Digital data surge to hit enterprises


Is your business ready for a digital hurricane? A study released by market research firm IDC Corp. revealed the amount of digital information that will be created between 2006 and 2010 will increase from 161 exabytes to a whopping 988 exabytes. One exabyte is equivalent to about one billion gigabytes.

Although the findings point to an imminent information overload in the digital universe, IDC director for storage research Dave Reinsel stressed they’re not meant to set off any alarms.

“It’s simply a statement that we have more information that will require us to continue to purchase hardware and storage. From that perspective, I think the future looks bright for the storage industry to figure out what we need to store and how we need to store it,” said Reinsel.

The IDC study serves as a wakeup call for enterprises to begin to realize their role in this phenomenon as “trusted custodians” of many of these data stores. Users will be looking to organizations — businesses of all sizes, government agencies, associations — and expect them to be responsible for storing their data and managing their security and availability, Reinsel said.

IDC predicts that by 2010, while nearly 70 per cent of the digital universe will be created by individuals, organizations will be responsible for the security, privacy, reliability and compliance of at least 85 per cent of that data.

“There’s a lot of responsibility associated with that and there’s a lot at stake if somebody is using you for primary storage position and you don’t protect it,” said the IDC analyst.

Reinsel noted that the current technology available for organizations to efficiently store and ensure availability of digital content is “sound”, but will continue to evolve into more mature infrastructures capable of managing the impending data deluge.

Storage technology continues to expand in capacity every year, according to IDC. For instance, the first terabyte drive — with capacity of about 1,000 gigabytes — is expected to ship in 2007.

Tape cartridges today have a capacity range of between 1GB and 500 GB. Tape cartridge density is expected to grow by about 40 per cent a year, further increasing the medium’s storage capacity, the IDC study said.

To keep data relevant, organizations will need to ramp up their storage strategies, said Reinsel. “You need to make sure that you get to find the data that you want to find, within the right timeframe that’s required.”

This is where intelligent archiving and data classification technologies play a significant role. While tools for this purpose are available in the market, the technology needs to further evolve so that the process becomes smarter and more automated, he said.

The IDC study will also urge organizations to re-assess how they view their IT infrastructure. Where previously, the focus has typically been around the technology side, the rapidly increasing amount of data processed in the digital world will drive companies to become more information-centric in their IT strategies, said Ken Steinhardt, chief technology officer for customer operations at EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass. EMC sponsored the IDC study.

“It’s really always been all about the information,” Steinhardt said. And while the focus of organizations in the past was about storing information, the motivation in the future will be about storing information more intelligently, he added.

According to IDC estimates, only about 10 per cent of organizational information is classified — meaning it is assigned a value and stored according to that value. Although IDC expects that number to grow by over 50 per cent every year, that’s still a slow pace of growth for classified data, considering the rate of data surge that the market is expecting.

Because not all information is created equal, organizations need to determine which data has value and which does not. That process — generally referred to as information lifecycle management (ILM) — is “now becoming an emergent science,” according to IDC.

“Until recently, [data archiving] was a highly manual process that typically involved an extensive number of people for an extended period of time. And it was a long and arduous process,” EMC’s Steinhardt said.

He said EMC’s Infoscape software, an ILM tool that combines technologies the company acquired through previous acquisitions, enables organizations to conduct more automated and intelligent data archiving.

IDC’s Reinsel indicated the data boom will drive growth for efficiency technologies such as virtualization and data de-duplication tools.

“Efficiency comes via things like virtualization — consolidating your servers into today’s lower-powered and yet higher-performance servers and storage-related architectures — and de-duplication, so that we’re not saving the same data over and over again,” explained Reinsel.


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