By Edward Walsh
When people speak of Big Data the natural reflex is to envision a big company or government struggling to deal with massive amounts of digital information. It stands to reason that the bigger the organization, the greater the data challenges.
After all, large enterprises serve more customers, manage more employees, maintain more partnerships, and coordinate with more suppliers than small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). All of those people are collecting, creating, sharing and replicating vast amounts of information – data – at increasing rates.
However, the number of large organizations in the U.S. is dwarfed by the millions of SMBs – the true drivers of the economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Statistics of U.S. Businesses, 17,236 firms in the country have more than 500 employees, while 5.7 million firms have less than 500. The challenges this silent majority face managing the data deluge can be far more acute than those of larger, well-resourced enterprises.
Consider Key Info, a technology service provider with offices throughout California and Arizona. “We have 60 employees and 20TB of data,” said Lief Morin, president of Key Info, an IBM Business Partner and customer. “That’s a third of a terabyte per person. And we’re not alone. This is a very common state of affairs.”
Morin knows what he’s talking about. He works with companies large and small across the U.S.to create solutions to their technology problems. These days, figuring out how to deal with Big Data in the most efficient and effective way is job number one. And it’s likely to remain so for a long time. Researchers say the amount of digital data that is currently stored around the world is upwards of 2.7 zettabytes (2.7 billion terabytes), a capacity that’s expected to explode to 8 zettabytes by 2015. For comparison, it’s said that all the content within the U.S. Library of Congress is approximately 10TB of data.
In other words, Big Data doesn’t discriminate: it’s affecting every organization, at every level.
“From small retailers to large B2B companies, everyone’s trying to figure out what [data] they have and how to use it in a meaningful way – to mine that data to do things like reduce costs,” Morin said. “The challenge is not the existence of data, but the intelligent use of that data.”
Too often, however, the SMB lacks the necessary physical and financial resources, as well as the technical expertise to even consider ways to exploit their data.
What’s needed is a strategic data infrastructure that supports the data glut they’re experiencing today, as well as its continued build up over time. For many, this journey starts where the data resides – the storage system.
“There’s more energy – design, development, and a rapid pace of change – in storage than anywhere else,” Morin says. The best thing an SMB can do is to gain control of their storage and invest in technology that is flexible and efficient, and serves as a foundation for future analytics. “If you just throw a bunch of disks into a rack you’re not going to do so well in five years, when you’re looking at 5 years’ worth of more data,” he added.
At IBM, we are now offering a storage system, IBM Storwize V3700, that’s designed to help the SMB get a foothold on Big Data. The easy to use and easy to manage Storwize V3700 can store up to 180TB of raw digital information on 120 hard drives, or again, about all the content within the U.S. Library of Congress…times 18. Furthermore, its flexible architecture lets SMBs connect it to their existing storage systems. Once connected, customers can virtualize those systems and then migrate all of their data, including applications, files, etc., to the Storwize V3700 entirely, with no disruption to users and a minimum amount of downtime.
In addition, one of the key daunting factors for SMBs and managing storage is management, itself. That challenge only grows as data volumes climb. The Storwize V3700 central management system features an easy-to-use graphical user interface that provides administrators with a consolidated view of the entire storage infrastructure for easy maintenance, allocation, and scalability.
The challenges and opportunities of Big Data are not relegated to the enterprise. SMBs, now more than ever, need to begin creating Smarter Storage strategies for embracing and exploiting the increasing volumes of information pouring through their data centers. This is one step in a long journey.
Please join Ed Walsh and Brian Truskowski, IBM System Storage General Manager, for a web conference today (Nov. 6) a 11:00am ET to further the discussion and learn more about the new, easy-to-use and affordable IBM Storwize V3700.