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Sagrada Familia Cathedral Alamy

The Architectural Master Gaudi: A Correlation to Unstructured Data Management

Just as Antoni Gaudi thought differently about architecture, unstructured data management requires a different perspective — a focus not on the storage of the data, but on the data itself.

Over the holidays, my family visited various sites in Spain including Barcelona. While this is not my first visit to this culturally diverse city, this time, I spent more time learning about the famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. He is most known for designing the Sagrada Familia Cathedral (still a work in progress after 144 years!), but he also completed many other brilliant structures in Spain.

When Gaudí graduated from Barcelona Higher School of Architecture in 1878, the school's director said: "We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will tell." And in time, Gaudi built some of the most whimsical masterpieces that still draw millions to Barcelona. 

You may marvel at Gaudi's designs, which make you feel like you're in an underwater palace or a gingerbread house straight out of a fairy tale, rather than a church. Or, like George Orwell, you may find them "gaudy" and wonder why this hideous church was spared when others were bombed.

But Gaudi didn't just create fantastic art. He pioneered modern architecture in his buildings by maximizing natural light and air flow to minimize heating and cooling. He used recycled materials that led to modern principles of sustainable building, rather than sketching buildings on paper as was the norm in those times. He built inverted hanging chain models where gravity would show him the right proportions and enable him to visualize in 3D and rapidly prototype without prohibitively expensive clay renditions. His art is functional as much it is fantastically unique.

After learning more about Gaudi's work on our vacation, I made some correlations to the founding of Komprise. In 2014, my two co-founders and I started this company to solve what we realized was becoming an extremely vexing problem for enterprises: the unmanaged and costly growth of unstructured data, such as video, audio, documents, genomics data, IoT, and other data that doesn't fit neatly in a database. Our vision then and now was to deliver a new way to manage unstructured data for cost savings while also ensuring other benefits including mobility, flexibility, access, protection, and long-term value generation.

So, What Does Gaudi Have to Do with Unstructured Data Management?

Space, not Structure: Gaudi thought differently about architecture, just as unstructured data management requires a different perspective. As the son of a boilermaker, Gaudi's perspective centered on space not structure; instead of seeing a building as comprised of walls and roofs, he focused on the type of space it fostered. This change in perspective led to an entirely different design that maximized living space, natural light, and air flow.

Similarly, unstructured data management is not centered on the storage or cloud technology that houses the data but upon the data itself. Focusing on the data and not on the container changes how you deliver data management: Data, not Storage.

No External Buttresses: Churches like Notre Dame were majestic, but Gaudi viewed Gothic architecture as inefficient because it required external buttresses. Instead, taking inspiration from animal skeletons, he built La Sagrada Familia with a skeleton so its majestic spires could support themselves.

Independent unstructured data management is not just a different way of looking at the problem; it is also about how you maximize efficiency. If you let a storage system tier data to a lower cost cloud object storage by chunking it into proprietary blocks, then you will always need the external storage-vendor proprietary software whenever your users want to access, copy, or move data again. This locks up data into a proprietary format and makes it reliant on an external proprietary system, which incurs costs (such as egress, rehydration, and licensing), time, and hassle. Storage system-specific methods include block-level tiering, agents, and stubs. Requiring proprietary mechanisms which are external to the data to manage data over its lifecycle is like using external buttresses: it helps some but comes at a huge cost of lock-in and is still inefficient. 

Instead, unstructured data management does file-level tiering by leveraging the properties of the data to right place it. As well, it maximizes data efficiency by keeping data in native format and not blocking its access through external proprietary mechanisms. Data management should be standards-based, storage-independent, work wherever your data lives, and allow data to keep moving to new places as needed without getting in the way. It doesn't lock your data up after moving it; after all, the data belongs to your organization: Manage data without external proprietary hooks and buttresses.

A Home, Not Just a House: Gaudi viewed buildings as living beings that should nurture their inhabitants — and inspire them with beauty, imagination and creativity, light, and fresh air.  Similarly, unstructured data management is not just about storing data efficiently but breathing life into that data. The goal is to speed time to value from data by easily searching across storage to find the right data sets and moving it to locations where it will be nurtured, such as AI and ML services in the cloud. Data management should maximize data value.

A Better Way

Gaudi did not just create artistic buildings; he paved the way for modern architecture and redefined design thinking. He pioneered 3D architectural design rather than 2D paper drawings. Architects had to use aerospace modeling software nearly a century later to finish his designs for La Sagrada Familia. He approached his work organically, such as thinking about how gravity came to play — and that led to his hanging chain models. 

Unstructured data management also provides a better way to place, use, and derive value from data because it redefines the problem in the most natural way; understand the data to guide where and how to move it based on the goals for using it. Storage-independent data management is a better way because it is the most natural way — manage data based on its needs.

As it turns out, Gaudi was no fool; he was a genius who inspired generations. Like me, perhaps the next time you stare at a Gaudi masterpiece, you too will draw inspiration and parallels to your passion.

Krishna Subramanian is COO, President and Co-founder of Komprise.

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