Unlocking the value of data with mindset, process and technology
Thu 23 Jul 2020 | Krishna Subramanian
Anyone can create endless streams of data – but comparatively few are effective at data management. It’s time for a joined-up approach
The world has a modern-day obsession with data. With nearly 90 percent of its data created in the last two years and enterprise data doubling every two years, we’re living in an era of data overload.
The challenge is wider than just dealing with the amount of data we own – it’s also about what we do with it once we’ve got it, given that between 60-90 percent of data is cold and infrequently accessed within a few months of its creation. Nearly everyone can create endless streams of data without difficulty, but comparatively few have become as effective at data management.
The problem of Hot vs Cold
With 80 percent of the cost of data in its management, efficiently identifying and managing cold data, for example, can deliver significant savings. The problem most organisations face is that they manage data in the same way, irrespective of whether it is hot or cold, useful or useless – and doing so can quickly become inefficient and costly.
In most situations, both hot and cold data are being stored, replicated, and backed up exactly where users first put it: on expensive Tier 1 storage. While this may be easy and convenient at first, IT teams need to be as efficient as possible with their storage spend, especially given flat or shrinking budgets. Identifying and managing cold data, without changing user and application access, has not been easy.
The challenge is how to manage all of this data, while keeping within budget. How can organisations leverage cost-efficient secondary storage, such as cloud and object storage, without disrupting users or applications? The answer lies in becoming data-centric.
Making data-centric the norm
There are a number of steps organisations can take to focus more effectively on data. Whether you subscribe to the saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” or not, there’s no doubt that the data management process needs to begin from a position of knowledge, and the ability to read, work with, analyse, and argue with data.
Analysing data across all storage systems will uncover the ‘who, what and when’ of data use – ie, what data a business has, how much is cold, and how to be more efficient. It also reveals key data trends within the organisation, such as how fast data is growing, and how to then forecast storage capacity and strategy.
From this position of knowledge, becoming data-centric is a relatively easy approach to adopt, given that it can be accomplished via a single system that works across a multi-vendor storage environment, something which is becoming increasingly common across many businesses.
By enabling teams to understand their situation before they make investment decisions, they can avoid purchasing additional storage or backup technologies, and decide when to transparently archive cold data to more cost-effective secondary storage.
Access to that archived data is then provided from its new location, meaning there is no disruption to users or applications. In turn, this enables users to lower Disaster Recovery (DR) costs and reduce the size of backups to provide a cost-efficient DR solution and eliminate cold data from the active backup footprint.
As data growth continues, a data-centric approach also enables organisations to scale on-demand to handle massive data growth by adding virtual appliances to cope. This means working independently of any one storage or backup vendor, and this freedom of choice helps maximise both TCO and ROI.
In the long-term, this approach works well for smaller businesses but can also be scaled up easily as a business expands over time. It’s an approach that minimises impact on the existing infrastructure and doesn’t disrupt current storage, user access or backup processes.
Unlocking the value of data is as much about mindset as it is about process and technology. It’s also an issue businesses need to actively address, given that so many understand and pursue a strategy of collecting more data than ever.
Yet, where is the value of acquiring an asset whose value cannot be fully realised, and where there is a growing cost attached to hoarding it in the expectation that, eventually, it will deliver a return? On the flipside, taking true ownership of data can deliver a balanced approach where businesses know what data they own, what they don’t need and how to exploit its value in the long term.