Saturday, 23rd January 2021

Leveraging the cloud to unleach the realpower of your unstructured data

And saying goodbye to legacy file data systems. By Barry Russell, SVP and GM of Cloud at Qumulo.

Organisations today are sitting on a gold mine of data: unstructured digital assets that hold the key to greater innovation and a new means of driving business value.

We are generating, using, and consuming more data than ever before. According to IDC’s Global DataSphere Forecast*, “More than 59 zettabytes of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world this year.”

In particular, unstructured file data is growing at an explosive rate due to the creation of new applications and services and an accelerated shift requiring enterprise customers to become creators of rich digital content. Data is the critical link to executing digital business strategy and the ability to iterate in how we serve our customers. If companies are not valued based on how they serve up ‘apps’, then data is the currency. That value can only be unleashed when teams can access, process, and securely use their data without limits, share it seamlessly with other team members and partners, and use it with critical application services that tend to exist only in the cloud.

Legacy, siloed systems which rely on hardware-first models create barriers and performance challenges that limit organisations’ ability to grow. Seamless access to an organisation’s assets is required to be able to tailor digital experiences and innovate rapidly. Anything less is simply too slow.

Unstructured data and its challenges

So, what constitutes unstructured data and who will benefit from its use?

This type of data typically impacts a wide range of vertical industries, comprising rich digital content for movies, animation and gaming; dense images requiring analysis and recognition; social media streams, geospatial data for resource exploration; log files from business systems; CAD files, genomic research and more. Unstructured data, for example, holds the key to discovering manufacturing process flaws using image analysis in milliseconds, or trends that impact patient services and diagnostic capabilities for healthcare organisations.

When highly skilled personnel critical to the business seek value from unstructured data (such as award-winning researchers, ground-breaking engineers, and talented visual effects artists) struggle to find and use their data with apps, they become frustrated and cannot produce the outcome without heavy assistance from a systems expert. This is a major hindrance for organisations looking to innovate at a layer above IT. And this is what slows down experts in their field.

Many organisations today are facing intractable challenges in achieving this goal.

Unstructured data is all too often siloed, residing in legacy systems. Many teams are concerned that their infrastructure is not up to the demands of a new project. IT teams are spending far too much time on low-value, data management tasks vs servicing their lines-of- business with the tools needed as application services. Some teams would like to gain the benefits of broader cloud services, securely, but their data is stuck in on-prem storage hardware and proprietary systems. These teams would like to make the most of innovation in the cloud for certain workflows, but they are not sure when—or if—they will ever be able to move their apps, data, and workloads to the cloud without heavy re-architecture taking months or years.

Organisations’ data belongs where it makes the most sense for the business and teams in a given moment in time.A common misperception of many enterprises today is that migrating to the public cloud will require the reinvention of on-prem applications using file data. But re-writing and replacing on-prem applications is not required in order to move the business forward. Nor is a re-do of architecture. Instead, we need to rethink how file data (unstructured data) inside organisations is used, and which apps and data to move across private or public clouds, etc. It is even possible to bring workflows and apps to the cloud even if they are not cloud-native, by leveraging file protocols and APIs to connect data to apps. This can be achieved by utilising a file data platform that enables data to move effortlessly between on-prem and cloud environments, and even between public clouds.

The benefits of leveraging unstructured data with the cloud

The key to gaining more value and control over organisational data is to utilise a cloud file data platform that encourages company-wide innovation by enabling teams to collaborate without limits and break free from existing data storage boundaries. At the same time, the right platform should make sure that DevOps, line-of-business, IT and information security teams all have the secure access, controls and scale to help the company innovate without friction.

The ability to leverage unstructured data opens up innumerable possibilities. Examples include:

  • A genomics lab catalogues and processes millions of genomic sequences through an artificial intelligence (AI) cloud service, adding petabytes of information to its file data system.
  • A mortgage processor uses data to streamline the digital mortgage application and approval process into minutes versus months.
  • An auto manufacturer scans each component for flaws as it moves along the production line, capturing high-resolution images for real-time analysis by a public cloud service and returning the result in milliseconds.
  • A retailer gathers data from in-store purchases by the second to promote the most sought-after products by region in near real-time.

Analysing data at cloud scale

By making data easily available in the cloud, organisations have the opportunity to find new value in their data, create innovative business models, and generate entirely new revenue streams. Teams can take advantage of the flexibility, scale, and work-anywhere access enabled by the cloud to focus on boundary-pushing work. When unstructured data is in the cloud, it is easier to use cloud-native capabilities including AI and machine learning (ML) services from cloud providers or other independent software vendors. Even with decades of data and IP siloed in older systems, by properly utilising their data, organisations can revitalise old assets and consider entirely new possibilities for the business, such as IoT Edge use cases.

With a file data platform that utilises file software capable of running the same enterprise file system in the cloud and on-prem, data can be natively and seamlessly replicated between sites or across regions. Teams can work with data with infinite capacity and high performance, able to share massive amounts of information at a moment’s notice, with unlimited storage and compute power in the cloud and without compromising manageability.

It’s time to say goodbye to legacy file data systems and the hardware they force companies to be locked into. Let us free software developers, DevOps, IT and line-of-business teams to finally use their file data in a way that makes sense for the modern Enterprise.

* IDC’s Global DataSphere Forecast Shows Continued Steady Growth in the Creation and Consumption of Data, May 8, 2020

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