Without Trusted Core Data, Data Mesh Is Data Meh

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Read more about author Manish Sood.

Organizations seeking responsive and sustainable solutions to their growing data challenges increasingly lean on architectural approaches such as data mesh to deliver information quickly and efficiently. Data mesh and other virtual data approaches connect, unify information, and make it available across numerous data silos and warehouses to get it efficiently into the hands of analysts and other users, leading to better decision-making, increased ownership of datasets, and distributed collaboration, among other positive outcomes.

However, high-quality, trusted data is an often-overlooked ingredient in many data mesh architectures. Simply moving data to the cloud and making it more accessible doesn’t fix the data quality problem. Inaccurate, duplicated, or outdated data – whether coming from a warehouse or delivered virtualized via a data mesh – compounds an existing problem and makes it even worse. Adding a cloud-based, master data management (MDM) solution to a data mesh or any virtual data architecture helps solve the data quality conundrum and can supercharge any cloud transformation.

Virtual Data Comes in Many Forms

Data virtualization enables applications to access and integrate data from multiple unrelated data sources as if they were a single, unified source. Data virtualization can access in real-time from sources such as databases, file systems, and cloud-based data stores and create a virtual data layer accessible by applications and other systems. This can be done without physically moving or replicating the data, which saves time and resources. 

Different data virtualization approaches are emerging, including data mesh and data fabric. The power of virtualized data lies within creating data products, which are specific sets of organized and reusable information that a particular business area can use and are clearly owned by the team closest to that data. Data products can save time for data analysts, who can spend more time analyzing the data and less time finding and fixing it.

Data mesh and data fabric are similar but differ in key ways: 

A data mesh is a decentralized data architecture providing a flexible and scalable infrastructure for storing and managing large amounts of data. This approach can improve data accessibility, increase collaboration, and support the creation of high-quality, reliable, and reusable data products. Data mesh is a concept that moves information from centralized lakes and warehouses and puts it into the hands of domain and subject matter experts. In this construct, data is treated as a product and owned by domain experts. Fabric can help domain experts and analysts determine where data can be used

A data fabric is a network of interconnected data storage and processing resources that allows organizations to access and use their data more effectively. Data fabric provides a unified platform for managing, storing, and accessing data, regardless of where it is located or how it is structured. Data fabrics typically include a range of technologies and tools, such as distributed storage systems, data lakes, and data pipelines, that work together to enable organizations to collect, process, and analyze their data at scale. Data fabric is akin to metadata; it is a catalog system that identifies what information is available and where it is located.

While these architectures are catching on for their potential to solve data access issues, there are potential limitations, including the inability to deliver trusted, accurate information. Moving data to the cloud or making it more timely and accessible alone cannot transform a business unless the quality angle is also addressed simultaneously

MDM: The Unifying Foundation of Modern Data Architecture

Cloud-based MDM enables organizations to manage and maintain a consistent and accurate view of an organization’s critical core data, such as information about customers, vendors, locations, assets, and suppliers, among other things. This is the vital data that every organization runs on. Core data can reside in many silos, creating challenges for most organizations. Core data is often inaccurate, outdated, or duplicated elsewhere. Fixing those issues can be time-consuming and expensive, so more organizations are turning to cloud-based solutions for mastering core data. 

By creating a single, accurate view of critical business data, MDM can ensure that the data in a virtualized architecture is consistent, accurate, and updated. This can improve data quality and greatly enhance the value of the data for business users.

In other words, the concepts of “core data as a product” and MDM are closely and intrinsically related. 

Cloud-based MDM simplifies managing data in a virtualized architecture by providing a centralized system for managing data definitions, relationships, and rules. This makes it easier for data stewards and other data management professionals to understand and manage data, which greatly enhances the overall effectiveness of the virtual architecture.

Cloud-based MDM provides organizations with greater scalability and flexibility and helps them improve their data quality and consistency. Because the data is managed and governed, organizations can easily enforce data standards and ensure that the information is accurate and up to date. Since the cloud can seamlessly expand or contract to meet changing needs, organizations can quickly add or remove data sources and users without investing in additional hardware or software. This can help to avoid costly errors and improve the reliability of data-driven decision-making.

Improving Business Outcomes Relies on Timely and Accurate Data

There is increased urgency for every company to pivot to a digital-first orientation for efficiency, growth, and risk management, especially when considering the customer experience. Consumers, vendors, and employees expect an “on demand” or omnichannel experience in almost any context. They expect to be able to leverage digital for 24/7 self-service (any device, anywhere, anytime), supplemented with other channels such as a call center. Getting this wrong – or frustrating your customers with an inconsistent or poor experience will send them to their competitors. That’s why so many are continuing to invest in cloud migration and digital transformation, despite recent economic challenges. And modern data architecture approaches are an essential first step in that direction. However, these initiatives can backfire without accurate, trusted, and real-time core data as a foundation. Investing in a modern, cloud-based MDM solution as the foundation of a data mesh or any virtual data architecture provides an accurate, real-time unified view of core data that organizations can use to achieve these business objectives while delivering a tangible ROI.