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September 30, 2020

New Data Gravity Study Shows the Massive Scale of Big Data in 2024

Oliver Peckham

Global data is quickly becoming unwieldy. As massive stores of data build up in various industries and enterprises, the various structures surrounding that data grow – often overburdening insufficient infrastructure. A new report from real estate investment trust Digital Reality puts numbers to this trend by introducing an index for “data gravity”: the phenomenon whereby the steady accumulation of data “pulls” more and more applications and services into its orbit.

“Understanding data gravity and its impact on our IT infrastructure is a difference-maker for our operations and will only become more important as data continues to serve as the currency of the digital economy,” said Munu Gandhi, vice president of core infrastructure services at Aon, a professional services firm that places 485th on the Forbes Global 2000.  “As enterprises become more data-intensive, there’s a compounding effect on business points of presence, regulatory oversight and increased complexity for compliance and data privacy that IT leaders are now being forced to solve.” 

From August 2019 to August 2020, Digital Realty pored over third-party data from the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, market research firms, and others to understand trends in data gravity. They factored in firm-level data (like revenue and location), technographic data (like IT spend and network traffic), and industry benchmarks (like data creation rates and growth rates).

Based on their research, they developed an index to quantify the “creation, aggregation, and private exchange of enterprise data globally,” expressing it, in simplified terms, as (DM × DA × BW)/L2. In this equation, “DM” is data mass – the data stored or held; “DA” is data activity – data in motion; “BW” is available bandwidth to a given location; and “L” is average latency between that location and all linked locations.

The top metro areas for data gravity. Image courtesy of Digital Realty.

Applying this formula to locations around the globe, Digital Realty came to some dramatic findings. From 2020-2024, data gravity growth is expected to double annually until enterprises create an estimated 1.1 petabytes of data per second in 2024, increasing their data storage needs by a whopping 15,635 exabytes each year. Digital Realty also named the six top geographic hotspots for this data gravity growth: Singapore, Hong Kong, Dallas, Sydney, Seattle, and Tokyo. This growth, Digital Realty said, is being amplified by growth trends in enterprise data stewardship, mergers and acquisitions, digital-enabled interactions, data localization, and the integration of digital and physical security systems.

“Data is growing at an accelerating rate due to the growth of IoT, AI and social mobile analytics,” said Tony Bishop, SVP for platform, growth, and marketing at Digital Realty.  “There’s a good story to tell here.  But there’s another side to the story, too, with growth resulting in the compounding force of data gravity.  Unchecked, data gravity can lead to limited innovation, poor customer and employee experiences, increased costs, information silos, compliance issues, security concerns and slow decision-making for the enterprise.  The ‘Data Gravity Index’ provides quantitative insight to help customers understand the dynamics of data gravity and turn it into a data-centric opportunity for their business.” 

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