Digital Gravity - Data as an Opportunity and a Challenge


Data possess a gravity, attracting more data. Bulgaria lags behind in the accumulation of big data compared to developed Western economies, with only 24% of the country's economy characterized by intensive data usage.

In the catch-up process, digitization will play a crucial role with its three main pillars — machines (in the sense of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and other avant-garde technologies), platform business models, and distributed knowledge. This creates new opportunities for the professional development of young people in Bulgaria in promising areas such as data storage centers and next-generation data networks, as well as the implementation of innovative business models and the establishment of new businesses.

"There are different estimates for the total amount of data in the world, but it is immense, and the infrastructure that transports and stores it is crucial. According to various estimates, several hundred zettabytes of information are generated on the Internet every year — a number with 21 zeros," highlighted Andrey Rassiysky, Managing Partner at Alma Consulting Ltd. and Business Partner at the leading colocation and data center provider Telepoint, during the Data Gravity & Cybersecurity panel at this year's Digital Trends forum.

Data Lifecycle and Data Gravity

Like any technology, digital data also follow their own life cycle. "If you are heating your home with a Wi-Fi controlled convector radiator, it has a sensor that measures the room temperature, as well as a connected mobile application for users to manage it. When you open the application, it reads the temperature, which is the first step — data is created," explains Andrey Rassiysky. "Then they are transported to the place where all information about the home automation system is stored, which is the second step. In the third step, the user decides whether to increase or decrease the temperature and executes the corresponding command, generating new data. After some time, you decide to check the average monthly temperature in your home, generating data once again." In different phases, data can create various business opportunities. That's why Dave McCrory, Vice President of Digital Realty, the world's second-largest company that owns, manages, and invests in data centers, introduces the concept of Data Gravity. He first described it 13 years ago in a blog post, explaining that data has mass, and the more it increases, the greater gravitational force it generates. In the same way as in the physical world, according to Newton's law of universal gravitation, where the larger the object’s mass is the stronger is its gravitational pull.

"The same applies to the large volumes of data — the larger they become, the more likely they are to attract other data, applications, or additional services to themselves. To optimize this attraction, maximum network throughput and minimal latency must be ensured. If these parameters are not optimized, the full potential cannot be achieved," emphasizes Andrey Rassiysky.


Measuring Data Gravity

This data gravity can be measured through a gravitational index, which practically indicates the intensity of information exchange and is measured in gigabits per second. The calculation formula involves several components.

"Firstly, there is the mass of the data — the volume contained in a given information array. Next is the data activity — how many transactions over what period of time occur on this information array. The next multiplier is the capacity with which this array is connected to the surrounding environment (generally, the capacity of the internet connections). All of this is divided by the squared latency, which shows how much time is needed to transfer one byte of information from point A to point B," explained the business partner at Telepoint.

Applying this formula to any company can reveal its gravitational index. And this doesn't only apply to companies. Gravity indices can provide a new perspective on the economies of cities. The higher the gravitational index, the more attractive a city is because the speed of information exchange in that ecosystem is higher, attracting more young people, ensuring higher salaries, better living conditions, better professional realization, and attracting more foreign investments. Indicative of that is the top three in the ranking for the highest gravitational index — London, New York, and Tokyo.

Telepoint plans to conduct a similar study for Sofia, as current reports only include Istanbul from Eastern Europe, with expectations that the index for the Bulgarian capital will be high due to fast internet connectivity on one hand and a developed ICT sector on the other.

The Role of Data Centers

Data gravity, however, has both its positive and negative aspects. The positive side is that a company can benefit from a large amount of data – creating new services, attracting new customers, and consequently making more money. But if this gravity becomes too significant, the movement of data becomes almost impossible without interruptions and the risk of information loss.

"From this perspective, planning the location of data and in how many places they should be replicated is extremely important – first, whether they will be stored in one place, and second, whether they are optimized in terms of access. For example, if you have mobile banking but the bank’s data location is not optimized, the application will work slowly during peak hours. On one hand, data must be quickly accessible and on the other hand, when you decide to migrate them, they should not be located in only one place to avoid problems," notes Andrey Rassiysky.

Colocation centers, such as Telepoint, come to the rescue, helping with the optimal management of data, he further explains and concludes: "Data should be at the core of the entire IT architecture, and data centers offer various alternatives in this regard."