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January 30, 2023

Data Mesh Creator Takes Next Data Step

Zhamak Dehghani, who is credited with popularizing the data mesh concept, announced earlier this month the founding of Nextdata. The new outfit will develop software designed to help customers implement “data product containers” that live in this data mesh environment.

Dehghani was the director of next tech incubation at Thoughtworks North America when originally conceived her ideas about the data mesh. The core ideas revolve around the knowledge that top-down centralization of data, vis a vis the data warehouses of old, is an impossibility in today’s massive and fragmented data environments. Instead, data will remain decentralized and exist in silos and will never be fully unified. In place of that old-style of data management, a more agile and modern concept is needed, and that’s where Dehghani’s idea of the data mesh comes in.

“The value promised from data hasn’t been realized, primarily because today’s ways of managing data for analytics, AI, and machine learning were conceived in a paradigm where data was treated like oil: as a precious resource to be extracted, pumped via pipelines to a storage facility, processed, and consumed,” Dehghani writes in a Medium article. “This creates a compounding series of problems. Fragile data pipelines break. Processes are fragmented. Data producers spend their time on low-value processes–mostly moving data between systems–without ever fully considering how data can and should be used.”

As we have previously written, Dehghani’s key insight was that data transformation cannot be hardwired into the data by engineers, but should work more like a filter applied against a common set of data. By enabling teams of developers to access decentralized data in a self-service manner with federated governance, they can take ownership of the data and build compelling products that scale, adhere to governance policies, and don’t perpetuate the chaos of the data pipeline world.

The data mesh concept spread widely over the past couple of years as a potentially valuable pattern to help with the management and exploitation of big data. During that time, Dehghani, who wrote the O’Reilly book on data mesh, has become a much sought-after speaker. She left Thoughtworks in 2022 and started work on a stealth startup, which we now know is Nextdata.

Nextdata will build tools that enable users to reach the full potential of a data mesh, according to Dehghani. “Data mesh has transformed our mental model of what a thriving data ecosystem looks like,” she writes in the Medium piece. “But our tools and techniques leave us with a large capability gap that makes data mesh implementations difficult, expensive, and full of compromises. My cofounders and I are building Nextdata to fill that gap.”

Deghani, who is a 2022 Datanami Person to Watch, is joined at Nextdata by three big data veterans, including Founding CTO Raghotham Murthy, Founding Head of Product Sina Jahan, and Founding Principal Engineer Dan Siwiec. Murthy is an Apache Hive PMC member and formerly a corporate with Cloudera. Jahan hails from ThoughtWorks, where he was the head of the data mesh practice. Siwiec was director of software engineering at Slalom and retains his position as principal architect at Kambr, which is owned by European travel giant Amadeus.

“Nextdata OS is the data mesh toolset designed to decentralize analytical data at a large scale–within and across organizations,” Deghani writes in her Medium piece. “We are introducing the data product container, a new unit of data value designed to be responsibly shared and used at scale. We are reimagining a new developer and user experience, native to data mesh and centered around data products.”

We have reached out to Dehghani and hope to catch up with her soon to hear more about the new venture.

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