Businesses today can’t exist without data. They feed on it, breathe it, and those that understand how to most effectively harness it, achieve competitive advantage. Not only will those companies see returns today but tomorrow as well since they will be well-poised to seize future data storage opportunities and better leverage their data to make decisions and glean insight.
As you know, companies and consumers alike are producing data at a rate never seen before and this continues to increase. Those companies looking to the future know that they will need to support a data set vastly larger than the one they support today and at faster speeds. However, this is only part of the future storage landscape.
Looking towards the future in any industry can be difficult because so many things will change, but change is expected, often cumulative, consisting of a series of many small changes that overall shift the business and technology landscape forward. In this way, they are somewhat predictable even if we do not know the exact specifics of how those changes will take place.
It is true that organizations will have much more data in the future, but this huge amount of data will be spread among a variety of different providers including cloud services, local storage, peripheral devices, and datacenters. Employees will interface with their data not only via computers, browsers, and apps, but through wearable technology and possibly augmented and virtual reality. Users will not be the only ones creating the data of the future. As sensors continue to decrease in cost, the Internet of Things (IoT) will become more prolific and see many new use cases.
In fact, IDC expects the “digital universe” of global data to double in size every two years between now and 2020, when it will reach 44 zettabytes.
These changes will produce new storage opportunities for organizations.
The main opportunities for storage and IT will be in protecting data’s competitive advantage and achieving new insights and capabilities from integrating systems while supporting larger data volumes and faster access to data.
Data today provides significant value to organizations. Without it, many companies would not be able to exist. The value of data will only increase and as that data is used in more and more places, securing it in the absence of traditional organizational security controls will be of prime importance because the secure data will allow companies to maintain their competitive advantage. Companies will do this by allowing data to be self-protecting. Data will need to be able to move freely but still enforce organizational security policies.
New insights and capabilities from system integration
Creation and consumption of data by users and things will take place on many devices, peripherals and connected things, managed by their own systems. Such systems will most likely be a diverse collection of companies and technologies. Those companies that can effectively integrate the data from these sources will be able to gain new intelligence and it will set the stage for data management opportunities.
One data management opportunity for future storage systems will be to reduce rework. Data created on one device can be shared with other devices so that users do not need to recreate the data. This will be especially important for teams working on the same project. Organizations will be able to take this a step further and integrate data from different teams together, so components from one project or initiative are automatically correlated with others. This will increase agility and key business metrics such as time to market closed sales or customer response time. Furthermore, the insights and uses of different systems will allow for users to utilize the data they create in multiple ways, enhancing data utility and maximizing the data’s organizational value.
Those companies skilled in data management will also be better equipped to protect data against loss. Data creation and change events can be tracked across systems so that they are effectively synchronized and archived.
Larger data volumes, faster speed
Companies and storage partners will need to effectively architect a solution that meets current and planned capacity and performance needs without introducing bottlenecks down the road. The disk has been our bottleneck for so many years that we are conditioned to focus on it, sometimes to the exclusion of other factors.
As flash storage approaches new heights in speed at lower price points, utilizing more open standards, bottlenecks will crop up in other parts of the storage network such as switches, Host Bus Adapters (HBAs), and virtual fabrics. Future ready solutions need to take this into consideration and allow for increased bandwidth, expandability and flexibility in the storage network and various interconnects such as WAN or cloud services.
Case in point – Wunderlich Securities Inc. implemented a flash-storage solution, and chief information officer Aaron Goodwin reports “We’ve got a lot of headroom for growth, plus more peace of mind.”
Forward Thinking Strategy
How effectively companies can utilize their current and future data will depend upon the ability of companies and their storage solutions to tag and categorize data, evaluate and integrate data platforms, build system organizational intelligence and empower end users.
Define policies for tagging and categorizing data now
Most data now are like a patient in the ICU without ID. Doctors don’t know who the person is, including their medical history which limits treatment options. Tagged data, like the patent with ID, has a history and it can tell that history to the applications that work with it. Some patients refuse care and some data will refuse to be accessed while others may be accessed with some restrictions.
Establish methods for evaluating and integrating data platforms
Data that exists in silos can only benefit applications and users operating within those platforms. Future ready companies will need to allow for secure integration between these diverse platforms. However, they will need to ensure that data leaving is protected and that incoming data is screened. The organizational data silos of today are like freshwater cisterns. Those can be combined together into a much larger collection, but introduce salt water and the entire repository is unusable. Similarly, garbage data in a system will result in poor decision-making, and new data created based on this data will be similarly flawed. This is particularly important for companies employing machine learning and artificial intelligence based business intelligence systems.
Build organizational intelligence and awareness into systems
From a security perspective, future ready storage solutions act more like a parent at a playground rather than an executive secretary. Whereas the secretary keeps the executive sealed off from the world, the parent lets their child experience the playground under the parent’s watchful eye. Those that believed the secretary would protect the executive’s schedule were proved wrong again and again as attackers pushed their way past the secretary or worked around her. The parent, while not infallible, is ever-ready to intervene. He or she is intelligent enough to make decisions in a changing environment with many simultaneous interactions and they can take appropriate action such as negotiating with other parents or communicating and coordinating with more powerful entities such as law enforcement when the need arises. Data, like that child, will need to interact with many systems under an intelligent, flexible guardian.
Empower end users
Lastly, users of tomorrow’s systems will need to be aware of how their creation and use of data impacts the organization. It is not enough to have effective data integration and security controls if users incorrectly categorize data, disclose it to unauthorized persons, or feel so restricted that they do not utilize the systems. Users must be empowered so that the technology and data allow them to work more effectively. Such users will embrace the technology and bring the most value to the organization. They will also find their careers more enjoyable when they do not need to compete with the technology. Technology should be a tool, not a restriction, a pencil rather than handcuffs. Are your storage systems ready for the future? It is coming faster than you think so prepare yourself for tomorrow’s opportunities.
 EMC Digital Universe Study, with data and analysis by IDC, April 2014