.

Organisations should also look at the network edge to see whether they can reduce volumes of data moving to the centre and use real-time analytics on data flows instead.

With ever-growing demand for business data and analytics, CIOs and CDOs are unlikely to be able to eliminate data gravity. But with new and emerging data sources such as AI and IoT, they at least have the chance to design an architecture that can control it.

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Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance




Microsoft Teams is finally fixing this ear-splitting annoyance
Four people in a meeting room video conferencing with four remote participants.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the most irritating (and slightly painful) parts of joining a Microsoft Teams call could soon be fixed by a new update.

The video conferencing service is a popular choice for many companies, meaning calls with large numbers of participants joining at the same time, and from the same location (such as a meeting room) are a common occurrence. 

However, often when multiple people join a meeting in the same room, a feedback loop is created, which causes echo, which in most cases quickly escalates to howling – with Microsoft likening the noise to when a musician holds the mic too close to a loudspeaker.

Teams’ howling

Fortunately, a new fix is coming for Microsoft Teams users. In its entry in the official Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab), the new “Ultrasound Howling Detection” describes how it aims to prevent this noise for users on Windows and Mac across the world.

Microsoft says that the update should mean if multiple users on laptops join from the same location, it will share with the user that another Teams Device is detected in their vicinity and is already joined with audio to the current meeting. 

If a user has already joined with their audio on, Microsoft Teams will automatically mute the mic and speakers of any new the person who then joins the call, hopefully putting an end to the howling and screeching feedback.

Thankfully, the update is already listed as being in development, with an expected general availability date of March 2023, so users shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy.

The news follows a number of recent updates largely aimed around improving the audio quality on Microsoft Teams calls using AI and machine learning.

The new updates are the result of using a machine learning model trained on 30,000 hours of speech samples, and include echo cancellation, better adjusting audio in poor acoustic environments, and allowing users to speak and hear at the same time without interruptions.

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Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK’s leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he’s not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed




Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer breakdown: 6 thing you might have missed
Shazam points at someone off camera in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! Fury of the Gods lands in theaters on March 17.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The final trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods has debuted online – and it looks even more charming, funnier, frenetic, and darker than its predecessor.

Shazam’s sequel flick arrives in theaters worldwide on March 17, so it’s about time we were given another look at the forthcoming DC Extended Universe movie (read our DC movies in order guide to find out where it’ll fit in that timeline). Luckily, Warner Bros. has duly obliged. Check it out below:

Okay, there’s some messy CGI and a slightly corny vibe about Shazam 2. But hey, the first problem can be ironed out before the superhero film takes flight, while the latter is part of what makes this movie series spellbinding (see what we did there?).

But we digress – you’re here because you want to find out what you missed from Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ new trailer. Below, we’ve pointed out six things you might have overlooked. So, what are you waiting for? Shout “Shazam!” and let’s dive in.

1. Who are the Daughters of Atlas?

Kalypso hands Hespera the wizard's staff in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

New movie, new villains. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

For a film centered around Shazam, we don’t actually see the titular superhero appear in the official trailer for the first 20 seconds.

Instead, we get another glimpse at Fury of the Gods‘ villains, aka the Daughters of Atlas. The powerful trio comprises the power-hungry Hespera (Helen Millen), dragon-riding Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Athena (Rachel Zegler), the latter of whom seems particularly torn about how the sisters are going about their business.

So, why are they gunning for Shazam and his superpowered foster siblings? Essentially, when Billy Batson was gifted his abilities by Djimon Hounsou’s wizard in the film film (available now on HBO Max), one of those powers was the Stamina of Atlas. The Daughters of Atlas aren’t too happy about their father’s ability being passed down to a child, so they want to take back what is theirs – and they’ll do it so by any means necessary.

2. Mythological monsters

A dragon prepares to breathe fire at one of Shazam's fellow heroes in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam isn’t the only person taking flight in Fury of the Gods. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam’s first DCEU outing featured some horror-imbued creatures in the form of the Seven Deadly Sins. How, then, do you go about topping (or, at the very least) matching what came before? Throw in a bunch of myth-based monsters, of course.

Kalypso’s imposing dragon is the most notable inclusion. It feature prominently throughout the trailer, and we even get an amusing Game of Thrones reference from Shazam – “Hey, Khaleesi!” – in the movie. Hey, Warner Bros. loves to mention its suite of IPs in as many of its films as possible.

But Kalypso’s wyvern isn’t the only fairy-tale-based beast we see. Minotaurs, griffons, and demonic unicorns are just three of the other monsters who’ll turn up in Fury of the Gods. Basically, don’t expect this to be an easy fight for Shazam and company to save the world.

3. You can’t get the staff these days

Hespera uses the wizard's staff as Kalypso looks on in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“So I just point it and then what?” (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Saving earth from a new titanic threat will be even harder when Shazam’s adoptive family are stripped of their powers, too. And it seems that the staff, which was wielded by Hounsou’s wizard in the first movie, is the key to giving and taking those abilities away.

In 2019’s Shazam!, the titular hero gave powers to his foster siblings to help him combat the Seven Deadly Sins and Doctor Sivana. They’ve still got those power in Fury of the Gods, too, but they won’t have them for long, based by what the trailer suggests.

The footage shows Freddy Freeman and Mary Bromfield being drained of their abilities by the Daughters of Atlas at various points. The trio are using the wizard’s staff to rob the teens of their powers, so it’s clearly of major importance to the movie’s main players. 

Later, we see Shazam wielding it – not before he asks the wizard to take his powers back, mind you, when he becomes convinced he can’t defeat the Daughters of Atlas. Anyway, Shazam’s brandishing of the staff suggests he needs it to boost his own abilities if he’s going to defeat the movie’s antagonists and give his siblings their powers back. Expect the staff to play a vital role in Fury of the Gods‘ plot, then.

4. Prison break

Djimon Hounsou's wizard blows som magic dust out of a prison window in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Time to break out, Mr. Wizard. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In order to get the wizard’s staff, it seems the Daughters of Atlas go after Hounsou’s magic wielder to obtain it.

We see Hounsou’s character imprisoned at various points, including a shot of Hespera chastising him for giving the power of the gods to Billy, Freddy, and company. “You ripped it from our father’s core,” she tells him, which implies Hounsou’s wizard might not be as mighty and heroic as we were led to believe.

Anyway, Hounsou’s wizard interacts with Shazam later in the trailer, so he clearly escapes captivity. Whether he does so alone, or he enlists Shazam’s help – does that magic-infused dust, which he sends through his prison cell window, have something to do with it? – is unclear. Regardless, we’ll see Hounsou’s character break out at some stage.

5. Is that you, Doctor Strange?

Shazam flies past some rotating buildings in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Where have we seen this kind of aesthetic before? (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Remember when we said Zegler’s Athena doesn’t seem as keen to destroy earth as her sisters? That’s because, at the 1: 14 mark, we see her use her powers with a uncertain look on her face. You wouldn’t look like that if you were convinced you were doing the right thing, would you? 

Based on the fact she’s pushed away by Kalypso (using the staff no less), seconds later, it seems she’ll be swapping sides at some stage.

Interestingly, it seems the wizard’s staff can do more than give or take a person’s powers away. One perceived ability certainly has an air of the Doctor Strange/Marvel-based mystic arts about them. Just look at the Escher-style nature of how the scenery bends and folds in on itself when Athena is pushed back, and when Shazam evades numerous buildings at the 1: 44 mark. We’d be very surprised if DC and Warner Bros. didn’t take a leaf out of the MCU’s book with such an aesthetic.

6. Light the way

Shazam prepares to fight Kalypso and her dragon in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

A yellow bolt out of the blue. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Shazam and his fellow superheroes get a costume upgrade in Fury of the Gods. The group’s threads are more streamlined and less plastic-looking this time around, which is pleasing to see.

Fans had been worried, though, that these suits wouldn’t feature one of the first movie’s most underrated (if somewhat tacky) aspects: the glowing lightning bolt on Shazam’s chest. Shazam’s costume in the 2019 movie was manufactured in a way that allowed the bolt to physically light up, avoiding the problem of having to add awkward lighting effects during the post-production phase.

Thankfully, Shazam! Fury of the Gods‘ official trailer confirms that Shazam’s lightning bolt will glow. However, given the sleeker look of the costumes this time around, it appears that the illumination effect has been added in post. Regardless of how it’s been implemented, we’re just glad it’s a feature that’s been retained.

For more DCEU-based coverage, find out where we placed 2019’s Shazam! in our DC movies ranked article. Additionally, read up on the best superhero films of all-time or check out how to watch the Batman movies in order.

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As TechRadar’s entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You’ll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot (opens in new tab).

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.

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You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!




You can lock Chrome incognito tabs on Android now. Bring it to the PC!

Chrome logo on a phone with a lock image over it

Image: Deepanker Verma / Pexels

Author: Alaina Yee
, Senior Editor

Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.

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