Overcoming the IT talent shortage to benefit from data fabric

Chris Roberts, UKI director of solution engineering at NetApp, outlines the vital advantages of data fabric, and how businesses can avoid jeopardising its development by mitigating the IT talent shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many businesses to seek innovative solutions to manage, store and secure data, largely driven by the move to remote working which resulted in the increase and diversity of data.

This growing dependence on data has also been reinforced by the UK Government’s National Data Strategy: an ambitious, pro-growth strategy intended to drive the UK in building a world-leading data economy while ensuring public trust in data use.

But what is the right solution for businesses to harness this data in order to meet the challenges of today?

The answer is data fabric. While there still isn’t enough talent in the IT industry to support every business’ demand, data fabric can make all the difference in optimising a businesses’ data and increasing competitiveness, especially when facing the pandemic’s repercussions. In fact, according to Emergen, the data fabric market is set to reach a value of $7.72 billion by 2028.

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What is data fabric?

Data fabric is an architecture that lays across the entire hybrid cloud environment. It has centralised backup, disaster recovery, overarching data management and controls to reduce operational cost and complexity.

It provides greater consistency across data management because it encompasses everything within a business, as opposed to having disconnected data pools which must be each referred to separately. It also presents the opportunity to decouple the dependencies between applications and storage. The advantage of this alignment and decoupling is that businesses can have a more accurate purview of the data flowing in and out of their business which aids faster and more informed decision-making. It also means easier management of data and applications so businesses can meet demand.

In addition, the consistency data fabric brings stamps out loopholes in terms of cyber security, which is a big issue even among those brands that are considered to have strong security systems. It only takes a weak spot in a neglected area of the business to enable cyber-attacks and widespread data losses. Data fabric ensures every bit of the business abides by the same ‘zero trust’ model to provide security across the hybrid cloud. This means the physical location of your data, whether in the public cloud or on premise, can be secured centrally.

What’s stopping progress with data fabric?

The development of data’s role within businesses is growing at a faster pace than the speed at which people are learning the skills needed to facilitate things such as data fabric. As a result, there’s a big gap in talent within the IT industry, only made worse by the accelerated reliance on digital throughout the pandemic.

It can be very difficult for businesses who recognise the value of data fabric to implement it despite their intent. Attracting the right talent to work in-house will be extremely competitive, but an alternative option may be to consider partnering with businesses that specialise in constructing data fabric.

Even if the necessary skillsets are filled, applying data fabric will still encounter the common issues associated with transformative projects before the long-term sustainable benefits can be reaped. For example, data fabric needs an investment in newer technology and for that to happen the board needs to be willing to supply budget, businesses need to know what tech they need, and employees need to feel empowered in learning how to use new tech.

Legacy systems will also need attention, to ensure they don’t become tangled in new systems and perturb the advantages of data fabric from coming to fruition – probably one of the most common problems we see within digital transformations.

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How can businesses build their data fabric?

Data fabric is a huge asset in managing, storing, and securing diverse data. The need for businesses to work their way around the challenges to progress this transformation has only been emphasised further by remote working. We’ll only continue to see this pressure as we move into the era of becoming “cloud native”.

A good place to start when building a strong data fabric is to create a hybrid cloud architecture. To succeed in pivoting to this, IT leaders must look at the following areas:

  1. Firstly, IT leaders must think about what their data fabric will look like. Set the strategy and direction.
  2. Once a direction of travel has been established you need to undergo a discovery phase, understand the interdependencies of your data, where is it and how big is it?
  3. Once this is clear, IT leaders need to look at the classification of their data. How old is it? Is it stale? Is there sensitive information? Who has access?
  4. Only at this point do you have the information you need to align the right datasets to the best location or service offering. Here businesses are able to start moving workloads, based on metrics you define whether that is cost, performance or compliance.
  5. Organisations should then look at continuous optimisation across their data fabric to ensure the alignment of those datasets always sits on the right platform. This enables business to leverage the true flexibility that comes with a data fabric.

By following these steps, businesses can be successful in deploying this technology, and ensure the board gets value from its investment. As a result, organisations can unleash the power of data to meet demand and gain competitive advantages.

Written by Chris Roberts, UKI director of solution engineering at NetApp

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