Ask any technology business leader about the single, most defining technology trend of the 21st century and the answers are likely to be the same – big data.
With the potential of changing how businesses operate and ultimately perform, this is one trend that no one can afford to ignore if they want to stay ahead of the competition.
There are many definitions of big data, in fact, every tech guru has their own definition of it. I define big data as almost immeasurably large volumes of structured and unstructured data that is generated every second of every day from traditional and digital sources, and that, if leveraged correctly, can change the face of business and human life. The highlight of this definition is the phrase “immeasurably large volume”.
A recent study by IDC suggests that world data growth is expanding at a 5x rate, and will lead to as much as 40,000 exabytes by 2020. The emergence of technologies like the Internet of Things and embedded software, wearables and more is contributing to the exponential growth of data. Used correctly, this data can change our understanding of customers and markets, help predict trends, manage stocks and supplies better, manage diseases, understand the spread of infectious diseases and prevent epidemics and much more. The opportunities and potential presented by big data is truly phenomenal.
As big data grows bigger, the challenge of effectively utilizing this data also increases proportionally. As per the IDC study “in 2013, only 22 percent of the information in the digital universe would be a candidate for analysis, i.e., useful if it were tagged (more often than not, we know little about the data, unless it is somehow characterized or tagged – a practice that results in metadata); less than 5 percent of that was actually analyzed. By 2020, the useful percentage could grow to more than 35 percent, mostly because of the growth of data from embedded systems”. As emerging technologies lead to the generation of more and more usable data, it is essential for businesses to access and interpret the data effectively in order to gain insights that can fuel growth and innovation.
The questions before an organization are many – where can a business store, retain and index the data, how can it correlate data from multiple sources and how can it access it quickly and effectively? Without the adequate IT resources, most businesses will find it extremely difficult to kick-start their big data initiative or continue to leverage data for actionable insights. It is critical for organizations to invest in adequate big data infrastructure in order to make the best use of their data assets. Investing in a converged data infrastructure with in-built networking virtualization and storage capabilities is a good idea. Such an infrastructure is effective in addressing current requirements and can be scaled up easily to meet future challenges as well.
The second challenge before organizations that want to explore the possibilities and potential of enterprise big data, pertains to the actual interpretation of data. Previously, a mere analysis of the collected data was deemed sufficient. Today, enterprises realize the need to translate the data into usable intelligence. In order for big data to yield insights and pave the way for competitive success, the data needs to be not just analyzed but also understood and interpreted to benefit the business. This calls for not just advanced analytics software, but also a team of skilled data scientists who can interpret the analyzed data to draw business inferences and make calculated predictions and projections to benefit the business.
Further, by integrating big data applications along with the storage and analytics engine, enterprises can develop predictive capabilities. A limited approach to big data in terms of the analytics technology and the talent required to intelligently use it will only impair the enterprise’s attempts to leverage it to its advantage. Align with a partner who can not only implement big data infrastructure and analytics solutions, but also consult and guide you on the right fit for your organization. For example, at EMC, our big data solutions comprise storage infrastructure, analytics solutions and consultation services. This ensures a seamless comprehensive approach to implementing big data solutions.
The third crucial component of big data is security. As the Internet of Things extends into more aspects of lives and connects more people and devices, data volume is not the only thing that will explode. Security risks in the form of virus, malware and deliberate malicious hacking incidents have the potential of exposing crucial sensitive information. For example, last year, the US Office of Personnel Management announced that a serious data security breach had exposed the records of approximately 21.5 million people.
Inadequate information security measures implemented by the OPM left sensitive information vulnerable to hackers, who managed to target and steal data such as social security numbers, personal details and even detailed security clearance related information of a large portion of the country’s population. While the OPM and the US Government is still recovering from this incident, imagine the enormity of a similar data breach in the context of the healthcare domain! As big data explodes and enterprises rush to take advantage of it, it is crucial to keep data security right at the top of the priority list. Choose a big data infrastructure that guarantees maximum security.
The world of business is at the cusp of big change fuelled by the power of data which has not been fully explored as yet. As technology continues to evolve and newer more disruptive trends create even larger volumes of data, the time is now to take advantage of it. Investing in advanced data infrastructure solutions, skilled data scientists and a focussed approach to storing accessing interpreting and using data can only benefit a business.
Chandrasekar Krishnamurthy, vice president, Global Services and Executive Sponsor – Corporate Sustainability, EMC Corporation