The volume and variety of data available to organizations in the digital age is enormous, giving rise to the need of expanding their data-management infrastructures considerably and rapidly. Data lake, a new class of data-management system, holds a strong potential to achieve success in this area.
The humongous growth in computer processing power, increase in cloud storage capacity, its usage and advanced network connectivity are transforming the existing data flood into an infinite stream of comprehensive information about customers’ preferences and buying habits, product attributes, sales and e-commerce data, email and web analytics, survey and feedback. These datasets are acquired from a range of sources and across all formats, including Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, social-media sites, sales and CRM systems, etc.
Today, with the increased growth in number of data sources and the pervasive nature of analytics, a huge demand for strong analytics capabilities is surfacing, just to keep pace. To gain maximum value out of data in this extremely competitive environment, organizations are emphasizing not just on using analytics, but are transforming themselves to build an insights-powered enterprise.
Growing relevance of data lakes
In industry parlance, data lake refers to a repository of data that brings together variety of data available, such as structured (relational), semi-structured (XML, JSON, etc.) and unstructured (Images, audio and video). It provides a way to store all the raw data together in a single place at a low cost. Distributed file systems such as Hadoop file system (HDFS) often serves this purpose. The adoption of Hadoop as the platform created the first version of data lake. The use of cloud based data lake i.e. the latest version of data lake, gained momentum in the market because of the challenges in storage flexibility, resource management, data protection deep-rooted in Hadoop-based data lakes.
Industry experts anticipate that in the coming years, majority of large organizations will experience more data flowing from data lakes to data warehouses. This prediction shows the change in the mindset of organizations which were typically driven by enterprise data warehouse as the de facto standard for their data need. As the popularity of data lakes grows, organizations face a bigger challenge of maintaining an infinite data lake. If the data in a lake is not well curated, then this data lake may turn into a data swamp, flooding an organization with information that is difficult to locate and consume.
How to keep data lakes relevant
Digital transformation requires identifying authentic and accurate data sources in an organization to truly capitalize on increasing volumes of data and generate new insights that propel growth while maintaining a single version of truth.
Following are some of the ways to keep data lakes dynamic, immaculate and viable:
1. Identify and define organization’s data goal: One of the most important preemptive steps in avoiding an organizational data swamp is to set clear boundaries for the type of information organizations are trying to collect, and their intent of what they want to do with it. Amassing a lot of data should not be the sole aim of organizations. They need to have a clarity on what they want to attain from the data they are collecting. An enterprise with a clear data strategy shall reap benefits in terms of avoiding data silos, incorporating a data driven culture to maintain customer centricity, scale up and meet demands of the modern day data environment.
2. Incorporate modern data architecture: The old data architecture models are not sufficient and may not satisfy the needs of today’s data - driven businesses in a cost effective manner. These workflows give a primer to ensure modern data architecture:
3. Build sound data governance, privacy and security: Data governance and metadata management is a critical step to keep a healthy and effective data lake strategy. A well-curated data lake contains data that’s clean, easily accessible, trusted and secure. As a result, this high-quality data can be easily consumed with confidence by the business users. It is of utmost importance to establish responsibility for data.
4. Leverage automation and AI: Due to the variety and velocity of data coming into data lake, it is important to automate the data acquisition and transformation processes. Organizations can leverage next generation data integration and enterprise data warehousing (EDW) tools along with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that can help them classify, analyze and learn from the data at a high-speed with better accuracy.
5. Integrate dev/ops: DevOps processes will go hand on hand with building and maintaining a healthy data lake. Ensure clear guidelines are established on where and how data is collected to prevent “data wildness,” and make sure those standards are always followed. Take time to evaluate sources as “trustworthy,” and take preventive steps to ensure it stays that way. A little work on the front end will prove highly valuable when it comes to putting data to use.
Figure 1: Reference architecture to avoid data lake failure
The reference data architecture, given in Figure 1, represents an efficient process that includes data zones starting from the data foundation layer to providing insights in conjunction with the essential measures viz. data governance, security, data archival and backup, automation and DevOps to keep a data lake pristine and clean. A large medical device manufacturing company, struggling to garner value from its data, leveraged a data lake solution based on this architecture. Over a short span of a year, the new data lake became a potent digital transformation tool for the company and is being used across the organization for building more than 40 analytics use cases.
The use of big data has no boundaries. It can help businesses create new growth opportunities, outperform existing competitors and provide seamless customer experience. However, to get the best out of data and thrive in this digital world, enterprises should possess well-curated, good quality data lakes. A clear data strategy, modern data architecture, proper data governance combined with automation, security and privacy measures, and DevOps integration will not only prevent any data lake from becoming a data swamp but also transform it from simply being a data repository to a dynamic tool that will empower digital transformation across an enterprise.
Managing Consultant, Data, Analytics & AI, Wipro Limited.
Neeraj brings over 13 years of experience in envisioning and building large scale enterprise data warehouse solutions for fortune 100 Retail, CPG and Pharma clients across the globe. He has deep domain and analytics expertise in CPG and Retail.
Consultant -Strategy & Planning, Data, Analytics & AI, Wipro Limited.
Ajinkya with a deep understanding of the digital and analytics industry, including market insights, competitive landscape and related ecosystems, provides advisory services and thought leadership for building value propositions and driving cohesive strategies.