Flash forward to a 'Market of One'

Flash storage technology has transformed how consumers learn, shop and navigate. Now it's changing how organisations respond.

This story isn’t about someone like you, it’s about you. Your unique habits, preferences and expectations. 

It’s about how you like to start your holiday shopping early and how you are the master of multi-tasking, regularly completing your banking on your smartphone while you’re in transit on your daily commute. 

It’s about knowing how you want your news delivered and why you always go to a particular store first to find and purchase the perfect outfit for an upcoming special occasion. 

It’s the expectation that you have instant access to the right information to help you manage everything important in your life. From the big stuff, like managing your finances and your health, to the more personal stuff, like updating your social media status to stay connected with your friends.

You are now a “Market of One”, breaking free from the “Market of Many”. Technology has given you free agent status to the brands that want your business and more importantly, your loyalty.

Why does this matter? Because a remarkable, nearly-invisible technology rests at the intersection of billions of people around the world and their personalised content: flash technology.

Flash storage technology remains one of the biggest technology disruptors in the history of computing. IDC estimates the all-flash array market will grow to $US1.2 billion in revenue by 2015. Australian companies in the financial services and telecommunication industries are embracing the technology.

Flash is a core technology born in the consumer world, and it has grown up quickly -- gotten more affordable -- and now is a strategic element of most next generation data centres.

It enables a unique window to our own personalised world, and for some it is woven throughout life as a constant companion. It makes today’s on-the-run lifestyle possible. 

There are billions of people, devices and brands competing for customer loyalty and attention. We now expect brands to know us and earn our loyalty by delivering all of our information and preferences to our mobile devices as a “Market of One”. As opposed to the traditional “Market of Many” approach with no individualised experience or added personal value.

For instance, before, two diners standing on the same street corner using Google to search for a nearby restaurant would get the same list of results. Contrast that with today and the consumer’s elevated expectation -- the vegetarian expects the results to factor in their food preferences and the diner who doesn’t own a car expects to only get options back that are within walking distance. This personalisation paired with today’s expected levels of “give it to me now” is based on daily interactions with our devices and would not be possible without flash technology.

Flash is central to delivering better performance to databases, virtual environments and analytics powering this “Market of One” experience to users.  However, it is not often talked about. Flash is buried deep within the IT infrastructure -- sometimes within a storage array and sometimes within the server -- but its impact on performance is huge.

How is the “Market of One”, powered by flash, transforming IT?

In the past, a query from a mobile device would be fulfilled in what’s known as a “Web 1.0” fashion. The device retrieves static data and serves it up as quickly as possible—averaging 10s of data queries. The IT infrastructure could handle retrieving and serving at the speed of traditional spinning disk drives because it was built to serve a “Market of Many”. 

Contrast that with today’s “Market of One” world, where mobile users expect their personal flash experience to be just that; their own personal flash experience, not a dumbed-down experience serving static information. The ability to master this is setting some companies apart from others, building brand loyalty, and truly changing how consumers select the brands they want and use in their lives.

For brands to deliver the “Market of One” experience it means tremendous change is underway with their back-end technology and how their IT departments operate. It takes hundreds of queries to construct what is presented to a user as a “Market of One” -- and 10 times the increase in the backend activity required to deliver that end user experience. It’s a massive change, on an enormous scale. There are millions of people expecting a “Market of One” experience.

This is not a one-way street where users simply request and receive information to their device. Mobile also means “mobile as sensors”-- machine data generated by an increasing number of devices. This is fed back to organisations to slice and dice as ingredients to improve the customer experience.

And what does this mean for organisations? It means their IT workloads will require varying levels of scale, performance and capacity. These enterprises will have an insatiable appetite for flash. Many of these performance-hungry workloads will continue to evolve to not just use, but rely upon enterprise flash.

Flash transformed how consumers learn, shop and navigate. Now it is changing how organisations are building their data centres to help deliver personalised content and the convenience of a “Market of One” experience.

Matt Zwolenski is the chief technology officer at EMC Australia & New Zealand.