The Cloud is shifting our Center of Gravity

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

Since more organizations are embracing cloud computing and cloud-based services, and some analysts are even predicting that personal clouds will soon replace personal computers, the cloudy future of our data has been weighing on my mind.

I recently discovered the website, which contains many interesting illustrations and formulas about data gravity, a concept which Dave McCrory blogged about in his December 2010 post Data Gravity in the Clouds.

“Consider data as if it were a planet or other object with sufficient mass,” McCrory wrote.  “As data accumulates (builds mass) there is a greater likelihood that additional services and applications will be attracted to this data.  This is the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet.  As the mass or density increases, so does the strength of gravitational pull.  As things get closer to the mass, they accelerate toward the mass at an increasingly faster velocity.”

In my blog post What is Weighing Down your Data?, I explained the often misunderstood difference between mass, which is an intrinsic property of matter based on atomic composition, and weight, which is a gravitational force acting on matter.  By using these concepts metaphorically, we could say that mass is an intrinsic property of data, representing objective data quality, and weight is a gravitational force acting on data, representing subjective data quality.

I used a related analogy in my blog post Quality is the Higgs Field of Data.  By using data, we give data its quality, i.e., its mass.  We give data mass so that it can become the basic building blocks of what matters to us.

Historically, most of what we referred to as data silos were actually application silos because data and applications became tightly coupled due to the strong gravitational force that legacy applications exerted, preventing most data from achieving the escape velocity needed to free itself from an application.  But the laudable goal of storing your data in one easily accessible place, and then building services and applications around your data, is one of the fundamental value propositions of cloud computing.

With data accumulating in the cloud, as McCrory explained, although “services and applications have their own gravity, data is the most massive and dense, therefore it has the most gravity.  Data, if large enough, can be virtually impossible to move.”

The cloud is shifting our center of gravity because of the data gravitational field emitted by the massive amount of data being stored in the cloud.  The information technology universe, business world, and our personal (often egocentric) solar systems are just beginning to feel the effects of this massive gravitational shift.

This blog post is sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.


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