Almost any activity or even inactivity for that matter – whether pertaining to man or machines, holds the potential of being translated into data that can eventually be captured. The world’s total data volume is growing exponentially every minute, with sizeable data pouring in from banking, insurance and telecom giants, as also from healthcare and automobile sectors, with others following close.
A TechSci Research report indicates that the storage market in India is projected to achieve a CAGR of more than 7 percent from 2016 to 2021. This is mainly due to the continuing surge in the volume of structured and unstructured data, that drive an increasing demand for high-performance external drives.
According to an IDC report sponsored by Seagate, the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes by 2025. Are organizations up to the challenge of implementing the best data storage solutions to support their needs?
To answer this question, it is important that organizations understand the market trends that are impacting storage architecture. For India, the year 2018 will be defined by these five trends in data storage:
1. Next-generation storage systems
This unabated growth is already adding stress to the existing storage and backup infrastructure. While newer storage systems can handle the capacity demand, the challenge will be to avoid a scenario where IT managers need to familiarize themselves with new terminology, complex processes and complicated dashboards, which divert their attention from core business tasks.
Storage systems will need to deliver solutions that vastly improve IT resource utilizations and engagements, and facilitate backup and recovery, archiving, online reference storage, and the protection of enterprise applications. For these reasons, simplicity and efficiency will be the order of the day here, efficiency being in the context of process, power consumption, and cooling cost.
Nevertheless, we will continue living in an environment of tiered data, where we may choose to use flash memory for one purpose, a hard drive (HDD) for another, and a solid state drive (SSD) for yet another. It is the cost and overall objective that determine these choices.
For example, flash memory will continue to be used in digital cameras, mobile phones, computers, pen drives, enterprise servers, and storage and networking technology because it provides fast access, although at a premium price.
On the other hand, if a telecom company by mandate needs to store customer records for several years, it will choose the cost-effective hard drive over a flash storage option, as such data doesn’t need fast and frequent access.
Compared to an HDD, an SSD has lower random-access- and read-access- latency, and is much faster, quieter and durable, making it the preferred choice for high-performance laptops, servers, desktops, and applications that require real-time or near-real-time information. For example, ITI Limited, a premier telecom manufacturing company, has recently announced the expansion of its facility by adding 1000 additional racks at its Bengaluru set up and setting up a new data center with a capacity of 200 racks at its Naini, Uttar Pradesh plant.
This new infrastructure will enable PSU banks, central and state government undertakings, multinational corporations, corporates and large enterprises to have their data located within the country. This expansion of the facility by ITI Limited will give enterprises in the government and corporate sector an opportunity to serve their customers and end-users better while being able to compete with the private players on an even keel.
2. Rollout of the 5G network
Rapid advancements in the disciplines of machine learning and AI would result in devices that support the 5G network to inherently have more computing power and sensors than their 4G-supported counterparts. Technology-based services will be in a position to perform mission-critical operations. 5G will also find its way into machine-to-machine (M2M) communications used in video conferencing, AR, VR, robotics, education, telemedicine, cars, smart homes, and smart cities.
Edge computing technology will be deployed in most of these devices to reduce latency, facilitate real-time data analysis, reduce network congestion, and lower operational costs. In order to derive these benefits, these devices would naturally need to have larger storage capacities. According to Ericsson, the average mobile data consumption per user per month in India stands at about 4GB, which is now the highest in the world. Interestingly, the more data a telecom company provides, the more it is consumed.
Moving on from a appetite perspective, let’s look at the generation potential. For example, a connected-car working on the 4G network exhibits an average latency of 50 milliseconds. However, under 5G standards, this latency is expected to be just 1 millisecond, leading to increased data and knowledge about the car’s status. An autonomous car is expected to generate 4,000 GB of data a day and this data would come in from its cameras, sensors and GPS system.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to Seagate’s recent commissioned survey, Data Pulse: Maximizing the potential of Artificial Intelligence, 9 in 10 organisations in India are already utilising AI solutions in their businesses. This is one of the highest rates in Asia Pacific.
However, just like the autonomous car, AI-based applications generate data of their own, and are pushing the demand for storage to the next level. These applications analyze the source data before writing insights to a database. For optimum results, it is more efficient to search pre-analyzed data instead of reviewing several terabytes of data each time a decision is required. For this efficiency to become reality, an enterprise needs to be equipped with high-capacity storage and data replication functionality when implementing AI technology.
While our survey found almost all organizations indicated plans to implement AI in the next 12 months, three-quarters still struggle to fully grasp how to leverage AI and use it for their development. They cite IT infrastructure as an area of challenge. 95 percent of respondents believe there will be an increasing need for data storage solutions; but 17 percent believe they are currently not ready to handle the increasing stream of data from AI applications.
Success often depends on ensuring that you start with a solid foundation. Similarly, for organizations looking to reap the benefits of data analytics and real-time processing, proactive steps must be taken to build robust infrastructure to support and reshape the data that they collect. Of equal importance is ensuring that the right ‘tech’ is in place to support any sort of AI development. Our interactions with data are expected to increase 20-fold to once every 18 seconds by 2025, putting greater demands on businesses that collect consumer data. The expectation for organizations to keep data accessible while being safe and secure will be of paramount importance.
Localization is further fuelling the growth of the Indian data center industry. Oracle has announced that it will shift its cloud services to India. Two of IBM’s data centers are located here as well. This trend of localizing data is soon catching up with a change in viewpoint on data security, after several data breaches on overseas servers have necessitated the Indian central administration to implement localization laws. For the same reasons, the Reserve Bank of India has recently directed all payment system operators in India to migrate their data back home from offshore data centers within six months.
5. Focus on storage security
The gap between data creation and security is real and it is expanding as more data is produced, especially from embedded sources. Enterprises cannot downplay the need for security. In 2017, there was one cybercrime every 10 minutes in India. A lot of data today is related to each other; a breach in one area could affect an entire business, and in some cases, even others related to it.
IT and security professionals must continually deploy methods that push employees to follow best practices, while also emphasizing the need for security. It is not enough to secure your servers alone. In a connected world security has as much to do with servers as with endpoints that create the data. For instance, mobile handset manufacturers are looking at strengthening endpoint security on mobile devices that access data on enterprise servers. Going beyond securing data that is created, the security consciousness extends to data that is purged as well. IT managers would need to be conscious about making sure no traces are left over that can potentially be recovered, after purging it.
What all of this means to businesses is that companies will have to work out efficient data storage techniques, and of segregating important data from the less important. This is a critical task for businesses as not all data are created equal. Not being equipped to distinguish what is important and meaningful for the company to analyze and store, can radically reduce the business productivity and increase cost. Businesses should ask themselves whether they are collecting quality data, and if they are able to make it meaningful within their organizations.
Another critical question they need to ask is whether they have the infrastructure to support the effort over the long term. Companies need to figure out the balance of software, hardware, facilities and manpower investments to cater to the huge amount of data flowing into the organization now and in the future.