The Business Times

Big data faces big challenges

While big data improves decision-making, firms face hurdles such as downtime, security and data loss, reports AMIT ROY CHOUDHURY

Published Sun, Apr 13, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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IN Singapore and the Asia-Pacific, the most common data centre management challenges are unplanned downtime, security breaches and data loss, according to EMC Corporation, a US multinational which helps companies to store, manage, protect, and analyse data.

A recent survey that it conducted in the Asia-Pacific showed that the top four consequences of these challenges include at least one of these incidents last year: loss of revenue (42 per cent), loss of employee productivity (41 per cent), loss of customer confidence and loyalty (36 per cent) and loss of business to a competitor (35 per cent).

PK Gupta, EMC's director and chief architect, notes that budget constraints (51 per cent) reigned as the No 1 obstacle in the region to the implementation of continuous availability, advanced security, and integrated backup and recovery solutions. Poor planning (40 per cent), knowledge and skills (38 per cent), resources and workload constraints (35 per cent) rounded out the top four.

Mr Gupta, who is also the South Asia vice-chair for SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association), says that the top security concerns identified across the region are third party application access (49 per cent) and protection of intellectual property (44 per cent). This points to the need for more advanced technology and intelligence-driven models.

The importance of having continuous availability of data centre resources needs to be understood in the context of the amount of data that is generated globally. Mr Gupta points out that over the past 10 years, the amount of data that we deal with on a daily basis has increased significantly - or by more than 50 times, according to IDC's Digital Universe study.

"Machine-generated data is a key driver in this growth. Human capital and data are now the most valuable assets for businesses today."

Emerging markets are the biggest drivers of the data boom with China and India alone generating 22 per cent of the world's data. By 2020, there will be approximately 5,247 GB of data for every man, woman and child on earth, Mr Gupta adds.

Machine-to-machine communications, also called the Internet of Things (IoT) is playing a central role in driving big data growth. "This is forcing businesses to move to the third platform (driven by cloud, mobile, big data and social) through cloud-based offerings and applications as a new way of interacting with customers, accessing new markets and gaining greater competitive advantage," Mr Gupta says.

In order to handle the huge amounts of data generated by IoT, a new type of data centre is becoming more common. Called the software-defined data centre (SDDC), it refers to a data centre where all infrastructure is virtualised and delivered as a service.

The control of SDDCs is automated by software and the hardware configuration becomes less important. This is in contrast to traditional data centres where the infrastructure is typically defined by hardware and devices.

SDDCs are considered to be the next step in data centre evolution as they provide a solution to support both legacy enterprise applications, new cloud computing services and big data requirements.

However, the question is: Are companies ready to adopt SDDCs? Another survey by EMC reveals that the biggest inhibitor to technology adoption is that the business culture is not yet ready for big data. "This is a concern that businesses will need to overcome as Singapore continues its journey as a progressive economy and EMC is committed to working with businesses here on this transformational journey, ensuring that they have the right tools to handle the most essential business priorities successfully," says Mr Gupta.

In the EMC Asia-Pacific survey, respondents cited a lack of senior executive confidence that permeates organisations globally, specifically concerning readiness around the critical IT requirements of continuous availability; advanced security; and integrated backup and recovery.

"Reduced investment in these critical areas threatens the ability of IT infrastructure to withstand and quickly recover from disruptive incidents such as unplanned downtime, security breaches and data loss. Thus, companies need to ensure that a proper process is in place to continually monitor and address new risks and threats to the enterprise," says Mr Gupta.

Studies conducted by EMC shows that big data is giving rise to markedly improved decision-making in Singapore and is having a significant impact on companies' competitive differentiation and ability to avert risk.

"Around 80 per cent of Singaporean businesses surveyed reported that better uses of big data will lead to better decision-making. Data protection is a key area of concern for Singaporean businesses as they look to adopting progressive strategies to protect their most valuable asset - information.

"Singapore companies also need to comply with the new Personal Data Protection Act and the Technology Risk Management regulation for the banking and finance sector which were introduced last year," Mr Gupta adds.

He notes that over the past few years the company has developed a number of products that, together with a workload-agnostic protection storage platform as an anchor, provide a secure storage architecture.

EMC recently announced products and services that enable customers to deliver a complete spectrum of data protection and availability capabilities as consumable service. "Data protection-as-a-service is a key tenant for establishing effective protection for a SDDC. SDDCs form a bedrock that needs to be in place for organisations to confidently transition to a third platform software infrastructure," Mr Gupta says.

He adds that the ability of technology to support businesses comes useful when businesses face increasing data losses. "Data growth is inevitable. The more data an organisation creates, the greater the potential of data loss and the greater the need for recovery."

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