Surf The Data Surge

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. From the 173 million online blogs and the 50 billion web pages indexed by Google to the 107 trillion emails, organisations are amassing great stockpiles of data. But they are not storing up a problem. They are storing up competitive advantage.

Much of this data increasingly falls under the ‘big’ or ‘unstructured’ banner, with mobile users and devices acting as key content generators. According to McKinsey Global Institute, the effective analysis of such big data will underpin new waves of productivity growth, innovation and consumer surplus.

For some organisations, that wave has already started. According to IDC’s 2012 European software survey, 18 per cent of European business and IT executives are already looking at creating new products and services based on the opportunities that are opened up through the deployment of big data technologies.

The mobility data footprint

Big data and unstructured data are not always the same – neither are the definitions used by vendors and analysts. But they often cause the same problem: a squeeze on storage capacity and budget. This squeeze is only going to get tighter as more workers join the mobility ranks.

It’s predicted that 40 per cent of the global workforce will be mobile by 2014. The increase in mobility comes with a heavy data and device footprint – particularly as more personal smartphones and tablets swell the workplace IT portfolio.

By 2014, it’s estimated that the number of employee-owned smartphones and devices used in the enterprise will more than double. And it’s not just mobile devices adding to the data mountain. From smart meters and social media to RFID tags and video-conferences, they all come with their own data overhead.

Keep the stores in order

To derive value from this data, organisations need to ensure that they can both absorb and analyse the growing mass of terabytes – without running up a colossal bill for storage. As IDC puts it: “Dealing with large volumes of data requires strict discipline in terms of data management in order to keep the storage footprint as small as possible.”

IDC recommends that organisations focus on optimising the storage layer through the use of archiving, data protection, data deduplication, thin provisioning and storage tiering technologies. Adopting data optimisation technologies that deliver high performance and high capacity for a low cost will be key to supporting tomorrow’s mobile enterprise and managing the sea of big data.

Next stop the cloud

There’s also the option of bursting out into the cloud. But this can come with its own information management challenges. Data sovereignty can be a major problem with the public cloud, as service providers invariably use data centres in a range of locations. This can cause regulatory issues for organisations in a number of industries.

With the data owner remaining responsible for its protection, IT departments must also ensure that the business is not exposed to regulatory or reputational risks through a lack of sufficient security. When using public cloud resources for additional storage capacity, IT departments must ensure they migrate the right datasets and establish the right service levels.

Organisations can mitigate such risks by taking a private cloud approach – this can provide the same flexible capacity as a public counterpart but without compromising data sovereignty or security. For example, Computacenter hosts all its off-premise C3Infrastructure cloud services from UK data centres.

Analyse this, and this and that!

Establishing secure and scalable storage resources is just the beginning of the mobility data challenge. IT departments also need to provision powerful analytical tools to unlock the business value contained in the reams of unstructured data being generated by mobile devices.

Big data analytics will be a big priority during the second half of 2013. Unlike existing business intelligence initiatives, it will cover a much broader set of data – both internal and external. And it will need a much broader set of skills than currently exists in most IT departments.

Establishing the right tools and resources to enable big data analytics will be vital for the mobile enterprise going forward. With 63 per cent of UK companies recognising that big data can deliver competitive advantage, the race to extract value has already begun. Those across the finish line first have the most to gain.

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Bill McGloin, who started work at Computacenter in December 2001 as a technology leader for the services unit, is currently practice leader for storage and data optimisation.