Explaining the Equifax Data Fabric

September 20, 2022

IN 2018, EQUIFAX SET OUT to modernize its business, with the goal of helping more people live their financial best. Backed by a multi-year $1.5 billion investment, the company designed the Equifax Cloud™, a top-tier technology and security infrastructure. This cloud foundation is custom-built to manage large volumes of diverse datasets with greater speed, precision and control than ever before possible. By layering on advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, data can be converted into meaningful insights much more efficiently – and often in real time. The result is more innovative products for customers and a more seamless experience for consumers in moments where fast, reliable data matters most – like applying for a job, a mortgage or a car, or verifying your identity. 

Today, Equifax is rebuilding all its products on this new cloud environment and tracking toward becoming the industry’s first “cloud-native” global data and analytics company of its scale. A central component of the Equifax Cloud™ is its “data fabric,” an adaptable structure that unifies all the enterprise’s data (from over 100 siloed data exchanges). Here Bryson Koehler, Chief Product, Data, Analytics and Technology Officer at Equifax, sheds light on how the Equifax Cloud™ data fabric works – and how it’s changing the industry.  


How would you describe the Equifax data fabric?  

BK: During our Investor Day presentation in November 2021, I introduced the concept of our data fabric, which refers to how we organize all of our data elements in the cloud. The data fabric enables us to compile our data sources in a single virtual structure while still keeping all critical governing and separation measures in place. Our data fabric has hundreds of unique data domains (or sourced data types). This includes data that is openly contributed, data we already have, data we purchase and new data we develop from analysis or services we provide.


Do you have an example of how the data fabric works?  

BK: To visualize a data fabric, think of your smartphone. The average person has around 40 applications on their phone. These applications perform a variety of functions, yet they all run within the phone, which makes it easier for a provider like Apple or Google to provide a great experience, tighter security and overall control of what the apps can and can’t do on each person's phone. Just imagine if you needed an entirely different phone for each app; it would be challenging to toggle between apps or even keep up with all the phones. 

The Equifax data fabric is our version of that smartphone. We have many data sources (which are the apps, from the phone example) that we have brought together in our common data fabric. This allows us to manage our data with much more ease and to provide better security and governance controls in a consistent way

While that is certainly an over-simplified explanation of data fabric, it helps paint a picture of how it works. 


What are the benefits of the data fabric model? 

BK: We've provided unique, differentiated data at Equifax for a long time. Customers from a variety of industries rely on that data to make critical decisions. In the past, the data was held in different databases, so it was a complex process to apply analytics and deliver packaged data to customers. Going back to my previous example, it was as though we had numerous “phones” – which made it difficult for our customers’ data scientists to access. By moving to a common data fabric (or phone, if you will), not only is it much easier to build better solutions, but it’s easier to have better governance controls and stronger security.


How is data stored within the data fabric? 

BK: I’ll go back to the phone analogy. Every application on your phone is unique and has no access to other applications on the phone. There are separate terms of agreement for each one. Further, the phone’s privacy controls make it very clear what each application can and can’t do while it’s installed, even though all of these apps are installed on the same device. 

The same principle applies in the data fabric. Each data element (just like each app on your phone) has its own rules that are governed and controlled from the time the data is ingested (installed, using the phone example) to the time the data is leveraged and used. In the modern world, this approach is far superior to that of the legacy world and provides better data isolation and management of regulatory requirements.


When working with such large amounts of data, how can you ensure the right rules are applied to data sets when packaging them for customers? 

BK: Each product or solution that Equifax creates is bound to respect the unique “rules” assigned to the data element, just like each app on your phone is only allowed to do what it was permitted. Rules are literally attached to each data element defining what every data asset can and can’t do within each specific use case. 

What is so beneficial with this approach is that each user of the data doesn’t need to know all of the details; the system enforces the rules on their behalf. Just like an iPhone developer doesn’t need to know how iOS works, the phone’s operating system will simply enforce what can and can’t be used. Can you imagine the challenge if each app developer had to write their own rules around access to your camera? Our approach with data fabric greatly enhances our ability to streamline and enforce proper data governance in the same way.


What are the security and privacy controls offered by the data fabric? 

BK: To start with, security is built into our systems, not bolted on. The Equifax Cloud is inherently more secure than legacy systems because it provides a consistent platform. We’ve dramatically reduced complexity and the surface area for attacks. This consistency makes automation much easier and allows our cloud environment to be automatically upgraded with each software release to ensure we are always current and taking advantage of the latest generation of capabilities and protection. 

In a rapidly evolving privacy landscape, having a single data fabric enables instant compliance. Because we have a common control plane for data usage, each data asset can be configured with distinct rules that govern how the data is used, allowing Equifax to adopt new regulatory requirements in any geography. So much of our data is voluntarily contributed, so it’s important that these rules can be updated at any time, ensuring 100 percent control and privacy adherence, 100 percent of the time.

Learn more about the Equifax data fabric on our website.