RST Software
Editorial Team
Ross Krawczyk
Reviewed by a tech expert

The data cloud explained: the “what”, the “how”, the “why”

Read this articles in:

As digital transformation accelerates, companies are choking on an avalanche of data. Ever-growing volumes of structured and unstructured information cascade through businesses daily, leaving data teams buried and executives frustrated. What if this deluge could be tamed? Enter the data cloud – a flexible, cost-efficient solution that allows businesses to rapidly unlock value from their datasets. With the right strategy, these solutions can help your company thrive even in uncertain conditions.

What is a data cloud?

A data cloud is a unified data management platform that combines different organization's data sources, storage options, and infrastructure. It provides a convenient hub for enterprises to accumulate, process, manage, and analyze data, allowing for the integration of information and insights. Currently, 60% of enterprise data is already stored in the cloud, with 89% of cloud-native companies adopting a multicloud architecture.

Envision a data cloud as the Earth's atmosphere: vast, dynamic, and all-encompassing. It creates an interconnected virtual environment that allows data to flow seamlessly between previously isolated systems. This integrated perspective enables real-time reporting, analytics, and actionable insights.

The “data fabric approach” employed by cloud data platforms empowers organizations to manage highly distributed data, metadata, and processes. It also ensures data quality, security, and automation at a rapid pace. The data cloud paradigm melds the scalability and adaptability of cloud environments with smart tools to unlock previously inaccessible information.

What are the components of a data cloud?

Data clouds are not monolithic entities. They are made of multiple integrated components and services behind the single virtual interface. The typical modules of a data cloud solution include:

  • Data integration services are responsible for bringing together different sources and formats, transforming them into unified data flows, and loading them into the data cloud.
  • Data storage services include cloud data lakes and warehouses, where raw data is stored in a distributed manner to ensure high availability and fault tolerance.
  • Data processing services form the computational core of the data cloud. They carry out operations on the data, such as sorting, filtering, and aggregating, as well as analysis and reporting.
  • Data orchestration services provide capabilities that automate data governance. They coordinate data across storage, processing, analysis, and other tasks, managing the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data.
  • Data analytics and business intelligence tools are used for data analysis and generating actionable insights. This can include dashboards for data discovery, real-time analysis, and metadata management.
  • Data security services ensure that the data is encrypted, authenticated, and authorized, protecting it from unauthorized access and potential breaches.
  • APIs, SDKs, and data connectivity are open interfaces that enable external tools to access data services. These protocols allow software, such as data visualization applications, to interact with the data cloud.

These components collaborate under the hood of a data cloud platform to offer adaptable, scalable data management and insights. Understanding the individual components of a data cloud enables you to make informed decisions regarding how it can fulfill your organization's unique data requirements. The complexity is concealed within the unified virtual environment, making it simpler to comprehend and utilize efficiently.

How do data clouds work?

You already know that data clouds connect previously scattered systems, data, and tools. But how do they actually achieve this?

Data clouds rely on cloud-native architecture to enable scalable, lightning-fast data integration as they facilitate multicloud analytics and employ an open data ecosystem.

Modern data clouds can easily handle data ingestion, preparation, warehousing, lake storage, and analysis, bringing near-infinite flexibility to scaling data pipelines up and down on demand. For example, cloud data warehouse solutions can automatically add or remove available capacity based on data load.

Open APIs and data connectivity integrated into data clouds enable seamless access to new data sources or applications. And a diverse pool of pre-built connectors expedite integration with numerous popular cloud apps and on-premise databases.

After ingestion, intelligent automation takes care of mundane tasks such as data mapping, eliminating the need for manual coding, all while machine learning algorithms automatically optimize data storage formats, processing, and querying to enhance performance. As a result, data is transformed into an asset that amplifies business value, rather than remaining an unnoticed liability.

Why should you adopt a data cloud?

Benefits of data cloud technology

The core benefits of data clouds stem from their ability to unlock trapped data and bring together insights scattered throughout the enterprise.

Real-time data and analytics are a key advantage of data clouds. They can continuously ingest data streams in real-time from transactional systems, IoT devices, and other sources, allowing for deployment of up-to-date dashboards, reports, and predictive models, rather than relying on outdated weekly extracts. With the help of AI-driven insights, the analytics are constantly updated, guiding smarter decisions and actions.

Cloud data platforms also offer the benefit of hidden costs optimization, as they eliminate the need for pricy on-premise data warehouses, which require extensive hardware, maintenance, and IT overhead. By buying data services on-demand, businesses only have to pay for the resources they actually use.

Scalability and agility are other advantages of data clouds. Unlike data silos that are limited by fixed storage or compute capacity, data clouds can easily scale up and down to handle spikes in data volume or users. Going from terabytes to petabytes happens automatically and instantly. Additionally, new data sources can be integrated in a matter of days, not months.

Data clouds also enable faster time to insights. By unifying data in a single cloud platform, business intelligence (BI) tools can quickly plug in and start providing data visualization and advanced analytics. There is no need for lengthy upfront data modeling and extract, transform, load (ETL) processes. Data science and analytics teams gain self-service access to fresh data.

Finally, data clouds improve data quality and governance. They leverage machine learning to automatically cleanse, standardize, and enrich data as it integrates. They offer centralized data catalogs, access controls, and usage monitoring to strengthen compliance and promote data democratization.

Potential drawbacks of data cloud technology

Data clouds can work wonders – if implemented with the right strategy and planning tailored to your company needs. However, you should definitely strive to avoid the following pitfalls:

  1. Single vendor lock-in. Data gravity makes it tough to shift data workloads once placed into a data cloud platform. Multicloud architectures and open APIs should be utilized to reduce dependency on any one vendor.
  2. Hidden data migration costs. Replatforming terabytes of on-premise data to a cloud data warehouse can get expensive. Planning data migration in chunks while maintaining existing databases prevents sticker shock.
  3. Overprovisioning resource. Buying data capacity on-demand makes it easy to overspend without governance. Monitoring usage and setting quotas helps optimize costs.
  4. Complacency about security. While cloud services enable security best practices, companies must take responsibility for proper access controls, encryption, and cybersecurity training. As the complexity of managing a hybrid multicloud environment can be a significant challenge, make sure you understand everything your current setup is being used for and by whom, especially when you use AI-based analytical tools.

With careful preparation focused on long-term data strategy, these risks remain manageable. Thoughtful implementation unlocks the advantages of cloud data platforms for almost any organization.

Examples of data cloud use cases

Businesses from diverse sectors, whether they are in research or retail, are increasingly recognizing the advantages of data cloud technology. Here is a closer look at some of the most significant applications that are making a real impact in the real world:

  • Unifying customer intelligence. Data clouds allow businesses to aggregate customer data from multiple sources into a single, unified view. This enables real-time analytics of customers’ online behavior and social media interactions, creating opportunities to build personalized marketing strategies and precisely targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Optimizing supply chain. Data clouds offer a robust platform for integrating disparate data sets, including supplier information, inventory metrics, and logistical data.
  • Accelerating drug discovery. In the pharmaceutical sector, data clouds play a crucial role in handling and analyzing vast amounts of research data. These datasets encompass everything from clinical trials to patient records, ultimately resulting in faster drug discovery processes and the expedited release of new treatment options to the market.

Two other specific and inspiring use cases include the gaming industry and online libraries.

Warner Bros. Gaming

The gaming arm of Warner Bros. leverages data analytics to enhance high-profile game releases such as “MultiVersus”. Warner Bros. Games uses Amazon's Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon EMR for handling enormous data volumes. It then utilizes Amazon Redshift to streamline querying and data analysis of player metrics, while machine learning algorithms developed on Amazon SageMaker contribute to ongoing game enhancements. By integrating this suite of Amazon tools, Warner Bros. Games optimizes its data management processes, freeing up resources to focus on elevating the gaming experience for its user base.

Project Gutenberg

The second use case for data cloud is Project Gutenberg, the world's oldest digital library of free ebooks. To enhance accessibility, Project Gutenberg partnered with Microsoft to harness the power of AI and create thousands of audiobooks from its existing collection. At the heart of this solution was Azure Synapse, a cloud service that facilitated end-to-end data processing and analysis on a large scale.

By utilizing Azure Synapse, Project Gutenberg was able to extract, clean, format, and segment the text from various ebooks in several formats and languages. Subsequently, it employed Azure Cognitive Services Text-to-Speech platform to generate audio files in multiple languages and multiple neural voices. To ensure the high quality of the generated audio, both Azure Machine Learning and human feedback were employed.

Lastly, Azure Data Factory was used to upload the files to the Project Gutenberg website.

The range of these applications not only underscores the flexibility of data cloud technologies but also prompts an intriguing inquiry: How can a single technology be both broadly applicable and highly specialized? The key resides in the distinct architectures and capabilities offered by various data cloud solutions.

Best data cloud solutions

Every top data cloud platform has unique features to tackle specific issues, like merging different data sources, speeding up complex calculations, or managing data securely. Cloud-based solutions eliminate the need for costly on-premise data centers, offering scalability and user-friendliness instead. As we dive into details about individual platforms, remember that the secret to leveraging this tech is picking the tool that fits your unique needs and processes.


Snowflake is a cloud-native data platform designed specifically for the cloud usage. Natively integrated with major cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCP, its key features include a unique architecture optimized for near-unlimited scalability, flexible pricing, and extensive integrations.

Snowflake uses a three-layer architecture consisting of database storage, processing, and cloud services layer.

Architecture overview
Source: Snowflake

Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is a fully managed data warehouse service in the cloud that sets itself apart in several ways:

  • First, it offers high-speed query performance. By using a Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture, Redshift distributes query loads across multiple nodes, enabling rapid data retrieval and high concurrency. This makes it an ideal choice for businesses that need quick results without any delays.
  • Second, Redshift seamlessly integrates with other Amazon Web Services (AWS). It can connect with services like Amazon S3, DynamoDB, RDS, and Aurora. For example, you can directly query data from Amazon S3 using open file formats such as Parquet or JSON without the need for additional data transformation. This is all thanks to Redshift Spectrum.
  • Third, Redshift is ML-ready. It is compatible with AWS SageMaker to simplify data preparation for machine learning workflows. Additionally, it integrates with Lake Formation, AWS Glue, and Kinesis Firehose, streamlining the process of building comprehensive data pipelines.
  • Fourth, Redshift offers flexible pricing models. Whether you're a startup or an enterprise, Redshift has options that suit your needs. You can choose from flexible on-demand instances or opt for reserved instances with a 1-3 year term, which can save you up to 75% in costs.
  • Fifth, Redshift provides optimal price-performance. It separates storage and compute resources, allowing for independent scaling, meaning you not only get high performance, but can also optimize costs by scaling each resource independently.
  • Lastly, one of the main advantages of Redshift is its fully managed nature. It automatically handles infrastructure provisioning, upgrades, security patches, backups, monitoring, and more. This simplifies the maintenance process and eliminates the need for managing servers typically associated with traditional data warehouses.


Built on Apache Spark, Delta Lake, and MLflow open source technologies, the Databricks Lakehouse Platform unifies data management, analytics and AI on an open, cloud-based platform to help build data-driven applications and scale along with their growth.

The platform offers a number of key capabilities like data engineering, BI analytics, notebooks, integrations and machine learning via a single platform, eliminating the need to piece together disparate tools. Delta Lake brings reliability and performance gains like caching, indexing as well as ACID transactions to data lakes, and together with Apache Spark is used to streamline ETL pipelines and workflows.

Source. Databricks

Databricks is a platform that simplifies the process of generating dashboards and visualizing data. It supports multiple programming languages, including SQL, Python, R, and Scala. Additionally, it offers convenient tools for building data pipelines, BI dashboards, and AI/ML applications. By integrating with CI/CD DevOps tools, Databricks allows for version control, testing, and automation.

Their goal is to streamline complex data workflows and facilitate collaboration among data engineers, scientists, and analysts.

Google BigQuery

Google BigQuery is a serverless and highly scalable data warehouse solution that powers data-driven innovation. It allows for SQL analytics on massive datasets without the need to manage infrastructure.

Key features include built-in machine learning, real-time analytics, cross-cloud analytics, enterprise-grade security, and integrations. The unified BigQuery Studio interface simplifies workflows for users with varying skills, from SQL queries to ML model building. It also enables users to enforce security policies and gain governance insights through data lineage, profiling, and quality checks within BigQuery.

Source: Google

Azure Synapse

Azure Synapse enables the creation of analytics solutions that can handle structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. It offers a combination of serverless on-demand and dedicated SQL query processing power for predictable workloads, as well as support for Apache Spark for big data tasks.

The architecture of Synapse allows for the separation of storage and compute, which enables independent scaling to optimize resources and improve performance. Developers can utilize familiar tools such as .NET, Python, SparkSQL, and Power BI to build their solutions.

An overview of data services in Azure.
Source: Microsoft

With extensive Azure services integration, Azure Synapse simplifies the process of creating end-to-end analytics pipelines, starting from data ingestion and ending with visualization. Developer tools, like Git integration, make version control, CI/CD automation, monitoring, and access control easier.

By bringing together major analytics workloads into one service, Azure Synapse aims to help enterprises maximize insights and extract value from their data.

Interested in adopting a data cloud within your organization?

Unlock the full potential of your data with our cloud migration and integration services. Our team of experts is dedicated to streamlining your transition to robust data cloud environments, ensuring scalability, security, and seamless operations.

🔗 Take the first step towards a data-driven future. Contact us today to explore how we can elevate your data management capabilities.

People also ask

No items found.
Want more posts from the author?
Read more

Want to read more?

Cloud & DevOps

IAM best practices - the complete guide to AWS infrastructure security

Explore essential IAM best practices for robust AWS infrastructure security. Elevate your cloud security with expert insights.
Cloud & DevOps

What is data ingestion and why does it matter?

Explore the importance of data ingestion and its significance in the digital age. Harness data effectively for informed decisions.
Cloud & DevOps

Snowflake vs Redshift: key differences and use case scenarios

Explore the differences between Snowflake and Redshift. Find the right data warehousing solution for your specific use cases.
No results found.
There are no results with this criteria. Try changing your search.