Data Gravity: A Comprehensive Guide

RTInsights Team
Published in
4 min readMar 23


By: Elizabeth Wallace

Data volume is creating its own set of challenges. Much like a planet’s mass influences the movement of other celestial bodies, data volume can create its own “gravity. This phenomenon is becoming increasingly relevant in the digital age, as organizations generate and manage massive amounts of data, and as more and more business processes are being powered by cloud computing. Understanding the impact of data gravity is becoming increasingly important for organizations that want to succeed in their digital transformation journeys.

See also: Sound Data Management Practices Can Pay Off Now and Later. Here’s How.

In this comprehensive guide to data gravity, we will explore the concept in detail, examining its causes, consequences, and how organizations can leverage it to their advantage. We will also look at how it impacts cloud computing, and how organizations can use hybrid cloud and edge computing to overcome its challenges.

What is data gravity?

This name refers to the concept that once data reaches a large volume, it “attracts” more data, applications, and other resources to its location. Basically, the more data you have in a specific location, the more likely it is that additional data, applications, and resources will be drawn toward that location. We can observe this in the same way that data centers and cloud storage facilities are becoming increasingly centralized as companies generate more and more data and store it in these locations.

As data accumulates, it becomes more difficult and costly to move or transfer it to another location, leading to a “gravity” that encourages companies to add other resources and applications to the same site.

The gravitational pull isn’t literal but describes more about human nature than machines. Data is costly, complex, and in many cases, risky. Companies are less likely to create new data locations when one location is already available unless something spurs them to.

But why is data gravity becoming such a common occurrence? A 2020 study uncovered several key reasons.

  • The Continuous Data Creation Lifecycle spurs bigger data and bigger gravity. Companies gather more and more data seeking insights into markets, consumers, and competitors, and this continuous, rapid updating feeds the cycle.
  • The increase of digitally enabled interactions and increasing regulatory pressure, such as data localization, prompts companies to copy data to multiple locations.
  • Mergers and acquisitions post-COVID, meaning enterprises grapple with more (and increasingly disparate) data sources.

What does this mean for cloud strategy?

Data gravity can significantly impact a company’s cloud strategy in both positive and negative ways. Here are a few areas in which it can influence cloud strategy for good and bad:

  1. Centralization: Data gravity can drive companies towards centralizing their data and applications in one or a few cloud providers, making it easier to access and analyze their data but also potentially leading to lock-in and vendor dependence.
  2. Hybrid Cloud: Data gravity can make it challenging to move data and applications between cloud providers, leading some companies to adopt hybrid cloud strategies that allow them to use multiple cloud providers while still taking advantage of the “gravity” of their data.
  3. Edge computing: To overcome the challenges posed by data gravity, some companies are turning to edge computing, where data and applications are processed and stored closer to the source of the data rather than in a centralized cloud location. This reduces the processing and storage load.
  4. Data governance: Data gravity can make it challenging to manage data effectively, so companies may need to implement robust data governance and management practices to ensure they drive the full value of their data assets while also avoiding the negative consequences of data gravity.

Overall, data gravity can play a significant role in shaping a company’s cloud strategy, and companies need to consider its impact as they develop and execute their cloud strategies. The key is to balance the benefits with the potential challenges and to choose a cloud strategy that aligns with business objectives while also addressing the challenges posed by centralization.

So what are its potential pitfalls?

Data gravity can be a problem for digital transformation for several reasons:

  • Data silos: When data accumulates in one location, it can create silos of information that are difficult to access and use. This can make it challenging for organizations to access the data they need to make informed decisions and to integrate different systems and applications.
  • Lack of data mobility: The “gravity” created by data can make it difficult to move or transfer data from one location to another. This can limit the ability of organizations to take advantage of new technologies, platforms, and tools, as they may be unable to access their data in a new location.
  • Dependence on a single platform or vendor: When limited by their data mobility, organizations can become dependent on the chosen platform or vendor. This can create lock-in and further limit the ability of organizations to switch to a different platform or vendor if they need to. Technical debt piles up until making a switch causes catastrophic operational upheaval.
  • Inefficient use of resources: When data and resources are concentrated in one location, it can lead to inefficiencies and higher costs. For example, it can strain network bandwidth and storage…

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