Sun, surf and 'Big Data'

Smart devices and near constant internet interconnectivity has turned something as iconic as a day at the beach into a potential data pool. So, how do you store this treasure trove of information?

The long hot Aussie summer is almost here and thousands of us will be flocking to the beaches towing eskies, towels, sun umbrellas and now, mobile devices. It's certainly a different world than just a few years ago.  It's a sign of the times when Australia's most famous beach, Bondi Beach, trials a free Wi-Fi network so beachgoers can tweet, shop online, Skype and update Facebook while enjoying the sun, surf and ice blocks.  Today, there are over a trillion connected digital devices around the globe generating exabytes of information daily and adding to the world's exponential data growth.

Data and information is the currency of today's information-centric world - to businesses it's both a burden and an opportunity.  As businesses scramble to figure out how to use all this data to their advantage through advanced analytics that turn it into insights, they have to start where the information resides: the storage systems. Taking a smarter approach to storage will not only solve many of the challenges of big data, but it will help improve overall IT efficiency and improve performance while lowering costs.

Storage continues to consume an increasing portion of IT budgets, with some estimates that storage capacity is growing 20 to 40 percent per year. With the amount of digital information doubling every 18 to 24 months, those storage figures will only continue to climb, limiting investment in other areas that could drive innovation and push the business forward.

Though adding disks has been the knee-jerk reaction to growing data volumes, simply throwing more capacity at the problem today will only further storage sprawl without solving the bigger problem. What’s needed is a more sophisticated, integrated approach to storage  with enhanced systems and storage solutions that provide the performance, efficiency and intelligence.

Self-optimising features and built-in intelligence are the crux of a smarter approach to storage, and represent the future of smarter computing.  Integrating capabilities like real-time data compression and automated data tiering allows businesses to organise and analyse their data to better understand and serve their customers.

Compressing data is the first step to smarter storage. Compression makes it possible to utilise more of existing capacity, instead of adding more systems. And while traditional storage systems compress only "low activity" data, or data not frequently accessed, smarter storage systems can compresses active data by as much as 80 per cent, increasing total effective storage capacity by up to five times.

Though compression is essential, organisations also need to find better ways of managing data, including prioritising and sorting data through systems such as tiering. This is because not all data is created equal.  Tiering automatically moves data to the most appropriate storage, including multiple tiers of disk, solid state drives (SSD), and tape systems, depending on policy and activity. This approach leverages automated intelligence to increase the efficiency, utilisation and performance of storage systems while lowering costs.

In this age of 'Big Data', businesses need to be agile and be able to address constantly changing business needs. The flexibility and insight needed to stay relevant begins with knowing what to do with your data. Being smarter about your storage is one of the first places business should look to do more with less and even thrive in today's increasingly information-centric world.

Joe Screnci is the business unit executive for system storage at IBM Australia & New Zealand