Data Ecosystems 101: The Basics Of Data Ecosystems

Data lakes have become increasingly popular among businesses that rely on data to make strategic decisions. Data lakes are huge repositories of raw data that can be queried to help answer questions and gain competitive insights. For the uninitiated, it would be easy to fall into the trap of “the more data, the better,” especially given that data lakes can be hosted in the cloud, which makes them cheap, scalable, and easy to use.

But raw data isn’t very useful, and spending resources to collect and store useless information isn’t good business. This is where data ecosystems come into play. If you adopt and use data ecosystems correctly, you can enable greater transparency and collaboration while making things more efficient within your organization. Data ecosystems can also address the major problems that come with using standard static data lakes. Feel free to use the table of contents to skip ahead if a particular section catches your eye.

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What Is a Data Ecosystem?

learn about data ecosystem

A data ecosystem is a combination of various types of information from numerous providers that builds value through processed data. Data ecosystems include the programming languages, packages, algorithms, cloud-computing services, and infrastructure an organization uses to collect, store, analyze, and leverage data. There is no single data ecosystem solution since every business creates its own unique ecosystem (alternatively called a technology stack) filled with a hodgepodge of hardware and software components that handle everything from data collection to analysis, depending on their needs. In some cases, multiple organizations’ ecosystems overlap, particularly when public sources are involved, or third-party providers are used.

Data ecosystems were originally called IT environments — more centralized and static — but that changed with the advent of the internet and cloud services. Nowadays, data is captured throughout organizations without central control from IT professionals, and the infrastructure used to collect this changing data must constantly adapt. The term “ecosystem” has become preferred since ecosystems change, evolve, and are unique to each environment and/or purpose.

Organizations that process big data may refer to their ecosystem as a big data ecosystem. The distinction is important because the requirements to successfully manage big data algorithms are markedly different in capability and scale.

Why use a data ecosystem?

Data ecosystems turn data into useful insights. Customers leave data trails as they use products, especially digital ones. You can create a data ecosystem to capture and analyze these trails to determine what your users like or don’t like and how they respond to different features. These insights can be used to tweak features and improve your product or service. You can use different types of data to achieve different things (e.g., internal performance information can be used to increase productivity and reduce downtime).

How does a data ecosystem work?

Consider a company that manufactures smart thermostats. The company’s products generate large amounts of sensor data that need to be stored somewhere — let’s say it’s stored using Amazon S3 or HDFS. This raw sensor data would then need to be processed to be useful, which could involve running analysis models like MapReduce jobs on an appropriate platform (such as an Apache Hadoop cluster or a relevant platform for processing real-time streaming data). Once the raw sensor readings have been transformed into meaningful information, they can be analyzed using various visualization tools to help identify trends and patterns. Finally, the results of these analyses can be used by executives and other decision-makers within the company to make informed decisions about the product.

Of course, for a data ecosystem to be complete, it needs external information from sources where companies have no inherent control. This is because a company’s data only tells part of the story — the rest comes from understanding how that data fits into the bigger picture.

For example, say you’re trying to understand customer behavior. In addition to your internal data (e.g., purchase history, website interactions), you also need external data sets (e.g., demographic information, economic indicators) to help put everything in context and draw conclusions about what customers are likely to do next.

What Are The Different Data Elements in Data Ecosystems?

data elements in ecosystems

Data ecosystems are composed of many different data elements. Remember the data lakes that modern businesses are so enamored with? Most of the time, data lakes are full of raw data. As information is processed through an efficient data ecosystem, it can be polished into a more useful data element. The different data elements in data ecosystems are:

  • Raw data: This is the most basic form of data and can be considered unprocessed information. It is often collected from various sources and has not been organized or analyzed in any way.
  • Cleaned data: This type of data has undergone some processing to make it more usable. For example, raw data may need to be converted into a specific format before it can be used for analysis. Cleaning up data can also involve filtering out invalid or incorrect values.
  • Transformed data: Transformed data has been modified for a specific purpose, such as statistical analysis or machine learning. Transformation typically involves mathematical operations such as aggregation, normalization, and feature extraction/selection.
  • Analyzed Data: After being transformed, analysts will use this processed data set to answer questions or test hypotheses about the underlying phenomena represented by the data points.

So, a data ecosystem is like a network of data sources that, when put together, provide insights or enable business processes. As information moves through the network, it goes from raw data to analyzed data. In a modern business setting, the goal is to allow many different parts to work together seamlessly to reach this point and support decision-making at all levels of the organization, including:

  • Data producers such as dataloggers, weather stations, GPS sensors, web servers, or database applications.
  • Data storage systems like relational database management systems (RDBMS), structured query language (SQL), data warehouses, NoSQLstore (Cassandra or MongoDB), or linked data stores.
  • Data processing platforms such as Apache Hadoop or Apache Spark.
  • Data analytics tools such as statistical analysis programs (R and SAS) or visual exploration tools like Tableau and Tableau Public.

Let’s take a look at a deeper, more formal categorization of these components.

What are the different components of a data ecosystem?

You can’t just wing it and create a data ecosystem because you know what the parts are — you need all components performing their functions properly and in unison, ensuring compatibility and integration along the way.

The different components in a data ecosystem can be categorized into:

Sensing

You need to evaluate the data’s quality to ensure it will be useful for your project. This includes asking questions such as:

  • Is the data accurate?
  • Is it recent?
  • Is it complete?
  • Can we trust it?

Data can come from internal sources like databases, spreadsheets, CRMs, and other software. And it can come from external sources like websites or third-party data aggregators.

In this stage of the process, you’ll be leveraging key pieces of the data ecosystem, including:

  • Internal sources: These originate from within your organization; think proprietary databases and spreadsheets.
  • External sources: These come from outside your organization: think public databases, third-party websites, and others.
  • Software: Custom data sensing software.
  • Algorithms: Used for automating the process of evaluating data accuracy and completion.

When you’re trying to get data, there are a few different ways to go about it. You can manually collect data or use automation through programming languages. Automating is generally the way to go for larger projects because it’s more efficient.

Collection

You can write code that scrapes relevant information from websites (a web scraper) or design an application programming interface (API) to directly extract specific information from a database or interact with relevant websites or apps. When you’re coding in this stage, you’re working with:

  • Various programming languages like R, Python, SQL, and JavaScript
  • Code packages and libraries (existing code written and tested by others that lets you generate programs more quickly)
  • APIs

Wrangling

The process of actually transforming raw data into a more usable format is called data wrangling. Depending on the quality of the data, the goal is to make it useful for future analysis, so information might often require multiple data sets, filling in gaps, deleting incorrect or unnecessary data, and cleaning and structuring.

You can do this manually or automatically. Manual processes might work well for small data sets, but you’ll need to use automation for most larger projects. There’s just too much data. You’ll also need:

  • The right algorithms for evaluating and manipulating data
  • Various programming languages such as R, Python, SQL, and JavaScript used to write the algorithms
  • Data tools that you can purchase (some are free) to help with different parts of the process like OpenRefine, DataWrangler, CSVKit

Analysis

Once your data is in a usable state, you can start analyzing it. The type of analysis you do depends on what your project is trying to achieve. It could be diagnostic, descriptive, predictive, or prescriptive. All these types of analysis use similar processes and tools. Your analysis will usually start with some automated processes, especially if your data set is extensive. Once the automation is done, data analysts will look at the results to see what else they can learn.

At this stage, you’ll be heavily reliant on algorithms, statistical data models, and, to create layman’s expressions of very technical data, visualization tools.

Storage

At every stage of the data life cycle, you need to store data securely but make sure it’s accessible to anyone who needs it. Your organization’s data governance procedures will tell you what type of storage medium to use.

For many cases, the choice is either on-site or cloud-based servers, though physical backups like external hard drives and USBs are highly recommended.

Ethical Proxy Use For Supporting Data Ecosystems

choose best proxy for data ecosystems

Collecting the data, especially from external sources, is usually challenging for small to mid-sized enterprises. This is where proxies and web scraping, as mentioned earlier, become invaluable. DIY web scraping via proxies is the only viable large-scale option for many organizations that need to establish their own data collection for their ecosystems.

Rayobyte is a professional and ethical proxy provider that offers the best types of proxies to scrape the web and support your data ecosystem’s collection needs: residential, Internet Service Provider (ISP), and data center.

When it comes to web scraping, residential proxies are usually your best bet. This is because they allow you to use IP addresses assigned to real people by their ISPs. This means that the IP addresses are valid and constantly changing, which allows your web scrapers to do their work without triggering any antibot measures. Additionally, Rayobyte ensures that its ethically-sourced residential proxies go through minimal downtime.

Data center proxies route traffic through data centers for faster speeds. In exchange for these speeds, you don’t have as many unique and nonresidential IP addresses. But they’re more affordable and can be effective in web scraping when used correctly.

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ISP proxies are a mix of residential and data center proxies. These are associated with an ISP but housed in a data center, so you get the speed of data centers and the authority that comes with using an ISP.

Final Thoughts

conclusion on data ecosystems

A data ecosystem is key to unlocking insights from your data sources for many business processes. While internal sources of data are usually easier to manage, it’s the data collection for external data sources that might prove a challenge. But if you can find and wrangle the right data, you can reap the benefits of a well-oiled data ecosystem. Want to collect invaluable external data for your ecosystem on your own? Try Scraping Robot to make your job easier, and explore all of Rayobyte’s proxy options.

The information contained within this article, including information posted by official staff, guest-submitted material, message board postings, or other third-party material is presented solely for the purposes of education and furtherance of the knowledge of the reader. All trademarks used in this publication are hereby acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.

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