By Gerald Sternagl, EMEA manager of storage business unit at Red Hat
The C-suite executives have started asking about Big Data, but without fully understanding its value. Despite the uncertainty, many businesses in the Middle East region are looking at how they can benefit from Big Data and organisations that generate and collect information, with the aim of deriving value from it, are starting to invest in systems that enable the large-scale storage and analysis of data.
Research carried out in March 2013 by IT analyst firm IDC forecasts immense growth in the area, with the market expected to reach $16.9 billion in 2015, up from $3.2bn in 2010. This development will come from businesses seeking to gain a competitive edge by leveraging the intelligence generated by analytics and from those that are complying with regulations on data storage. Whatever the motives are for embracing Big Data, it is important to bear in mind that thinking about IT has to extend beyond simply buying more and more storage. The Big Data playing field is already crowded and companies will need to carefully assess the myriad options on the market before making an investment.
Storage that scales
Big Data requires big storage and a major portion of investments will occur in storage infrastructure in order to deliver a platform from which meaningful information can be derived in an insightful manner. As more companies wish to create business value out of their vast amounts of stored information, whether derived from sales figures or social media, the need for Big Data storage solutions will grow, as traditional on-site storage solutions, such as NAS or SAN, fail to scale or deliver the required agility. Big Data solutions are not static – they are dynamic platforms that fulfil both current and future storage requirements.
The need for dynamism is exactly why Big Data technology is suited to a cloud-based architecture and why it is becoming an increasingly popular model. Different data sets can be replicated, separated and located anywhere in the world, simplifying the task of scaling infrastructure up or down. Companies no longer need to build and maintain their own infrastructure, reducing costs during periods when workloads are smaller.
Open hybrid cloud
Big Data can reside in a private or public cloud, or a combination of the two, which is a hybrid cloud. Many view private clouds as prohibitively expensive, since they require large on-site capital investments in terms of IT and personnel.
Public clouds, on the other hand, which are purchased from a managed service provider, offer lower upfront costs, but do carry with them the risk of vendor lock-in, since they often rely on proprietary storage systems and application programming interfaces.To avoid this lock-in, businesses should look to a storage solution that’s flexible and can be used in a variety of environments, including on-premise, virtualised and cloud, which offers multiple access options.
Big Data can provide serious value for companies that are looking for ways to improve their business or customer service. Open hybrid cloud is a promising technology for organisations that want to work on Big Data now or in the future. Whether or not a company takes a decision to embrace Big Data, we can be sure of one thing – the quantity of data that companies generate and collect will continue to grow.
The requirement for a cloud-inspired scale-out storage system based on industry-standard hardware and open-source software is, therefore, relevant for every organisation. Companies that are not looking to take steps now to switch to a robust and scalable data storage platform are likely to encounter problems in the future for managing data. In addition, efforts to derive benefit from Big Data are likely to be hindered in the future by economical and logistical challenges.
Open hybrid cloud is paving the way as an affordable and sustainable platform, enabling organisations to build their storage platform with existing systems and to flexibly expand in the future, prepared for what lies ahead.