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Data gravity: What is it and how to manage it

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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

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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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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives

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Nothing announces official launch date for new Ear (stick) AirPods alternatives
Nothing Ear (stick) held by a model on white background



(Image credit: Nothing )

True to form, Nothing has just announced the full reveal date for its upcoming audio product, Ear (stick). 

So, an announcement about an announcement. You’ve got to hand it to Carl Pei’s marketing department, they never miss a trick.

What we’re saying is that although we still have ‘nothing’ conclusive about the features, pricing or release date for the Ear (stick) except an image of another model holding them (and we’ve seen plenty of those traipsing down the catwalk recently), we do have a date – the day when we’ll be granted official access to this information. 

That day is October 26. Nothing assures us that on this day we’ll be able to find out everything, including pricing and product specifications, during the online Ear (stick) Reveal, at 3PM BST (which is 10AM ET, or 1AM on Wednesday if you’re in Sydney, Australia) on nothing.tech (opens in new tab)

Any further information? A little. Nothing calls the Ear (stick), which is now the product’s official name, “the next generation of Nothing sound technology”, and its “most advanced audio product yet”. 

But that’s not all! Apparently, Ear (stick) are “half in-ear true wireless earbuds that balance supreme comfort with exceptional sound, made not to be felt when in use. They’re feather-light with an ergonomic design that’s moulded to your ears. Delivered in a unique charging case, inspired by classic cosmetic silhouettes, and compactly formed to simply glide into pockets.” 

Opinion: I need more than a lipstick-style case

Nothing Ear (stick) – official leaked renders pic.twitter.com/FrhKmRttmiOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that I want Nothing’s earbuds to succeed in world dominated by AirPods; who doesn’t love a plucky, eccentric underdog? 

But in order to become some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, there is room for improvement over the Nothing Ear 1, the company’s inaugural earbuds. 

Aside from this official ‘news’ from Nothing, leaked images and videos of the Ear (stick) have been springing up all over the internet (thank you, developer Kuba Wojciechowski) and they depict earbuds that look largely unchanged, which is a shame. 

For me, the focus needs to shift from gimmicks such as a cylindrical case with a red section at the end which twists up like a lipstick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of theater, but only if the sound coming from the earbuds themselves is top dog. 

As the natural companions for the Nothing Phone 1, it makes sense for the Ear (stick) to take a place similar to that of Apple’s AirPods 3, where the flagship Ear (1) sit alongside the AirPods Pro 2 as a flagship offering. 

See, that lipstick case shape likely will not support wireless charging. That and the rumored lack of ANC means the Ear (stick) is probably arriving as the more affordable option in Nothing’s ouevre. 

For now, we sit tight until October 26. 

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.  

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers

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YouTube could make 4K videos exclusive to Premium subscribers
Woman watching YouTube on mobile phone screen



(Image credit: Shutterstock / Kicking Studio)

You might soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.

According to a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) highlighted on Twitter by leaker Alvin (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users have reported seeing 4K resolution (and higher) video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available to stream in up to 1440p (QHD) resolution.

The apparent experiment only seems to be affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests owner Google is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality video in the future.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022

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It’s no secret that Google has been searching for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform in recent months. In September, the company introduced five unskippable ads for some YouTube users as part of a separate test – an unexpected development that, naturally, didn’t go down well with much of the YouTube community. 

A resolution paywall seems a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change isn’t likely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, given that many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway. 

Of course, if it encourages those who do care about high-resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package, it may also be more lucrative for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 per month.

Suffice to say, the subscription service hasn’t taken off in quite the way Google would’ve hoped since its launch in 2014. Only around 50 million users are currently signed up to YouTube Premium, while something close to 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis. 

Might the addition of 4K video into Premium’s perk package bump up that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see whether this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.

Axel is a London-based staff writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the newest movies to latest Apple developments as part of the site’s daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned a gold standard NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme. 

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

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Europe sets deadline for USB-C charging for (almost) all laptops

USB-C als Ladestandard in der EU

Mundissima / Shutterstock


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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