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CIO Review >> Magazine >> August - 2014 issue

The Ultimate Balancing Act: Managing the opportunity and cost of Big Data


Data is the new battleground. Some are calling it as the new oil. Companies focused on transforming themselves into data-driven organizations are already seeing increased innovation and improved financial performance. By contrast, businesses that continue with business as usual—amassing terabytes of data in siloed, monolithic storage systems—may find themselves incapable of fully capitalizing on a number of modern technology innovations, including big data, mobile applications, and social media. Therefore, in order to meet growing data challenges, many CIOs are creating a unified information platform that is highly reliable and scalable, one that makes it easy to access and integrate all data sources across the enterprise. As the economy improves, CIOs must lay the foundation for the next generation of enterprise business growth.

Fortunately, doing so can be easier and more cost-effective than you think. In this article, Jagjit Singh Arora, Director - Regional Sales, Red Hat India, discusses how enterprises that have embraced data-driven business practices just a few years ago are now seeing companies achieve significant top-line improvements, driven by greater profitability, higher customer conversion, and more innovative product development.

Gain the Competitive Edge
A top priority for CIOs is to create a foundation for using the wealth of data the enterprise collects, both unstructured (e.g., documents, email, social media) and semi-structured (e.g, sensor logs). Those who fail to do so risk undoing a decade’s worth of progress towards making their companies more competitive.

Today’s CIOs have a unique opportunity to drive enterprise business growth by effectively harnessing data. To do so, they must create a foundation for their organizations to become more data-driven, and seize the opportunities presented by mobile and social media applications. We believe such a foundation requires a standardized, open, cloud-ready storage platform that is cost-efficient and able to grow with evolving business requirements.

Siloed, monolithic storage systems can’t meet the challenge
We don’t think simply adding capacity to existing monolithic storage systems is the answer. Even with volume-based price discounts, what is deemed affordable for gigabytes of storage can become unwieldy for terabytes and petabytes, assuming the existing infrastructure can even support such volumes without a forklift upgrade.

For example, research conducted by the Compliance, Governance and Oversight Council or CGOC - a forum of interdisciplinary professionals focused on the importance of information lifecycle - suggests that even with declining storage prices, the per-petabyte cost of traditional storage for most large enterprises will range from USD 1.5 million to USD 5 million, and will grow to consume nearly 20 per cent of the typical IT budget.

Many traditional storage solutions available lack APIs that let them easily integrate with new social media, mobile, and cloud applications. As these applications are becoming more significant for the enterprise, innovation may be stifled as important data gets stuck inside the “walled garden” of traditional storage. Echoing this concern is the McKinsey Global Institute. In its report titled, ‘Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.’ According to McKinsey, legacy systems and incompatible standards and formats too often prevent the integration of data and the more sophisticated analytics that create value from big data. Organizations that cannot respond to the demands for new content—and data-centric applications – may soon fall behind their peers.

Unleash Enterprise Data to Drive Growth and Enhance Agility
With open source, software-defined storage platforms CIOs can transform proliferating data stores from a cost burden into a strategic asset. Running on off-the-shelf servers—physical, virtual, or cloud-based— open source platforms allow users to pool their storage capacity and create a common information repository that spans data types, access methods, and deployment environments. Open source platforms also use an enterprise’s existing infrastructure while establishing the foundation for flexible, scalable cloud-compatible storage.

By bringing together proven, open source technologies enterprises can set the stage for a future-proof data storage solution. Some of the advantages of adopting an open source storage platform can include cost advantages, scalability with ease, and the ability to simplify storage environments.

Open Source Driving Enterprise IT Innovation
Since the release of the ApacheTM web server in 1995, open source software has been a driving factor for enterprise IT innovation, including the development of today’s cloud computing technologies. In contrast, many proprietary vendors—mired in lengthy release cycles—remain focused on expanding deployments and upselling customers. They rarely deliver the innovation that companies need to gain a competitive advantage.

We believe that community-based development enables customers to exchange ideas, share expertise, and directly participate in the process of creating solutions to best suit their own needs. Coupled with open source vendors, organizations can now get the best of both worlds: the innovation of the open source community along with a commitment to the standards of quality required for reliable 24x7 datacenter operations.