As organisations map out business strategies for the year ahead, increasing attention is being given to data management. Once regarded as a task for IT management, it’s now rapidly becoming a priority at executive level, sometimes all the way to board level, as organisations pivot towards being truly data-driven.
About the author
Simon Field, Field CTO at Snowflake Inc.
This shift is occurring for a variety of reasons. The rise in connected IoT devices has generated exponential growth in data. The IDC estimates there will be 175 zettabytes of data worldwide by 2025. Rising data volumes mean approaches that have worked in the past are no longer effective. Organisations are also becoming more aware of the value of the data that they hold. Decision makers across all sectors and departments are recognizing that putting their data to better use can deliver them a point of differentiation and an edge over their competitors.
There will be a number of key trends that will shape data strategies during the coming 12 months. But the key ones that will be affecting enterprises of all sizes include:
Continuing cloud migration
By 2022, 75% of all databases will be deployed or migrated to a cloud platform, with only 5% ever considered for repatriation to on-premises, according to Gartner, Inc. This trend will largely be due to databases used for analytics, and the SaaS model. Rather than deploying and maintaining on-premise system and data infrastructures, growing numbers of organisations will opt to shift their resources to cloud services. The key driver for this is the need for improved business agility and being able to maintain competitiveness in challenging market conditions.
Senior managers are tired of the traditional approach where IT infrastructure requirements often had to be estimated years in advance. Taking advantage of cloud storage and computing resources means that capacities can be rapidly boosted to meet changes in business and user demand, and this approach is particularly important when it comes to effective analytical data processing with it’s wide variability in demand.
Temporary increase in hybrid data warehouses
Companies will find themselves in need of hybrid configurations, where some capacity is retained on-premises and some is placed on a cloud platform. For a few organisations it may be a desired end state, but for the majority it will be an interim state resulting from the longer journey that migration to the cloud entails. Organisations will identify applications and data stores that can be readily migrated and shift those first. Gradually, this will be followed by others, eventually resulting in a complete, company-wide move to the cloud.
As a result, organisations will find themselves with a hybrid data warehouse infrastructure as a ‘stepping-stone’ within a longer-term strategic shift to be in the cloud, at least for the majority of companies.
Emergence of multi-cloud data environments
Many customers want to follow a multi-cloud data strategy. However, they find they have their hands full just making an infrastructure based on a single cloud work effectively and efficiently.
During the next 12 months, technologies will emerge that make the management of multi-cloud-environments much easier. Automation tools will remove much of the need for manual intervention, reducing the workload for IT teams and improving performance for users.
Organisations will increasingly begin to look at their data infrastructure as a single entity, regardless of the fact that it is likely to comprise resources drawn from a variety of different clouds.
Ongoing focus on security and privacy
As the importance and value of data continues to grow, maintaining adequate security at all times has become critical. This situation will remain the case during the coming 12 months as security and privacy become increasingly board-level issues.
Leading organisations will take the time and effort to carefully review all data being collected and stored and ensure the measures in place to keep it secure are sufficient. Achieving adherence to regulations such as GDPR, and the stiff penalties of non-compliance are providing all the motivation needed to get this right.
Rise in use of AI
Even though hype around the potential of artificial intelligence has been high, and may have finally reached its zenith, the majority of organisations are not yet putting the technology to work. While some organisations are deploying AI tools to solve specific tasks, usage is still very much in an early phase for many, and the path to deploying into business applications and processes is still challenging. However, as skills and automation understanding of what is possible grows, this usage will quickly rise.
AI is being used to automate processes, categorise data and spot patterns or anomalies within large data sets that previously would have gone unnoticed. Armed with these insights, organisations can be much better placed when it comes to strategic business planning.
Growth in data sharing and monetisation
Increasing numbers of organisations are coming to realize that the data they hold is not only of value to them, but also to others. As a result, many will explore opportunities to share data sets externally and potentially generate new revenue streams. The business potential of data sharing exemplifies the importance and value of data across all industries.
Before undertaking this strategy, it is important to ensure strict adherence to privacy regulations. Beyond the removal or obfuscation of personal identifiable information organisations need to take care that data cannot be disaggregated back to source.
Data will continue to grow in both volume and value during the coming year. The greatest strategic and competitive advantage will come to those organisations that understand its worth, put in place initiatives to store and process it economically and effectively, and transform their business culture to become ever more data-driven. In an era of ‘big data’ and cloud economics, it is only a matter of time before the majority of organisations migrate to the cloud in order to harness the full potential of their data.
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