THE European debt crisis and the sluggish recovery of the global economy are creating uncertainty for every business. To succeed in this challenging environment, it is vital for businesses to think outside the box and explore new growth strategies.
Big Data, which used to be seen as a looming problem that required IT infrastructure costs, is now emerging as a valuable new resource to help businesses identify new revenue opportunities.
It is a simple fact, however, that Big Data is only useful and valuable if it is mined wisely and effectively, and turned into information. A recent IDC survey revealed that the majority of Asia Pacific's large enterprises are not only failing to make use of data, they haven't even made any preparations to do so.
More than 50% of the large Asia Pacific enterprises that participated in the survey were not anticipating or planning for the advent of Big Data.
Although their current storage infrastructures are generally sufficient to meet business needs for the next 12 months, many acknowledged that data growth is outpacing their ability to effectively manage it.
Most of these enterprises also admitted that their systems cannot ensure that data is relevant, timely or useful for deeper analysis and decision-making, even though this is now acknowledged as being critical for driving competitive success.
New thinking for new growth
The IDC survey reflects the fact that many IT executives in large Asia Pacific organisations are still short-sighted when it comes to the importance of dealing with data growth.
These enterprises lack a strategy for using Big Data to fill the gap between their business needs and the ability of their IT systems to provide actionable, intelligent information.
Unless they can effectively transform their datacentre into a powerful value-added information hub, the region's large enterprises will find it difficult to improve their business outcomes.
Indeed, to achieve sustainable business success, it's essential they adopt a new way of thinking and analyse their IT and business landscape to develop workable strategies that meet future challenges.
Solving complex data dilemmas
With today's rapid advances in technology and the increasing popularity of unstructured data such as video, images and audio files, IT professionals face tremendous challenges in storage management.
The emergence of this fast-growing data deluge has also coincided with the increasing adoption of new technologies, such as cloud computing and virtualisation - yet at a time when IT budgets are increasingly tight. All these factors combine to create complex new dilemmas for IT executives.
Fast-growing Big Data - According to IDC's Asia/Pacific Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker, in the first six months of 2011, the amount of storage disks shipped into the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) grew 74.2% over the same period in 2010, to 1,824 petabytes.
Since the proliferation of Big Data makes data management more complex and difficult, it's not surprising that, in the same survey, Asia Pacific's IT executives ranked "overall data growth" as their top storage management challenge.
The impact of cloud computing and virtualisation - Cloud technology is now being adopted for a wide variety of functions in IT environments, from fundamental cloud infrastructure configuration and data-oriented content computation to information-driven service provisioning.
Yet, however it is being used, the IDC survey reveals that security is consistently cited as a barrier to greater adoption. The survey also reveals that many Asia Pacific organisations are only just beginning virtual server rollout and are finding server virtualization is increasing the challenges, complexity and workload of storage management.
As cloud computing and virtualisation are major trends for the coming years, IT professionals must seek the right solutions to address these impacts.
Shrinking IT budgets - From a business perspective, many IT executives now find themselves in a difficult position. The global economy remains fragile and wracked with uncertainty. The IT budgets of many Asia Pacific organisations are also unlikely to grow, even though the demands placed on IT departments continue to rise.
More than ever, then, it is crucial for the region's IT executives to develop a strategy that ensures their teams can harness the power of data and use it to deliver greater efficiencies.
Virtual private cloud solutions
Obviously, more encompassing and intelligent technologies are required to help enterprises in the Asia Pacific turn challenges into opportunities. Employing a virtual private cloud solution (namely a private cloud solution managed by an external vendor) is likely a smarter strategy than an enterprise creating its own private cloud or supplementing its existing cloud infrastructure.
This is because many virtual private cloud vendors now offer exceptionally high performance and security, a fact that's confirmed in the IDC study. In many cases, a virtual private cloud is more secure than an internal cloud IT for the simple reason that it is subject to a robust business contract as well as service-level agreements that can include financial incentives tied to the service levels.
Virtual private cloud vendors achieve this by operating a converged system that integrates server, storage and networking onto one platform.
With all components designed and engineered to work optimally together, the vendor is able to provide the highest levels of performance and security with a single management interface for all aspects of the system.
This enables unparalleled efficiency and economies of scale that directly translate into low-cost, high-quality cloud solutions for enterprise customers.
Three-tiered cloud strategy
With Big Data exploding exponentially, and companies facing increasing technology challenges with fewer resources, IT departments can no longer afford to simply function as data custodians. A comprehensive set of cloud solutions is required to help them get the most value out of their information.
A three-tiered strategy of Infrastructure Cloud, Content Cloud and Information Cloud offers a multi-tiered approach to help enterprises manage their data growth, empowering them to collect and connect data to create more sophisticated insights and innovation that drive strategic value and tackle tough business challenges.
These can be summarised as follows:
Infrastructure Cloud - Unifies server, storage and networking silos using virtualised and converged resources that scale on-demand. This provides a truly dynamic infrastructure and a single platform for all data that can serve as the foundation for diverse cloud services such as storage, infrastructure, platform and even software-as-a-service.
Content Cloud - Provides intelligent tools for data indexing, search and discovery across all data types on a single platform. Application independence and lifecycle management can also be applied to provide services such as archiving and content-as-a-service, making the data easier to find, share and repurpose, and consequently more valuable. Content Cloud can provide file-based virtualisation, built-in intelligent tiering and automated data movement capabilities for unstructured data.
Information Cloud - Delivers an open integrated framework for both structured and unstructured data that enables customers to transition their datacenters to information centres. It supports the necessary elements required to deal with Big Data, starting from underlying dynamic infrastructure, to more fluid content and to information analytics with extremely fast data ingestion, integrated data movement and search functionality. The Information Cloud is not only a strategy to help organisations extract and gain increasingly more value from their information, but also a promise that everyone can have confidence in technology's ability to answer complex questions that may require analysing enormous quantities of data - ultimately providing new insights that make work, and even society, a better place.
At your own pace
Today, many organisations are already operating an Infrastructure Cloud. To ensure their competitiveness, they need to swiftly move to the Content Cloud and Information Cloud for better manipulation of their data, maximising its value to create new opportunities and growth.
This three-tiered strategy could help organisations transform to Information Cloud at their own pace. Everything they need for success is now available. The time has come for organisations to rethink their storage strategy.
(Johnson Khoo is managing director of Hitachi Data Systems Malaysia, which is in the business of helping organisations transform raw data into valuable information)