Guest Column | January 10, 2014

Overgrowing The Data Garden

Managing Growth In The Big Data Era

By Charles Patsios, director of channel marketing at Unitrends

The future of Big Data lies not in its creation, but its management. Like with a garden, the first step in the development of Big Data infrastructure was to plant and grow. This has worked out extremely well thus far. In 2011, the data landscape was filled with over 1.8 zettabytes of information, equivalent to the volume that would be produced if every U.S. citizen were to write three tweets per minute for the next 26,967 years.

Unfortunately, there are nowhere near enough gardeners to control and secure that growth.  While a recent IDC study estimates that our field of data will expand over 50 times by 2020, the number of IT professionals responsible for managing it will grow by a paltry 1.5 times in that timeframe. 

Build the Field and They Will Just Keep Coming

Yes, it’s true, build the field and they will come. And come. And come. Information is the lingua franca of the Big Data Era and that means money. Big money. Today, data expansion and monetization are as pervasive as the development of automobiles in the post-World War II transportation boom. From facial recognition tags for Facebook images to dynamic market messaging based on social network interactivity, the applications and financial ramifications emanating from today’s data mines are virtually limitless.

Thus, the task for any MSP or VAR is to help customers understand, design and implement the best means of managing all this data. To begin with, they need to show how they can help their customers 1) leverage their data more effectively, and 2) ensure the safety of their data environment.

Leveraging Data

Since a highly flexible and scalable architecture is needed to maximize the value and utility of Big Data, the foundation upon which that architecture will be built is the cloud. The IDC study estimates that by 2015, 20 percent of the data in use will intersect with cloud service providers in some way. That can already be seen in a pronounced move toward virtualization. Starting in 2009, more virtual servers were shipped than their physical counterparts.

Creating a Safe Data Environment

Operating in a safe data environment is where the rubber really hits the road in the data management ecosystem. As every IT service provider is aware, the simple fact is that the amount of information needing protection is growing faster than the ability to protect it. The IDC study estimates that 28 percent of our current “data garden” requires one of five levels of security, ranging from privacy only to total lockdown.

With an increasing intersection and integration between consumer and corporate entities, trust is fast becoming the cornerstone of data systems development. But, as everyone knows, individuals do not always do the right thing all the time. Therefore, to sustain that trust, it is becoming increasingly necessary for MSPs and VARs to help their customers build strong, sustainable IT systems by creating and implementing a data safety environment capable of responding to critical threats before they become unmanageable and prevent them, if they can, from happening in the first place.

Better Tools, Not More Gardeners

Once upon a time in the early days of interstate automobile travel, people thought nothing of opening their windows and tossing their trash out onto the highway. Not only was this an unsightly practice, but it was also a dangerous one. Eventually, the populace started recoiling at the obscene piles of garbage mounting up and the unwarranted obstructions those piles presented. At that point, aggressive littering laws were enacted and waste management protocols put in place. As a result, today’s roads are a far sight cleaner and safer than they were then.

Here in the garden of Big Data, service providers and resellers are facing a similar challenge, but on an even more pronounced scale. The disproportionate gap between data growth and the professionals needed to manage it is already egregious and is only destined to become more so as time goes on. From the perspective of both safety and cleanliness, it’s a problem that is not going to be resolved numerically by hiring more IT professionals. The primary responsibility is going to fall to technology.

That said, the overgrown data garden that we all deal with every day doesn’t need more gardeners, nor is it ever likely to get enough of them to make a difference. Instead, what organizations need now is a trusted IT service partner with a shed full of the biggest, best data management tools available and the ability to put them to their most expeditious use.