By now, you’ve heard it again and again. You’ve heard it from the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. You’ve heard it from Super Size Me creator Morgan Spurlock. America has an obesity problem.
But America’s obesity doesn’t end with our supersized waistlines. Our data centers are obese, bloated with terabytes of big data with minimal “nutritional value”, and splitting at their seams. More importantly, it’s negatively impacting your bottom line.
You can think of a data center as an organization’s brain. Like a brain, data centers exist to store, manage, process and disseminate an organization’s information. Since data is becoming increasingly important to the daily operations of all corporations (there’s a reason “big data” is a buzzword), effective data center management and protection is crucial.
When an organism’s brain is compromised, it can deeply and adversely affect that being’s ability to function. Similarly, unreliable data can critically disrupt your company and cause irreconcilable damage in a matter of minutes. Loss or corruption of important data can send even the strongest business into a unsalvageable nosedive.
This vulnerability arises from a questionable and largely unexamined modern practice: companies are hoarding enormous of amounts of data, mostly on the off-chance that someday, for some reason, they will need a tiny sliver of it.
Unsurprisingly, this leaves data centers bloated with information which will probably never be accessed again.
This unused data provides zero “nutritional value” to the business, meaning there is no strategic or operational insight to be gleaned, but it is often stored, dormant, in perpetuity. It’s similar to consuming 100 Twinkies as your standard daily diet. Calorically, you could satisfy your daily needs. You would most likely put on weight and likely end up malnourished and unhealthy due to the lack of necessary vitamins and nutrients.
If businesses continue to choose quantity over quality, they will also leave themselves overindulged and unsated. Our current data strategy lacks longevity. As big data storage jumps from terabytes to zettabytes, and beyond, it is increasingly impractical from a monetary and data processing standpoint to have to buy and maintain such immense storage.
The monetary inefficiency that comes with poor data center management is affecting your bottom line. A paper by Jonathan Koomey, Stanford University, and Jon Taylor, a partner at the Athensis Group, says that 30 percent of all physical servers in data centers are effectively comatose - meaning they are consuming energy and therefore costing money, but delivering no useful information.
Even more surprising, this percentage has remained unchanged since 2008. We’re not getting any better at this - and with the absolute size of data growing, we are arguably getting worse.
As a result of this outdated strategy, data scientists are spending hours upon hours sorting through data centers that are cluttered with extraneous information that does nothing for the business. The time it takes to parse through this unwieldy data detriments their ability to analyze the data that is actually relevant to the organization. This, in turn, diminishes productivity and means less business insight across the company.
Technologically savvy executives must transform their old-hat view of data and start valuing quality over quantity. They must take a deep look at their data management “strategy” and make it truly strategic. This will not only avoid a financial headache, but yield important business insight to help move the company forward.
Companies need to start to implement changes now, or yesterday if at all possible. The rate at which we create data shows no signs of slowing. The tremendous amounts of data that will be created as a result of the Internet of Things and a real-time data society will create unfathomable challenges for data centers which are already overstuffed with petabytes of information.
A study by Gartner predicts by 2020, the IoT will include 26 billion units - each unit creating its own stream of data to be stored and analyzed. Processing such vast quantities of data in real time will put more pressure on the network and data infrastructure, and create more problems for those in charge of managing and squeezing insight out of elephantine data centers.
No matter how many fad diets come and go, the true secret to maintaining a staying fit and maintaining a healthy diet is really quite simple: consume high quality, nutrient-dense foods that are naturally lower in calories. For a business to maintain a healthy data diet, it needs to consume high quality, insight-rich data sources that are inherently lower in storage requirements.
Last year humanity created 4.4 zettabytes of data. IoT and a world full of connected devices loom on the horizon, and this number will only grow. Looking forward, we’ll need to start thinking about the “nutrition” - or insight-value - of data as we do about food. Technical officers must make high value data easily accessible and readily available by honing in on what really matters for their specific business.
Just like there’s no singular food that everyone likes, there is not one specific set of data that is essential to every business. Data scientists must know their business, and be able to know what data is most important as a source of insight, thereby minimizing “big data bloat” while improving the quality of a company’s collective data.
Forget about data centers - what we should be aiming for is a data refinery, ensuring high nutritional-insight value while reducing caloric-storage value. What problems can your data help you solve?
Take the time to figure out what data is essential for your business, and you’ll have a good idea of what you need to store to extract maximally impactful insight at maximum efficiency. Put your business on a diet- this lean data will provide valuable insight efficiently and will propel your company forward.
(About the author: Raymond Russell is chief technology officer and co-founder at Corvil)
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