Tech has no shortage of buzzy new technologies -- and cutting through the hype to see what will actually impact the enterprise can be challenging. We're here to help. Since 2021, our contributors have examined an emerging tech and whether it'll pay off to pay attention to it. Here, we look at data mobility.
To see the other trends highlighted in our IT Trends To Watch series, read our Emerging IT Trends To Watch report.
What Is Data Mobility?
Simply put, data mobility or portability is “the capacity of ensuring data is where you need it, in the form required and for the purpose of accelerating application development without creating friction for the people who need to use it,” said Graham Thompson, founder and CEO of Privacy Dynamics, a data privacy software vendor.
Data mobility is a broad topic, with implications for both individuals and enterprises, said Ant Phillips, CTO of the Celebrus suite of data products at D4t4 Solutions. “For individuals, the concept implies a sense or statement of ownership,” Phillips said. For example, data mobility enables users to access all their data from a social media platform and use that data in other places. At the enterprise level, data mobility functions similarly but at a larger scale.
How Long Has Data Mobility Been Around?
Data mobility considerations are not new, but the realities of data portability have changed significantly in recent years. Increases in data generation, storage capacity and networking speeds have driven those changes.
“Portability concerns used to be centered around variations in chip design and then operating systems,” said Rajiv Dholakia, senior vice president of products at data privacy company Privacera. “These days, portability concerns extend to thinking about the data environments that store, compute and analyze data.”
Widespread adoption of cloud-based services has also shifted how organizations think about data mobility. The ability to move data across cloud computing environments is now taken for granted, but the ability is relatively new, Dholakia noted.
Why Are People Paying Attention To Data Mobility?
Data mobility is receiving increased attention as companies adopt cloud-based services and embrace digital workforces. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put a spotlight on data mobility.
“COVID-19 and the shift to remote work accelerated the need for enterprises to modernize their entire data stack and maintain data mobility,” Thompson said. “This has caused companies to reevaluate many of their existing models as we learn how to operate in a new world -- one that has increased pressure for security, privacy and high-performance analytics.”
In these hybrid or remote work environments, it's essential to have a clear understanding of how data is encrypted, stored and backed up, Phillips added. For example, organizations should identify how much of its data must be backed up to ensure portability, he said. “Likewise, should [the data] be centralized? And are there rules for storage?”
Data mobility also requires organizations consider data security and privacy. “If you’re moving data between environments and applications, it’s critical to understand who has access to that data as it moves,” Phillips said.
These security and access controls need to migrate along with your data, Dholakia noted. “Without those controls being portable with the data, the portability promise could be an illusion,” he said.
Who Benefits From Data Mobility?
Data mobility is a boon for organizations that find themselves in the middle of digital transformation. “Many enterprises are struggling to adopt cloud-first technologies while still keeping the lights on for all their existing systems,” Phillips said. “The promise of data portability is that workloads can move freely between legacy systems and modern cloud infrastructure.”
Where Can You Get Data Mobility?
Data mobility is now a consideration for any software and services that use data. As such, data mobility within a service and between services should be a key factor in IT purchases.
“Many vendors are seeking to tie [customers] in by making it difficult to access their data if managed and processed by that same vendor,” Philips noted. He pointed to Google Analytics as an example. “Once the data goes in, getting it back out is a lot of effort and cost.”
When evaluating IT vendors, it’s important to ensure access to your data is both immediate and free or low cost, Phillips said. “For example, it costs money to egress data from AWS, but those costs are reasonable and unambiguous,” he said. “With that understanding in place, it is possible to design systems and processes around that data to achieve your business use cases.”
Some concerns about data portability have eased as vendor lock-in around proprietary data formats have been displaced by open formats and migration utilities, Dholakia said.
When selecting vendors, organizations should also consider data mobility’s role in the rapidly evolving IT environment. “The world is moving to near real-time processing of data,” Philips noted. “Having a vendor that provides a daily export of data might be sufficient today but almost certainly will not be tomorrow.”